The anticipation almost got to tight end Jeremy Ruckert.
Early in the first quarter Saturday of Ohio State’s season-opening 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic, Ruckert was running over the middle of the field, approaching the end zone, when the pass arrived from quarterback Justin Fields.
“I was sitting there, waiting for the ball for what felt like forever,” Ruckert said. “I was just hoping I wouldn’t drop it and could go celebrate with my teammates.”Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
He did. After snagging a 25-yard touchdown pass, Ruckert turned toward Luke Farrell, and they chest-bumped in the end zone. It was his first touchdown as a college player.
The sophomore went on to a career day at Ohio Stadium, catching four passes for 38 yards and two touchdowns.
It had been five years since an Ohio State tight end had grabbed multiple touchdowns in a game. That was Nick Vannett in a win over Rutgers in 2014.
Ruckert’s performance marked a moment of optimism for the position group and showed the potential of a versatile passing game. The tight ends had only three touchdown receptions in 14 games last season.
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Ruckert’s second touchdown followed late in the third quarter.
Before his first score, movement from another tight end allowed him to get open. Farrell ran a crossing route toward the sideline that dragged two of the Florida Atlantic defenders with him, including one who had been trailing Ruckert.
As a result, Ruckert was left uncovered over the middle.
Ruckert and Farrell started and were grouped together at times during two tight-end sets. They saw more snaps with Rashod Berry out for undisclosed reasons as well.
Ruckert thought the tight ends were due for a big start. He pointed to their effort in the offseason, including during winter conditioning workouts when they won a team award as the best position group.
“The leadership of the older guys really spring it on us,” Ruckert said, acknowledging Berry and Farrell. “We were just trying to strive every day to be on time for everything,” he continued, “and make sure we give 100 percent all the time. It paid off.”
Ruckert left without assuming much credit for the two-touchdown game, though with some pride.
“It's exciting, obviously,” Ruckert said. “Those were my first two of my career. I was excited to have my family here for it. But those two plays, as you can tell, I didn't do anything special. I was just in the right place at the right time, and it was executed by the team so well.”