Ohio State on Saturday returned to its East Coast chateau, a place where it travels every couple of years to calm its nerves and rest its bones from the grind of a football season. The Buckeyes hit the hot springs, got some massages and, say, played a little touch against a local 11. Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis. — Ray Stein

Offense

Four leaves

With their record-setting Texan at quarterback, the Buckeyes two-stepped their way to 628 yards, but there was some two-left-feet action going for a while as sacks and penalties made it an occasional slow dance. Yes, those were downfield passes that you saw completed. Yes, some of those passes were basically undefended.

Defense

Four leaves

Again, this was less about Ohio State imposing its will than it was facing an offense that was no more dangerous than a Cub Scout troop out selling popcorn. Things never got sticky, not even close, though it was wild to see how the Buckeyes celebrated when their shutout was preserved in the final seconds. Still, these guys are legit.

Special teams

Four leaves

OSU’s kickoff conundrum was only marginally evident; some balls came off the foot like they’d been hit with lob wedges rather than 3-woods, but Rutgers’ average field position still was inside the 20. Credit to the coverage kamikazes. Punt returns are still an issue, especially putting two live balls on the ground.

Coaching

Three leaves

The offensive game plan was a potent brew as the Buckeyes fully established the run, then flipped the switch to air power. Rutgers often didn’t seem to know what to expect next. Here’s a topic for an upcoming film session: Targeting, and how to avoid all hints of it.

Fun

Two leaves

For having such a lousy football program, Rutgers actually has a cozy stadium, a good jukebox and puts on a decent show. The pregame pageantry includes cannon blasts and a knight in armor strutting around the field on a white horse. Too bad OSU overtook the castle again and poured hot oil on its beleaguered subjects.

Opponent

One leave

One supposes that the Scarlet Knights knew what sort of Faustian bargain they were getting into when they accepted their ATM card from the Big Ten. But it still doesn’t make it easy to see the discomfort such games cause on players and coaches. Rutgers couldn’t run, couldn’t pass, couldn’t cover … but, man, can they grimace.

Officiating

Three leaves

Referee Don Willard’s crew left a lot of yellow laundry on the turf but didn’t seem to be on the receiving end of too many complaints about it. Two iffy end-zone interference penalties on Rutgers were treated with indifference by the home fans; oh, well, OSU would get there sooner or later.

rstein@dispatch.com

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