My mother taught me at an early age that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all. Perhaps she didn’t envision I’d ever being writing a recap for Rutgers at Ohio State and who could blame her. To say this performance was anything less than complete slaughtering would be an understatement.
The first half could not have ended any worse, as Ohio State star Nick Bosa blew past Rutgers’ best lineman Tariq Cole and ran over quarterback Artur Sitkowski. He left the field walking off holding his throwing arm and shoulder. The true freshman never returned after the Scarlet Knights trailed 35-0 at the break. No word on his potential injury as of yet, but there is no sugar coating what a setback that would be for both Sitkowski and the program.
Trouble started on the Buckeyes opening drive after failing to stop them on 3rd and 6 at midfield, quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw a 39 yard touchdown to take the lead early on. Starting safety Damon Hayes limped off the field on the drive, but did return later on. With Blessuan Austin, Kiy Hester and Trey Avery not playing due to injury, the Rutgers secondary was abused most of the day.
Haskins was basically flawless in this game, completing 20 of 23 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns. Even backup freshman QB Tate Martell had no problem slicing up the Rutgers defense, as he finished throwing a perfect 10 of 10 for 121 yards and a score.
After entering the second quarter trailing 14-0, Rutgers simply couldn’t muster any momentum on either side of the ball. On offense, they crossed midfield just once in the first half and had five drives that were of the three and out variety. Sitkowski struggled to find a rhythm, rushing throws and missing targets at times. The receiving core wasn’t at its best either, dropping three balls in the opening frame. Sitkowski was under heavy pressure from the Buckeyes defense as well, as the offensive line struggled once again in pass protection. He was sacked twice and hit twice on throws in the first half, ending on the Bosa takedown.
As for the defense, they were unable to generate much pressure and Haskins carved up the undermanned secondary. A major key in the game was third down conversions. As Ohio State took a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, the Buckeyes were 6 of 7 on third down while Rutgers was just 1 of 5.
The second half was more or less insignificant and Ohio State finished with the same margin of defeat as the their average in the first four meetings, winning 52-3. They amassed 559 yards of total offense, were 8 of 13 on third down conversions and had 31 first downs in the game. Rutgers had just 134 total yards, was 4 of 15 on third downs, has just 12 first downs and committed 2 turnovers. The only thing Rutgers did better than Ohio State was have less penalties, but 7 for 72 yards is still not a positive. No Rutgers player had any individual stats of note, but Raheem Blackshear led the team with 3 catches (12 yards) and rushing yards (31 on 9 attempts).
Gio Rescigno was just 5 of 12 for 23 yards and 1 interception in relief of Sitkowski. The true freshman didn’t fare much better, finishing the day completing just 6 of 18 passes for 38 yards and 1 interception.
The one positive on the day was that Justin Davidovicz made his first field goal attempt of his Rutgers career, connecting from 41 yards out. He also saved a touchdown with this tackle.
The other specialist, punter Adam Korsak, also fared relatively well, averaging 41.8 yards on 9 punts with a long of 52 yards and pinning two inside the 20 yard line.
There isn’t much use in going into more detail other than to torture the fan base. This was an ugly and extremely disappointing performance. The expectation wasn’t that Rutgers had any realistic chance to win the game, but to see this type of blowout in year three of Chris Ash’s tenure is not where anyone hoped things would be. I wrote an article on five areas to measure Rutgers’ progress in this game against Ohio State and they failed in every one of them.
In the long term outlook, this was always going to be a loss and it has zero impact on the rest of the season in a sense. However, how competitive Rutgers is against the blue bloods of the Big Ten is certainly a measuring stick for the program at the end of this season. The score is only relevant to many critics and other Big Ten fan bases who like to make fun of Rutgers. Seeing this team get run over for the fifth straight season though is certainly tough to swallow, as they were completely outclassed once again.
At this point, it’s good news that Ohio State is now behind this team and they can move forward with a six week stretch of games that Rutgers could realistically win all of them. The results of these next six games is really how this season will ultimately be judged. Expecting them to win them all is unrealistic, but Rutgers needs to win the majority of them to signify progress this season. Hopefully once they get back to Piscataway and Ash addresses the media on Monday, there aren’t any serious injuries to report, most importantly, with Sitkowski. If he is okay and Rutgers can play well in the month plus ahead, the hurt of today’s game will be far less than what it is right now.
Update: Ash said after the game Sitkowski will be evaluated on Sunday, as reported by Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media. For what it’s worth, Ash said Sitkowski told him he was fine. Let’s hope that is the case.