Bottom Line for OSU-Rutgers: Buckeyes could use finishing school

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra

Ohio State may well produce the best ice cream in all the land. But how would one know, exactly, when the Buckeyes’ shop is open only for a few hours a week and they run out of the good stuff after 30 minutes? OSU scooped up another batch of Perfect/Unperfect against Rutgers, but the lingering taste was that the Buckeyes are flirting with a Rocky Road. Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis. — Ray Stein 

Offense (4 leaves) 

The OSU passing game is like the ultimate state-of-the-art medicine, such is the precision in which Justin Fields and his receivers are operating. The running game, on the other hand, too often resembles the meatball surgery of a MASH unit. Sometimes it works, but it’s rarely pretty. Dr. Fields makes all the boo-boos go away; when he’s in the game, the clinic is open. 

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Defense (3 leaves) 

Sorry for a second ice cream reference — am I craving something sweet? — but when the opponent dishes up vanilla, the Buckeyes seem to be fine. Thus, the first half tattoo parlor. But when Rutgers started pulling rabbits out of hats, it was like OSU defenders were stumbling around blind-folded, grasping at air. Game was over at the half, sure, but gotta close the deal.

Ohio State's Steele Chambers breaks free for a 38-yard run on a second-quarter fake punt, the Buckeyes' best special teams play of the game.

Special teams (2 leaves) 

The high-water marks included Steele Chambers’ run on the fake punt that opened the second-quarter floodgates and three Drue Chrisman punts that pinned Rutgers inside its 10. But all that good work was undone by second-half foibles that included a Knights TD on a punt return/throwback/runback and shaky onside kick coverage. That film session is gonna hurt. 

Listen:Ryan Day press conference | Buckeyes beat Rutgers 49-27

Coaching (2 leaves) 

At first blush, the fake-punt call by Ryan Day was savage, a special-delivery dagger. Then again, you need to call a fake punt against Rutgers? Overall, though, the Buckeyes lost the coaching battle because the outfit on the other sideline didn’t stop until the clock reached zeroes. Penalties, missed tackles, mental mistakes – there's plenty to address.

Fun quotient (2 leaves) 

For the first time, OSU and Rutgers did not play a game gratuitously violent enough to be rated M for Mature. It was R for Rerun for the first half, though, but then Greg Schiano got all whack and tried everything short of high-wire acts. College football’s not the same without fans; then again, the world doesn’t need any super-spreader events like the postgame field rush at Notre Dame. 

Opponent (3 leaves) 

In terms of blue-chip talent, Rutgers is as lacking as Mr. Ed at the Breeders’ Cup. But Schiano has pulled a few reins to bring in some new blood as transfers, and the transfusion has helped. The Scarlet Knights still have real issues at key positions — quarterback, namely — but they can head back to their swamp knowing they played a second half worth building upon. 

Officiating (3 leaves) 

Referee Jeff Servinski was on-screen so often that it felt like he was trying to compete with John King at the Magic Wall for air time. Officials called 18 penalties in all, and became quite familiar with No. 76 Harry Miller. Most calls were legit, though. The only issue was initially awarding an onside kick to a Rutgers player who joined the pile last, but replay sorted that out. 

rstein@dispatch.com