On a dreary and soggy day in October, Ohio State demolished Rutgers in what was the latest example of a team that had surged back to life after an embarrassing loss to Virginia Tech. In a 56-17 smackdown of the Scarlet Knights, the Buckeyes flexed growing muscles worthy of a Big Ten championship contender and perhaps more.
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Much like the Buckeyes slammed fellow Big Ten newcomer Maryland two weeks earlier, the win was comprehensive. Their offense rolled for 585 yards and their defense held Rutgers to seven points before giving up the final 10 points after emptying their bench midway through the third quarter.
Because of this, Ohio State's players and coaches talked of a "never satisfied" mentality and said they were repulsed by contentment. “Complacency is awful in this business," head coach Urban Meyer said.
“We can win by as much as we did, but we’re not going to be satisfied if we don’t close out the game, if we give up some plays in the second half," junior linebacker Joshua Perry said. "That just comes with maturity over time — being able to lock in and execute for a whole game.”
But the effort was more than good enough to hand Rutgers a welcome-to-the-Big Ten kind of loss and remind the rest of the league of Ohio State's plans on capturing the league's crown by season's end.
Player of the Game: J.T. Barrett
Maybe we should just give Barrett Player of the Game honors for the rest of this series until the postseason, because he's cleaned up so far.
After torching Maryland for 368 total yards and five touchdowns, Barrett gave the people an encore, running and passing for exactly 368 yards and five touchdowns against Rutgers.
The performance, which marked another dominant outing (albeit against middling competition) kindled talk of Barrett's place in the Heisman Trophy race. His supervisor, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tom Herman, brushed the notion off.
"They don't ask me that. I don't know," Herman said, adding, "I don't know what the criteria for that is. I just want him to keep getting better as an Ohio State quarterback."
Even so, it was starting to become clear the redshirt freshman from Wichita Falls, Texas, was going to be a special player.
Critical Play of the Game: Barrett's 26-yard pass to Nick Vannett to go up, 21-7, early in the second quarter
Up, 14-7, in the early stages of the second quarter, Barrett engineered a six-play, 67-yard drive capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick Vannett.
The play itself wasn't flashy or spectacular, but the Buckeyes easily imposed their will against an inferior team.
Moreover, it was the start of 35-0 run that stunned a Rutgers team that managed to hang around for a quarter in Ohio Stadium.
With that said, an honorable mention goes to Evan Spencer's beautiful, one-handed touchdown grab in the third quarter to go up 56-10 in a game that had become a laughter.
What It Meant
The Buckeyes obliterated a decent Rutgers team, one that finished 8-5 after beating North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl, but some of Ohio State's players acted like they had squeaked by.
Rutgers Game Coverage
“I mean, it feels good, but we’re never satisfied. I was just talking to some guys down there: We just beat this team pretty badly and it almost felt like a loss," redshirt freshman linebacker Darron Lee said.
“That just shows the hunger. We play with a chip on our shoulder.”
For the team, the Rutgers game marked a shift from getting its head above water after the Virginia Tech loss to playing with a newfound swagger. It's why Meyer, who rarely minces words, said he felt his Buckeyes were worthy of being a top-10 team as the rat race of the first-ever College Football Playoff began.
“Someone will blog it out and say ‘Here's Coach Meyer ranting and raving again.’ I'm not. I don't really watch the other teams, but I think we're playing at a pretty high level right now," he said.
Still, Ohio State lacked a quality win, which made it hard to genuinely assess its progress following back-to-back blowouts of average conference competition. As such, Meyer found things to critique.
"We could go on and on about the mistakes that were made today. But enjoy the win tonight, go see your families, do what you gotta do and come back ready to go. The good thing this is a really good team to coach right now. They're as hungry as our coaching staff, and that's a good sign," he said.
Added Lee: “The more we keep focusing on that, it’ll help us in the long run.
"We’re never satisfied," he continued, "probably won’t be until the season’s over.”