GAME NOTES: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights already have a signature win under
their belts in this, their first season as a member of the Big Ten Conference,
and they’ll try to add another as they visit the 13th-ranked Ohio State
Buckeyes on Saturday afternoon.
Rutgers took down another iconic Big Ten foe in Michigan on Oct. 4, 26-24, and
the team has won three straight games and five of its first six overall. The
lone setback was a tough 13-10 verdict versus Penn State, meaning RU is 1-1 in
conference play. The Scarlet Knights, who need only one more win to become
bowl eligible, were idle last weekend, and the remainder of the schedule is
daunting in that coach Kyle Flood’s squad will battle the likes of Ohio State,
Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State and fellow league newcomer
Urban Meyer’s Ohio State club has also won three in a row, and is 4-1 overall.
The Buckeyes lone loss came at home in a 35-21 final versus Virginia Tech, and
they were also idle last weekend. OSU has only played one Big Ten bout to this
point, resulting in a 52-24 triumph over Maryland on the road on Oct. 4. The
Buckeyes’ remaining schedule includes tussles with Penn State, Michigan State
and of course the annual matchup with bitter rival Michigan. Ohio State has
won 17 consecutive Big Ten regular season games, leaving it just three shy of
the Big Ten record the program set from 2005-07.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Rutgers and Ohio State on the
Rutgers has surprised some in that the squad was picked by many to finish at
or near the bottom of the Big Ten standings, and while there is still quite a
number of games to be played, the Knights have performed well through the
first half of the 2014 campaign.
The team is led on offense by steady signal caller Gary Nova, the league’s
third-ranked passer with an average of 266.8 ypg. He has completed 60 percent
of his throws with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and his favorite
target has been Leonte Caroo, hitting him 29 times for 548 yards and five
scores. The RU rushing attack features a pair of backs (Paul James, Desmon
Peoples) who have gained more than 300 yards, although the former has five
TDs, while the latter has yet to find the end zone. James also has a pair of
receiving TDs to his credit. The offensive line has done a great job of
protecting Nova, allowing only eight sacks.
Sacks have also played an integral role in the team’s success on defense, as
the unit ranks first in the Big Ten with 24 quarterback takedowns. Darius
Hamilton and David Milewski have combined for 6.5 sacks, while Steve Longa
leads the way in total tackles with 41. Rutgers has only secured seven
takeaways, and will be to be much more opportunistic if it’s going to knock
off a team as talented and well-coached at Ohio State.
In their last outing against Michigan, the Scarlet Knights didn’t run the ball
very well (74 net yards, no TDs), but Nova turned in a masterful performance
as he threw for a career-high 404 yards and three TDs. Meanwhile, the RU
defense held the Wolverines to 336 total yards, and got a complete team effort
as three players were credited with seven tackles, with 14 in all having made
at least two stops.
Coach Flood spoke after the game about what it means to get that first Big Ten
win on the record books.
“They got a chance tonight to be a part of something that no other football
team will ever get a chance to be a part of because this was the first. And
when it happens for the first time, it’s special, and I think it’s something
that the university will remember, the state will remember, but this team got
a chance to actually be a part of it and do it. And it’s a great memory that
they should take with them the rest of their lives.”
The Buckeyes came into the season with uncertainty at the quarterback position
as Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller suffered a serious shoulder injury in late
August. Miller’s replacement, T.J. Barrett, has done an exceptional job in
completing a league-best 66.2 percent of his passes for 270.8 ypg, 17 TDs and
only five INTs. Barrett, who set a new OSU record by throwing 14 TDs and only
one pick in the last three games and is second on the team in rushing with 276
yards and two scores, leads the Big Ten and ranks 15th nationally in total
offense (326 ypg). Ezekiel Elliott (462 yards, three TDs) has run for 321
yards in the last two games, and Devin Smith (11 receptions, 313 yards, five
TDs) needs one more catch to reach 100 for his career.
While Ohio State is the No. 5 scoring team in the country (44.6 ppg), it ranks
seventh in the conference and 31st nationally in scoring defense (20.8 ppg).
The Buckeyes’ strength on defense has been their ability to limit the
effectiveness of the opposition’s passing attack, as they yield only 178.8 ypg
to rank second in the Big Ten and 13th in the country. Joshua Perry paces the
unit with 38 tackles, and while forcing turnovers has been a plus (+3), OSU
hasn’t been able to make a real impact in the backfield, with only 12 sacks
logged to this point.
Ohio State put forth a balanced attack in its last outing against Maryland,
rolling up 269 yards on the ground and 264 through the air. The Terrapins were
held to 310 yards total, and the Buckeyes picked off four passes, one of which
was returned 19 yards for a TD by Raekwon McMillan to cap the day’s scoring.
Barrett was nearly flawless in completing 18-of-23 passes for 267 yards and
four TDs, while Elliott rumbled his way to 139 yards on 24 carries. Michael
Thomas was the top receiver with four grabs for 75 yards and a score.
While obviously happy to get the win, Meyer knows there is still work to be
“I’m very pleased with our performance today. I know it wasn’t perfect; and
obviously that’s what you strive to be, but we’re not.”
He also spoke about the challenges that loom, “The road is just getting
tougher and tougher. We are just worried about getting better this week.”
Whether or not the Buckeyes are able to perform at a higher level from here on
out remains to be seen, but if they are to continue their trek toward an
appearance in the Big Ten title tilt, Barrett will need to continue to excel
while the defense must play better across the board. Rutgers is a talented
squad, but the visitors are likely to fall in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 30, Rutgers 20