Denzel Burke pick-6 at rutgers.jpg

Ohio State freshman Denzel Burke scores on a 23-yard pick-six in the first quarter at Rutgers on Saturday.

Hmm. Is this for real?

For the second straight week Ohio State football fans are asking the same question, even after a blowout victory -- this time a 52-13 romp at Rutgers.

An uneven start to the season, including a home loss to Oregon, made the Buckeyes a bit of a mystery team. Last week we saw what Ryan Day's club was expected to look like this year, but that 59-7 beating was called into question because, well, because it was against Akron.

This week the questions will continue as Rutgers has been a Big Ten doormat since joining the conference in 2014. Ohio State routinely wipes its cleats on the Scarlet Knights, scoring at least 49 points in each of eight meetings, including Saturday in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Yet this particular outing was notable for Ohio State (4-1 overall, 2-0 in the Big Ten) in the fashion it handled its business. Remember, too, Rutgers (3-2, 0-2) dominated undefeated Michigan in the second half last week in Ann Arbor, before falling 20-13 to the Wolverines.

Larry Phillips mug shot

Richland Source managing editor Larry Phillips. He's led the Source newsrooms since 2016. 

Even OSU coach Ryan Day sounded optimistic, as though something may be building for the Buckeyes -- who will almost certainly climb back into the Top 10 in the polls after a one-week hiatus.

"Having a win like this after the last month, it's given us a little bit of juice now as we head into the next month of October," Day said. "It was some tough times here, but we grew through it, we didn't panic, and in that we might have a good team as we head into October, November."

The starting defense looked competent, a far cry from the first three games. In fact, freshman cornerback Denzel Burke's 23-yard pick-six in the first quarter meant the starting OSU defense outscored the starting Rutgers offense 7-6.

Burke's interception was one of three on the day, the first three QB Noah Vedral has tossed all season, with 112 attempts coming into the game. The Buckeyes first-team defense allowed just one scoring play all day, Vedral's 75-yard pass to Aron Cruickshank near the end of the first quarter. But that only closed the gap to 24-6, and by halftime it was 45-6.

"I thought we created disruption in the backfield and were able to create some turnovers," Day said. "You have to play well early on the road in conference games like this and take the crowd out of it."

The Ohio State starters played the first series in the second half to make it 52-6. Then Day turned to his depth chart and tossed away the playbook, ramming third- and fourth-string running backs into the middle of the line and burning clock as fast as possible.

It was another day at the office for the offense, which did not punt in the first half, and continues to pile up eye-popping numbers.

Quarterback C.J. Stroud finished 17-of-23 for 330 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran twice for 13 yards, exhibiting some of the toughness Day has been pleading for so far this season.

"This is this is what he's capable of," Day said. "Now he's got to bring it through and be consistent."

Chris Olave caught five passes for 119 yards and 2 TDs, Garrett Wilson added three catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, and tight end Jeremy Ruckert had four receptions for 40 yards and a score.

Freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson went 44 yards for a TD on the second offensive snap, and finished with 71 yards on just eight carries.

The Buckeyes finished with 541 yards of total offense, compared to just 346 for the Scarlet Knights -- and much of that came in garbage time. It all led to the worst loss former Ohio State assistant Greg Schiano has suffered since he returned as Rutgers' head coach last season.

"We had a bad day and we had it against a team that is finding its stride," Schiano said. "The result was there to see."

If Ohio State is finding its stride, it should offer a similar performance next week in Columbus against a Maryland team that was butchered by Iowa 51-14 at home this weekend.

Another Buckeye blowout next week wouldn't answer any questions either, but it would stoke a young squad's confidence.

"I thought our team played with more toughness than it did in the past," Day said. "This was an important game for us because I felt like Sept. 2, a month ago, when we played Minnesota we were a much different team and I felt like that going into this week, but we hadn't shown it yet.

"I felt like we got a glimpse of that tonight."

Support Our Sports Coverage!

Sports reporters need great teammates, and that's you. If local sports reporting is important to you, purchase a Source membership for less than $5/month. You'll be the MVP of our sports department.

I've lived in Richland Co. since 1990, married here, our children were born here. This is home. I have two books published on a passion topic, Ohio high school football. Others: Buckeyes, Cavs, Bengals, Reds, History, Disney.

Make sure you don't miss this:

Make sure you don't miss this:
Load comments