Second Thoughts: Ohio State-Rutgers

Ohio State had little trouble taking care of Rutgers on Saturday, but how did the Buckeyes do it? takes a closer look after a review of the tape.

Among the conclusions from reviewing Ohio State's 56-17 win over Rutgers is the Scarlet Knights are who we thought they were.

And that is not a very good team despite its record. There's a reason Rutgers barely made a bowl last season despite playing in a lesser conference. The program isn't very strong. The level of competition had a lot to do with their record last year, and so far that is the case again this season despite being in a new league.

That said, the Scarlet Knights do have legitimate weapons on offense, and Ohio State shut them down almost completely.

This was another positive step forward for the pass defense, although there was one bust of a coverage in the first half. If we defer to the senior Doran Grant, who pointed to where help was going to be needed during the play, it would seem Tyvis Powell got caught up with another route that wasn't his responsibility, but it's hard to know for sure without hearing the defensive call. Still, the overall effort against a team with several dangerous receivers and a quarterback who threw for 400 yards in his last game was good. And Rutgers is a team that will attack an opponent all over the field, whether it is taking deep shots or trying to go horizontal, and Ohio State handled it all pretty well. The pass rush helped, too, of course.

Urban Meyer expressed a concern about the run defense, and I think that is something to keep an eye on. Rutgers would like to be a downhill running team, and sometimes it has managed to pull that off, but the Scarlet Knights can't quite hang their hat on it yet. Judging the Ohio State rush defense has been hard for the past 12 games or so because since Wisconsin last year they have hardly ever been in a game where the opponent was both a run-first team and in the game long enough to keep running the ball. When they were geared up to stop Melvin Gordon and Wisconsin last year, the run defense looked very good. The rest of the year when it wasn't as much of a priority, that wasn't so much the case. This is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

When the Scarlet Knights got something going on the ground, there was no real secret formula. They just blocked it up and the running backs took advantage.

Rutgers also had some success with boot passes early as Gary Nova was able to get outside and find receivers who weren't picked up by anyone. That's going to be something other teams see and try to exploit, probably starting with Penn State this week. These were also an issue last season against pro-style teams like Iowa and Michigan State.

Offensively, Ohio State probably had an easier day than it expected because Rutgers played a pretty passive game for the most part. The Scarlet Knights don't have the skill on the outside to hinder a passing game, but they also aren't very stout inside. They decided to pick neither poison and died by both.

I still think Meyer was nitpicking somewhat Monday in talking about Barrett's performance. He had some rough moments, but they didn't seem to be in any more abundance than the last couple of weeks.

The offensive line did a good job protecting him for the most part, but there were a couple of busts on twists and stunts by the Rutgers defensive line, which does have a couple of pretty talented guys who figure to play on Sundays.

Other notes and observations:

  • Not a good sign for Rutgers when the first play resulted in a miscommunication between the QB and the WR and what they were seeing as far as coverage.
  • Second play against Ohio State's four receiver set including the TE part of trips to the left of the formation, Rutgers brought a linebacker up over the guard to give a five-lineman look essentially. Barrett audibled and the WLB dropped back to his more normal position. Heuerman motioned inside with the SLB mirroring him (now six on six blockers-wise) and ran inverted veer. He gave it to Elliott for a gain of a couple. Several times Rutgers showed this look and then dropped out of it when Ohio State audibled.
  • Fourth and two Rutgers had seven in the box with a free safety. Ohio State still had seven blockers since it went with the quarterback sweep. Barrett did a good job of waiting for blocks to develop on outside zone behind another unbalanced line. Best blocks by Decker and Price. Elliott helped Baldwin finish the end man.
  • On Ohio State's first touchdown, Nick Vannett did a nice job working away from the linebacker in coverage to give Barrett a good window to throw to him.
  • On Rutgers' second possession, Raekwon McMillan had three straight nice plays, twice filling against the run and then coming up and making a good open-field tackle on short third down pass. Later McMillan got blocked on Cedric Peoples' long run that gave them a first-and-goal, but he was impressive stoning a lead blocker on the following play.

  • Rutgers had a nice gain on its first touchdown drive off a boot pass to a wide open H-back no one picked up off the wing. Not sure who is supposed to be there on that one. Adolphus Washington and Josh Perry took the fake while Bosa rushed the passer. The CB was in coverage on the outside receiver.
  • On Eli Apple's scoop and score, we saw a lot of the new things that are supposed to make Ohio State's defense different this season. The hybrid linebacker (Darron Lee) made a good athletic play in space against the screen. The reserve defensive end (Rashad Frazier) hustled inside out to get in on the play. The cornerback pounced and took advantage.
  • Second quarter Rutgers again exposed some holes in how Ohio State defends the bootleg. They were able to get their tight ends and H-back/fullbacks open as the linebackers were nowhere to be found. You can bet future opponents, including Penn State and Michigan State, saw this and will try to exploit it.
  • There was a play that was easy to miss but could be big midway through the second quarter: Rutgers tried to run zone at Jalyn Holmes but he stuffed the left tackle and set the edge and Curtis Grant came blowing down the line and got a nice hit.
  • Seemed as though someone was out of position on the 40-yard pass play for Rutgers in the second quarter. Doran Grant squatted in a short zone and pointed to the deep quarter where it appeared Tyvis Powell got a little nosy trying to help on a deep crossing route in front of him and let the eventual receiver find an open spot. Nova did a good job keeping his composure, finding his man and making a good throw.
  • On Barrett's 33-yard touchdown run up the middle in the third quarter, he might have been able to throw the screen that was intended but was probably better off not. There was a small window. The action of the play helped part the Rutgers defense, though, and Jalin Marshall got the last block downfield to send him on his way, sealing one of the few Scarlet Knights to actually see what was happening and try to react.
  • All day Rutgers seemed to play with a general malaise on defense. They only dropped three into coverage but somewhat gave up a 33-yard run straight up the middle, and the runner never even had to make anyone miss. No way that should happen. Maybe the players did not buy into the surprisingly passive game plan, which surprised me and Ohio State because it wasn't what they had largely shown in previous games. It also failed miserably.
  • A couple of times Rutgers jumped into a five-man defensive line with a linebacker basically acting like a second three-technique and Ohio State immediately audibled. Then Rutgers would fall back into its normal 4-3. On Ohio State's second possession of the third quarter, Rutgers crowded the line of scrimmage a little more and did show a bear look. They managed a free rusher on third down with an inside stunt and Barrett cooly escaped for a scramble for a first down.
  • After Rutgers had a couple of big runs on which the Ohio State defense looked kind of passive, the coaching staff dialed up some pressure calls that helped get them out of their doldrums and force a field goal.

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