COLUMBUS — Back at home and in search of their third win of the season, Ohio State made quick and easy work of an outgunned but feisty Rutgers team en route to a 49-27 win on Saturday night in Ohio Stadium.
Quarterback Justin Fields continued his masterful start to the season, completing 24 of 28 attempts for 314 yards and five touchdowns while also adding a rushing score. Receiver Garrett Wilson made it three-consecutive 100-yard receiving efforts to begin the season, hauling in six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Running backs Trey Sermon and Master Teague III combined for 24 carries and 128 yards on the ground, and Steele Chambers added 46 yards on four carries but also fumbled twice.
It didn’t take long for Ohio State to begin lighting up the scoreboard. After forcing a stop on Rutgers’ opening drive of the game, Fields and company took over at their own 11-yard line for their first possession.
Teague took a handoff and ran for 25 yards on the first play of scrimmage to get Ohio State off and running. Six plays later, Fields connected with Jameson Williams for a 38-yard touchdown to take the lead. Freshman Jake Seibert’s extra point was good, giving the Buckeyes an early 7-0 lead.
Rutgers would find some success on the ensuing drive, utilizing some trickeration to catch the Ohio State defense by surprise. Aron Cruickshank’s 22-yard carry on a reverse moved the Scarlet Knights to the Buckeyes’ 23-yard line, and a 20-yard catch and run by Cruickshank on the next play had Rutgers in position to even the score early in the first quarter.
A holding penalty on second and one from the 1-yard line would doom the drive for Rutgers, however, and they settled for a 30-yard field goal from Guy Fava to get the Scarlet Knights on the board.
The two teams traded punts following the field goal before Fields and Ohio State would rekindle their scoring groove on their fourth possession of the first quarter. A 34-yard completion by Fields to Wilson moved the Buckeyes to the Rutgers 7-yard line, and Fields trotted into the end zone on the next play for his second rushing touchdown of the season, upping the Buckeye lead to 14-3 just seconds into the second quarter.
Fields added touchdown passes to Olave and Wilson, and Teague III capped off the first-half scoring with a 9-yard rushing scamper as Ohio State took a 35-3 lead into half time.
It was a dominant performance by both the Ohio State offense, which racked up 353 yards of total offense, and the defense, which held Rutgers to just 83 total yards over the first two quarters.
Things got a little weird in the second half as Ohio State came out of the locker room extremely sluggish, managing just one first down over their first two drives. Rutgers, searching for anything to jump-start an anemic offense, would again turn to unconventional routes to score points.
Following a punt by Ohio State, Rutgers running back Isaih Pacheco took a direct snap and raced 66 yards down to the Ohio State 4-yard line. A play later, offensive lineman Raiqwon O’Neal caught a screen and walked into the end zone for a rushing touchdown, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to 35-9.
Schiano elected to go for two, again turning to a direct snap, but the play was snuffed out by the Buckeye defense.
An onside kick attempt on the ensuing kickoff appeared to be successful for Rutgers, who came out of a pile of players with the ball. The replay showed otherwise, however, as Ohio State maintained possession following an official review.
Fields would make good on the opportunity with his fourth touchdown pass of the night, this time to tight end Jeremy Ruckert, to increase Ohio State’s lead to 42-9 with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Rutgers continued to compete throughout the fourth quarter, though, simply playing with more energy than Ohio State. The Scarlet Knights added a touchdown on a 6-yard touchdown pass by Vedral to Jovani Haskins, and following a three-and-out from the Buckeyes, would strike again on the following punt return.
Avery Young fielded Drue Chrisman’s punt near the sideline at the Rutgers 42-yard line and immediately threw the ball towards the opposite sideline. Bo Melton hauled in the long lateral and zig-zagged his way across the field and into the end zone, bringing Rutgers to within 21 points at 42-21 with 12:46 remaining in the game.
Another Fields touchdown pass pushed the Buckeyes’ lead to four scores at 49-21, but the defensive woes would continue for Ohio State as Rutgers would add a fourth second-half touchdown to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to the final margin at 49-27. Ohio State was outgained in yardage by Rutgers in the second half, 290-164.
Following the game, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day lamented his team’s uneven performance, calling the game a “tale of two halves.”
Day said he was very pleased with his team’s effort and performance in the first half, although not nearly as much over the final two quarters. As for how his team can be better at closing out games, Day said the team simply needs to start practicing better.
Despite the lackluster second-half performance, Ohio State remains undefeated at 3-0 on the season and will continue play next week when they travel to Maryland (2-1).
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.