You'd have to imagine Rutgers — making its first-ever trip to Ohio Stadium and trying to make a shock-the-world-type statement — was more than fired up for Saturday's Big Ten matchup against Ohio State.
But all of that emotion and eagerness quickly turned to stunned silence on the Scarlet Knights' sideline as they had a sudden realization: Against the Buckeyes, they were simply overmatched.
Ohio State rolled, 56-17, for its fourth-straight win, but perhaps what's more impressive is the way in which the Buckeyes are doing it. They're simply dominating teams from start to finish.
“The main focus is normally always starting fast, getting it going," Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett said after the win. "I feel like we executed better than past weeks."
Starting fast wasn't something Ohio State did particularly well in its first two games of the season — it trailed at halftime against both Navy and Virginia Tech. But since that loss to the Hokies in Week 2, the Buckeyes have been burying teams and doing it early.
On Saturday, after giving Rutgers the ball to start the game, the Ohio State defense forced a three-and-out. Then, the Buckeyes got the ball and marched right down the field for a six-play, 52-yard drive which ended in a Barrett-to-Nick Vannett 12-yard touchdown strike.
And with that touchdown, a team which started slow in each of its first team games has now suddenly scored on its opening drive in each of the last four.
"Get out fast and play good a pass defense against a team that was on fire throwing the ball," head coach Urban Meyer said postgame of the keys to the game.
The Buckeyes led 14-0 before Rutgers responded with a lengthy touchdown drive. But that was the only momentum the Scarlet Knights were able to get as Ohio State pulled ahead for a 35-7 halftime lead.
The Buckeyes outgained Rutgers by nearly 100 yards in the first half and forced three turnovers. Before the Scarlet Knights could catch their breath, the game was all but over.
“I credit the growth of our team towards our leaders on offense," said H-back Jalin Marshall, who had three catches for 58 yards. "We’re moving forward and getting better with every game."
It's pretty evident that this is not the same team which fell to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6. There are many reasons for that, of course, but the fast start was a big part in Saturday's win and has been in the other three games since that loss to the Hokies.
"I think it was imperative for us — coming off a very unusual scheduling situation in terms of the bye week, two games, bye week — it was really important for us to start fast as an offense," offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.
"I was pleased that we did that and our guys responded to that challenge. We challenged them and we understood what it was gonna take and had we gone out and punted the first few possessions, who knows how different this game might have been."