Ohio State took another step toward entering the playoff chatter as they handed Rutgers their worst lost in 12 years, 56-17, behind five total touchdowns from quarterback J.T. Barrett.
The win improves the Buckeyes to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in B1G play at the midpoint of the regular season slate. Behind 585 yards of total offense, Ohio State reached the 50 point plateau for the 4th straight game to set a school record.
The defense was more than a footnote as they dominated the Scarlet Knights in the opening 20 minutes, forcing two turnovers, one of which went for a touchdown courtesy of an Eli Apple fumble recovery and return.
Next week, the Buckeyes travel to State College for the first of three consecutive prime time games but before we turn our focus to Penn State, we take one last look back at Saturday's thrashing of Rutgers.
JUST ANOTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE
I hate that each week it feels necessary to preface kudos by saying Ohio State played another mediocre opponent but while that is certainly the reality, J.T. Barrett again was nothing short of spectacular for the Buckeyes. The redshirt freshman making just his 6th career start shredded the Scarlet Knights with both his arm and his legs as he racked up 261 yards passing on 19/31 with three touchdowns and a career high 107 yards on the ground, on just seven carries, with two touchdowns.
His five combined touchdowns made it four straight games in which he's scored at least four times, good for the longest streak in the country. Meanwhile, his three touchdown tosses give him 20 at the halfway point of the regular season which already ranks as the 6th-best single-season touchdown passing performance in school history. At this point, he's just 11 away from breaking Troy Smith's school-record set during his 2006 Heisman season.
Today, Barrett completed his first nine passes – spread among five different receivers – for 117 yards and a touchdown as the Buckeyes built a 21-7 lead early in the 2nd quarter.
He again showed maturity beyond his years as he consistently ran through his progressions to find the open man and when nobody was open, he calmly stepped up in the pocket and took off. A prime example was his 33-yard touchdown jaunt up the gut after protection broke down on Ohio State's opening drive of the 2nd half.
With three straight prime time games up next and the last coming in East Lansing, Barrett has a great opportunity to earn himself a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist.
STRIKE FIRST. STRIKE HARD. NO MERCY, SIR
Once again, the Buckeyes came out like a rabid bunch of Cobra Kai to open both halves, no doubt pleasing Sensei Urban Meyer in the process.
Opening the game on defense, the Bullets forced a 3-and-out after holding Rutgers to -1 yard and the offense responded with a six-play 52-yard scoring drive that included a 19-yard scamper by Barrett on 4th and 1 (sick block, EZE) and back-to-back 12 yard completions. The first came on a perfectly placed swing pass to Ezekiel Elliott and the second as Barrett found Nick Vannett running an out route out of a bunch formation for a quick 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Rutgers QB Gary Nova found Andrew Turzelli for 17 yards on 1st down but Raekwon McMillan controlled the action on the next three plays including a textbook stick of receiver Leonte Carroo on 3rd and 7 to force a punt.
After Jalin Marshall returned the punt 14 yards, Ohio State marched 74 yards in eight plays to pay dirt highlighted by a Barrett toss to Marshall for 31 yards, an 11-yard burst by Elliott and a heady 13-yard scramble by Barrett who did a great job freezing the defense by holding the ball like he was going to pass as he neared the line of scrimmage before EZE capped the drive with a one-yard plunge to make 14-0 with 5:24 left in the 1st quarter.
Despite leading 35-7 at the break, the Buckeyes charged out of the locker room behind Barrett, marching 79 yards in 1:43 of game time on just four plays. Elliott started things off with a 10-yard run before Barrett went to work hitting Michael Thomas on back-to-back throws for 18 yards each before the aforementioned 33-yard burst to the end zone to make it 42-7 good guys.
The Bullets then went to work forcing a 3-and-out behind McMillan and Steve Miller, again setting the table for the Buckeye offense which set up shop at their own 45-yard line. Ten plays later, the score was 49-7. Dontre Wilson, Elliott and Barrett each had runs of 12+ yards on the possession before Barrett called his own number for a five-yard score.
