Rutgers at Ohio State

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 7:46 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
TV: Big Ten Network
SERIES: Ohio State leads Rutgers 4-0, including a 56-0 victory last season
RANKINGS: Ohio State No. 4

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Scarlet Knights

–Freshman QB Artur Sitkowski was an early arrival for 2018, taking part in spring drills and then winning the starting job from Gio Rescigno. He is be the first true freshman to open the season at quarterback for the Scarlet Knights since 2001 and was 20-of-29 for 205 yards and a touchdown in an opener marred by three interceptions. “I played alright,” he said. “…The most important thing is that we got the win. I have some things that I need to work on, and I’m really excited about that. I’ll go watch the film tomorrow morning with the coach and players and get ready for our next opponent.”

–WLB Trevor Morris, who was battling a minor health problem as the season began, led the Knights with 118 tackles last year — and led them again in the opener, with seven stops.

–TE Jerome Washington is a member of the John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List. The award is presented annually to the most outstanding collegiate tight end. He had two catches for 32 yards in the opener.

Buckeyes

–QB Dwayne Haskins lived up to hype and then some with his passing in the season-opening rout of Oregon State last Saturday. In the sophomore’s first start, he connected on 22-of-30 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. The yardage and touchdown totals were a school record for a quarterback making his first career start at Ohio State. Haskins looked comfortable and in control running the offense and standing in the pocket. He spread the ball around to 10 different players who caught at least one pass.

–RB Mike Weber rushed for a career-high 186 yards last Saturday against Oregon State on 20 carries (9.3 yards per attempt), equaled a career best with three touchdown runs and added a 3-yard scoring reception. A junior, Weber was slowed early last season by a hamstring injury and ended up behind freshman sensation J.K. Dobbins, who started against Oregon State and ran for 74 yards on 15 carries. The two will continue to split carries this week against Rutgers.

–LB Pete Werner made his first start in the opener against Oregon State last week and finished with 4.5 tackles. One of those tackles was a sack with DT Dre’Mont Jones at the goal line that caused a fumble by Oregon State QB Conor Blount near the end of the first half that was recovered for a touchdown by DE Nick Bosa. “I thought Pete played well,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “Did he make mistakes? Sure, everybody did, including yours truly, but I thought Pete played at a high level of speed and plays the game with great passion and really is a contact player. He’s going to hit you. Bright future for him.”

–WR Terry McLaurin surpassed 100 yards receiving for the first time at Ohio State with 121 yards on four catches and had a career-high two touchdowns in the opener last week, including a 2-yard pass from QB Dwayne Haskins to start the game and a 75-yarder from Haskins to open the third quarter. Acting head Ryan Day, also the offensive coordinator, singled out McLaurin as one of the team’s best practice players during the preseason along with RB Mike Weber and LG Malcolm Pridgeon.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Urban Meyer won’t be on the sideline again this week when No. 4 Ohio State plays host to Rutgers in its Big Ten opener at Ohio Stadium, but his presence definitely will be felt by the Buckeyes.

Meyer was allowed to return to the team on Monday under the terms of his university-imposed, three-game suspension in the domestic violence dispute involving former assistant Zach Smith. He just won’t be able to be on the sideline again this week and the following Saturday for the game against TCU.

Acting head coach Ryan Day said Monday that Meyer is heavily involved in game planning for Rutgers (1-0), which is coached by former Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash.

“Coach was up with everything right from the start,” Day said.

Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano confirmed that Meyer jumped right back in after being away from the team since his suspension in early August.

“Excited to have him back, everybody is,” Schiano said. “Coach is a very focused guy, as you know, and we hit it running, got back to it.”

Day will still be in charge on the sideline Saturday and he expects to feel more comfortable, balancing the head coaching duties and also calling plays along with offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.

“Any time you do something for a second time, it becomes easier and more efficient,” Day said.

“Decisions that are made up to the game is really where most of the coaching is done, and then once we get on the field the game plan is in and now it’s just a matter of calling the plays and going from there.

“So, yeah, it’s kind of Coach is back, and we’re going with Coach, and once we get to the game the decisions are almost made before we get there.”

The Ohio State coaches will be strategizing for Rutgers, which opened at home last week with a 35-7 victory over Texas State.

Ash was pleased with the Scarlet Knights’ opening effort but realizes, having coached at Ohio State, that the Buckeyes (1-0) are a completely different animal.

“It’s our job to go over there and try to play the best we can play and play better than what we’ve played, especially in the last couple years,” Ash said.

The Scarlet Knights have been pummeled in four meetings with the Buckeyes since they joined the Big Ten.

“Defensively, we are going to have to stop the run,” Ash said. “We are going to have to get some takeaways and not beat ourselves. Those are things we have not done in the last couple years on both sides of the ball against this opponent.”

The Buckeyes opened the 2018 season with a 77-31 victory at home over Oregon State.

The Ohio State offense accumulated 721 yards, the second highest total in school history, behind first-time starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The sophomore made an impressive season debut, completing 22 of 30 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns with one interception, and added 24 rushing yards on two carries.

Mike Weber led Ohio State’s two-headed monster at running back with 186 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Oregon State.

The Ohio State defense, though, was far from dominant. Preseason All-American Nick Bosa registered two sacks, but the Buckeyes gave up 80- and 78-yard touchdown runs and a 49-yard touchdown pass.

The big plays were mistakes attributable to new starters in the back seven that defensive coordinator Schiano, a former Rutgers assistant, won’t tolerate this week.

“We need to improve, that’s for sure,” Schiano said. “That’s not what we want to see out there, but the opportunity is there.”

The Scarlet Knights started true freshman Artur Sitkowski at quarterback in their opener and he was 20-for-29 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown. Running backs Raheem Blackshear and Jonathan Hilliman each scored two touchdowns, and freshman Isaih Pacheco rushed for a team-leading 76 yards on 11 carries.

“He is a big, strong arm drop-back passer with good mobility. He’s not a stiff back there,” Schiano said of Sitkowski, “so you have to be ready to be able to have ways to get him down when he does move. So it will be interesting.”