Buckeyes enjoy romp in rain

Bill Rabinowitz
brabinow@dispatch.com
Ohio State running back Mike Weber breaks away from Rutgers defensive back Saquan Hampton during the first quarter. [Adam Cairns]

The rain that was expected to make Saturday unpleasant at Ohio Stadium proved to be little more than a nuisance.

Rutgers was even less of one to Ohio State.

The No. 4 Buckeyes’ dominance over the Scarlet Knights continued with a 52-3 rout in front of 93,057 soggy fans. It was the first crowd under 100,000 at the Horseshoe in 115 games.

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Given the weather forecast and the opponent, the relatively paltry crowd was understandable. Those who came saw a Buckeyes team that, unlike last week, dominated on both sides of the ball. That’s a good sign heading into next week’s showdown in Texas against No. 16 TCU.

The Buckeyes (2-0, 1-0 Big Ten) continued to sizzle offensively behind sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. He built off his five-touchdown performance in last week’s opener by completing 20 of 23 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns before exiting in the third quarter.

“Because it was raining, I had to be really good with ball placement,” Haskins said. “No turnovers, no fumbles, anything like that. It was a great job by the O-line today.”

Ohio State’s defense gave up 31 points to Oregon State last week, including several big plays. The Buckeyes suffocated Rutgers (1-1, 0-1) and its true freshman quarterback, Artur Sitkowski. The Scarlet Knights’ longest play was 15 yards.

The Buckeyes outgained Rutgers 579-134.

It helped that the Buckeyes got safety Jordan Fuller back from a hamstring injury, and that linebacker Tuf Borland played more snaps than in the opener as he returns from an Achilles injury.

“When you represent the Silver Bullets and the Buckeyes, there’s only one way we play,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said, referring to some young players who were victimized last week. “When you get in there, we have to represent. We didn’t do a good job a week ago. I thought we did a much better job today.”

This was a mismatch from the start. Haskins threw a perfect deep ball to Johnnie Dixon for a 38-yard touchdown on Ohio State’s first possession and hit Parris Campbell for a 16-yard score to make it 14-0.

It was 35-0 before Rutgers got its second first down of the game 4 minutes before halftime. The last play of the second quarter was Sitkowski’s last. Defensive end Nick Bosa, the headliner on the Buckeyes’ menacing defensive line, sacked Sitkowski, whose right arm was dangling as he was led to the locker room.

Rutgers finally scored in the third quarter on a 41-yard field goal. Those were the first points the Scarlet Knights have scored on Ohio State since former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Chris Ash became their coach in 2016. Ohio State has outscored Rutgers 271-27 since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten four years ago.

If Rutgers was hoping to get relief once Haskins left for good early in the third quarter, that didn’t happen. Backup quarterback Tate Martell had played one possession in the second quarter and threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin. In the fourth quarter, he scampered for a 47-yard touchdown for the game's last score. He finished 10 for 10 passing and was the game’s leading rusher with 95 yards.

The victory was the 900th in school history.

“Nine-hundred wins in Ohio State football history — it’s humbling to be part of a tradition like that,” acting head coach Ryan Day said. “To see our student section out there, to all the Buckeye Nation coming out to a game like this in the rain in the fourth quarter, the student section on both sides is going crazy, chanting, and they're staying in there having a blast.”

In truth, the stadium was more empty than full at the end, but they had seen what they wanted: a dominating performance. Next week will be the first true test of the season for Ohio State, and the Buckeyes will be without head coach Urban Meyer for the last time as he finishes his three-game suspension.

With or without Meyer, the Buckeyes look poised for prime time.

“I'm very excited,” Haskins said. “The team's very excited. We're going to use this week as a great preparation for TCU on Saturday, and we're ready for them.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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