Basically, in the first nine minutes of the 1st half and the first seven minutes of the 2nd half, Ohio State unleashed 28 combined points to break the spirit of the Scarlet Knights.
The Silver Bullets have taken their fair share of heat this year but just as you'd hope to see, it appears they are improving with each week.
In the 1st half, which is the only half that matters since the game was out of reach by intermission, the defense surrendered just seven points while repeatedly handing the offense solid field position (albeit with an assist from the horrid Rutgers punter).
The defense yielded 156 yards in the opening half with 67 of those coming on the lone scoring drive and 40 more coming on a poorly defensed pass play on Rutgers' final possession. On the other 29 plays, the Scarlet Knights produced just 49 yards, or 1.7 yards per play.
The Bullets also shut down the running game holding Rutgers to 34 yards rushing on 19 carries in the opening 20 minutes, good for 1.8 yards per carry, and held the Scarlet Knights to 2/8 on 3rd down.
Four the game, the defense held Nova 76 passing yards below his season average (17/28, 192 yards, INT) while racking up nine TFL's, four sacks and three turnovers.
O-LINE LOOKS FINE
Following the Virginia Tech debacle in which the offensive line collapsed causing Ohio State to surrender seven sacks while totaling just 108 rushing yards on a dismal 2.7 yards per carry, the unit has shown steady improvement.
Against Kent State, the group helped OSU amass 284 rushing yards on 5.4 per carry before paving the way for 380 rushing yards on 5.8 per tote against Cincy and another 269 on the ground via 5.1 per carry in the demolition of Maryland.
Yesterday, against a defensive front that led the nation with 24 sacks, the offensive line gave up exactly zero sacks while opening holes for Buckeye ball carriers to the tune of 324 rushing yards on a ridiculous 8.1 yards per carry.
In fact, the offense averaged 8.2 yards per play as they tied the school record of four consecutive games with at least 500 yards of total offense (585) in addition to the school record four straight games with at least 50 points.
Senior right tackle Darryl Baldwin was particularly impressive as he and right guard Pat Elflein teamed to open up gaping holes all day. There is still much work to be done as the offensive line is false starting too often, is light on depth and saw Jacoby Boren get nicked today but you have to like the growth shown by the unit under Ed Warriner's steady guidance.
DORAN GRANT DOING WORK
It doesn't feel like I've talked about him much in Five Things so far this season which is probably a good thing for a cornerback but Doran Grant really caught my eye yesterday.
The senior out of Akron led the team with seven stops on the day and was particularly impressive after making a poor play in letting Carroo get behind him for a 39-yard gain on 3rd and 11 from the Rutgers 11 late in the 1st half. Darron Lee should have had a sack on the play but there was still no excuse for the veteran Grant letting Rutgers' best receiver get behind him.
Instead of moping or compounding the mistake with another one, Grant went back to work. On the very next play, on 1st and 10 from midfield, Grant lowered the boom on Justin Goodwin on a modest 4-yard gain. On the next snap, he came on a corner blitz and stopped Goodwin for one yard to set up 3rd and 5. Grant came up big on the next play as his tight coverage forced an incompletion. Rutgers would convert the 4th down but seven plays later on 2nd and 10 from the OSU 12, Grant stopped Goodwin from reaching the end zone on a 6-yard gainer to set up 3rd and 4 from the OSU 6-yard line. Locked in a 1-on-1 matchup with Carroo on the edge, Grant read Nova's eyes from the snap and high-pointed the football for an interception in the end zone to kill the scoring drive and any thoughts Rutgers had of a possible come back.
It was truly a great series from a senior that hasn't gotten a ton of run this year though he's sixth on the team in tackles while leading in passes defensed (6), pass breakups (4) and interceptions (2 - tied with Apple).