Rutgers unloads bag of trick plays on Buckeyes with some success

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra

Most Big Ten teams can’t go toe-to-toe with Ohio State and expect to beat the Buckeyes.

Certainly, Rutgers can’t. Its coach, former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, knows that. So the Buckeyes prepared for the Scarlet Knights to throw the kitchen sink at them. It felt as if they threw the kitchen table and plenty of utensils, too.

The Scarlet Knights had enough success to keep the Buckeyes off-balance and the final score a respectable 49-27, but Ohio State coach Ryan Day wasn’t displeased with how his team handled the trickery overall.

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“I thought we did a great job,” he said. “We talk about it all the time, whether it's an onside kick, a fake punt, something like that, they're always going to try to steal possessions against us.”

From the start, Rutgers didn’t try to hide its intention. On the opening kickoff, the Scarlet Knights’ Avery Young stopped his return to throw the ball across the field to Bo Melton, who returned it to the Rutgers’ 36.

“There are certain things that you look at (on video) and think you’ll have an opportunity,” Schiano said. “But the reality is those are tough things. (Ohio State is) very athletic. So when you look at the opening kickoff, it looks like it’s going to go the distance and it only makes it to the 36-yard line.”

But Rutgers had better luck with the same strategy on a fourth-quarter punt. Young caught Drue Chrisman’s 52-yard kick and threw to Melton, who weaved 58 yards through the Buckeyes for a touchdown to make it 42-21.

“We were in good position,” Day said. “We just didn't tackle.”

On this effective trick play, Rutgers quarterback Noah Verdal (0) acts as if the snap has been centered over his head while Isaih Pacheco (1) takes off on a 66-yard run to set up the Knights' first touchdown.

Rutgers’ first touchdown, in the third quarter, was set up by a 66-yard run by Isaih Pacheco on a direct snap in which the Scarlet Knights acted as if the ball had been snapped over the head of the quarterback. By the time the Buckeyes realized who had the ball, Pacheco was racing down the sideline. On the next play, left tackle Raiqwon O’Neal scored when he sneaked open and caught a lateral from quarterback Noah Vedral.

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Not everything Rutgers tried worked. They were unsuccessful on three onside kicks after trying to confuse the Buckeyes by faking kicks from different angles.

“It was like a New York sidewalk,” Day said. “They were going back and forth and back and forth, and I thought our team did a really good job of handling it.

“We knew that Greg was going to be aggressive with special teams and have some different things. We didn't quite know is going to be all of those things. But we wanted to be aggressive as well.”

The Buckeyes did have success with their own special-teams trick play on a fake punt. Steele Chambers took a direct snap on fourth-and-8 from the Ohio State 36 and ran 38 yards to set up a Buckeyes touchdown that made it 21-3 in the second quarter.

“I thought the fake punt really allowed us to pull away in the first half,” Day said.

“We also have to be on the offensive. Because other teams are trying to do that to us, we have to make sure we have stuff in place so that we’re not on our heels.”