Five Who Flashed: Justin Fields, Nicholas Petit-Frere, Garrett Wilson Helped Ohio State Beat Rutgers

By Colin Hass-Hill on November 7, 2020 at 11:30 pm
Garrett Wilson

Perhaps some pessimistic Ohio State fans kept Rutgers’ season-opening win at Michigan State in the back of their heads leading up to Saturday night’s primetime matchup. Whatever worries about the Scarlet Knights turning the game into a game evaporated well before halftime.

Then, they might’ve arisen at some point in the second half in what turned out to be an especially weird game. Despite a suboptimal – to say the least – second half, the Buckeyes pulled off a 49-27 win.

A look at five players – or groups of players – who flashed in Ohio State’s third win in a row to start the 2020 season.

Justin Fields

What he’s doing right now is simply otherworldly. However good you thought he was a year ago, he has quite clearly turned it up a notch. Saturday was just another example.

He completed 24-of-28 passes. He threw for 314 yards. He scored six touchdowns – five through the air and one on the ground – without any turnovers. He did just about whatever he wanted at will, tossing dimes into tight windows without almost ever making mistakes. It's uncanny.

For the third straight game, he made it through the first quarter without an incompletion. And for the third game in a row, he heads into Sunday with more total touchdowns than incompletions on the season.

Yes, Trevor Lawrence could again give Ohio State fits. And yes, Alabama has the pieces to scare the Buckeyes. But as long as Fields stays healthy, the Buckeyes can beat anyone in college football. He’s just that good.

Baron Browning

Dating back to his high school days, Baron Browning has always been most effective when charged with making plays in space. So, what did he do on Saturday? Made plays in space.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior linebacker secured five tackles, flying all over the field to do so. A former five-star recruit, he looked more at home in his new strongside linebacker position than in either of the first two games. Browning brought down five Rutgers ball-carriers, which included a tackle for loss.

This is the type of performance the Buckeyes need from their starting Sam moving forward.

Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave

They’re inseparable.

The triumvirate of Fields, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave makes this offense into the behemoth it has become. Fields makes every throw asked of him, and Wilson and Olave get open time after time.

Wilson joined David Boston, Terry Glenn and Cris Carter as the third Buckeye to rack up more than 100 yards in three straight games. If he can do it the next two weekends, he’d tie Carter’s mark set in 1986 for the longest streak of 100-yard receiving games. And who’s betting against him? As a first-year starter, Wilson has developed into everything the Buckeyes could have imagined when they inked him to a National Letter of Intent and brought him to Ohio from Austin, Texas. He’s Fields’ safety blanket, especially on third downs, but is also adept at finding openings down the field.

On Saturday, Wilson accounted for six receptions for 104 yards. He reeled in an eight-yard corner-of-the-end zone catch in the middle of the second quarter. Olave’s always an option whenever Fields wants to rear back and launch a deep ball, too. He caught five passes for 64 yards – including a 33-yard score – with a pair of touchdowns. 

Nicholas Petit-Frere

First-time starting offensive linemen don’t always have the easiest transition in the world. Harry Miller, despite his five-star status and the glowing words teammates and coaches have directed his way since arriving, has struggled early this year. He endured a rough season opener, then seemingly held his blocks better against Penn State, but was called for a trio of first-half holding penalties on Saturday evening and had some communication breakdowns with center Josh Myers in pass protection.

Nicholas Petit-Frere’s first three games as a full-time starter, conversely, have been downright smooth.

The starting right tackle had a quiet yet effective performance versus Nebraska, didn’t allow a single pressure when facing the Nittany Lions’ vaunted defensive ends, then put together another masterful game on Saturday against Rutgers. Again, he held strong kick-stepping into pass protection while adding some power to his run blocking.

So far, a strong argument could be made that Petit-Frere has been both the Buckeyes’ most dominant and most consistent offensive lineman. Considering he’s playing alongside a first-team All-American (Wyatt Davis), third-year starter (Thayer Munford), second-team All-Big Ten honoree (Myers) and former five-star recruit (Miller), it’s a heck of a statement.

Tyler Friday and Javontae Jean-Baptiste

Ohio State won’t spend the next week going over many positives on the defensive side of the ball. Rutgers dropping 27 points with 373 yards wasn’t exactly in the plans.

Tyler Friday and Javontae Jean Baptiste, though, had a couple of nice moments in what was somewhat of a homecoming.

Javontae Jean-Baptiste made the start at defensive end, recording a pair of tackles on the opening drive while looking like a New Jersey native who made his home state’s Big Ten team regret losing him. He wasn’t alone in eliciting that feeling. Tyler Friday, another defensive end from the Garden State, also did some damage. He didn’t officially record a sack. However, he drilled a Rutgers quarterback once and sacked Noah Vedral later in the game, but it was called back due to a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty.

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