COLUMBUS – If there was ever a game of two halves, this was it.
Ohio State was expected to dominate Rutgers in Ohio Stadium, and for a half they did just that. The Buckeyes rolled to a 35-3 halftime lead behind the passing of Justin Fields and a defense that took away everything the Rutgers offense tried. At the half OSU had outgained Rutgers 362 yards to 83. In the second quarter Rutgers managed a total of 11 yards of offense.
It looked like the second half was going to be a showcase for young OSU talent. One more score by the offense and Justin Fields would have been done. Things didn’t work out that way.
Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano pulled out all the stops in the second half with trick plays, on side kicks, and overall better football. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, went into a funk, and least defensively. The tackling became sloppy and penalties killed promising OSU drives on offense or extended drives for the Scarlet Knights on defense. The penalties, and missed tackles, made the second half actually competitive. OSU’s offense played well enough to keep Rutgers at bay, and there was never a feeling that the Buckeyes were going to lose the game, but it was clear they lost their edge in the second half.
“It was 35-3, the was nine at night, it was an empty stadium, we had a big lead,” said OSU Head Coach Ryan Day, “We should have dominated the first five minutes of the second half and got some guys in but we didn’t. We didn’t finish.”
Instead OSU’s opening drive fizzled out when one of their nine penalties helped hamper the possession. After several punt exchanges, it was Rutgers that scored first to make the score 35-9. The two-point conversion failed, and OSU’s offense answered with a touchdown pass from Justin Fields to Jeremy Ruckert to make it 42-9. but the sequence set the tone for the second half.
“To come out the way we did in the first half was great,” said Day. “The second half was disappointing.”
OSU’s play contributed to the second-half outcome, but so did Rutgers’. Rutgers helped keep the Buckeyes on their heels with trick plays both from scrimmage and in special teams. Rutgers ran a throw-back pass on both a kickoff and a punt, both of which turned into big plays. The punt actually went for a score. Rutgers also ran a tackle-eligible play that resulted in a touchdown.
The Buckeyes were more conventional with how they scored, but also had success with a trick play A fake punt to Steele Chambers resulted in a big gain to keep a Buckeye drive alive. The play covered 37 yards for a first down. OSU continued the drive and eventually scored their third touchdown on the game to make the score 21-3.
Justin Fields continued his stellar play with a 24-28 passing performance that gained 314 yards and went for five touchdowns. Fields also ran for a touchdown and did not throw an interception. Wide receiver Garrett Wilson enjoyed his third-straight 100-yard receiving game with six catches for 104 yards and one touchdown. Chris Olave had five catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns. Other touchdown receptions were made by Jeremy Ruckert and Jaimison Williams.
The OSU rushing game was average at best. Trey Sermon led OSU rushers with 12 rushes for 68 net yards. Master Teague added 60 yards also on 12 carries and scored one touchdown.
The Buckeyes committed nine penalties that resulted in 74 penalty yards. Rutgers committed nine penalties as well for 93 yards in penalties.