Ohio State stock report after Week 10: Second-half Buckeyes strike again
PISCATAWAY, New Jersey – Ohio State coach Ryan Day says his team never panics, never flinches after a lackluster first half, never worries about what has happened.
Instead, the Buckeyes just go out and win the second half. Fresh off being placed at No. 1 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, the Buckeyes owned the second half again Saturday in a 35-16 victory over a pesky Rutgers team.
Rutgers (6-3) hit hard, tackled well, ran the football well, completed some key passes and game-planned as well as it could against Ohio State (9-0). But the Buckeyes rebounded from a 9-7 halftime deficit with an efficient second half. They scored 3 touchdowns on 4 second-half possessions and scored a defensive touchdown.
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The Buckeyes flexed their 4- and 5-star muscles and methodically put Rutgers away. The Scarlet Knights might one day beat a ranked opponent under Greg Schiano, but they’re not there yet.
Player of the Week: Running back TreVeyon Henderson
Imagine a season-long healthy TreVeyon Henderson. Imagine an offensive game plan in the early weeks of the season that emphasized him more. If those things had really happened, then imagine a running back who would be firmly in the Heisman Trophy race. That’s how good Henderson has been the past 2 weeks.
Henderson rushed for more than 100 yards in his third straight outing and produced a second straight 200-yard all-purpose offensive explosion Saturday. He totaled 208 yards with 128 rushing on 22 carries and 80 receiving on 5 catches. Last week at Wisconsin he rushed for a season-high 162 yards on a season-high 24 carries and totaled 207 yards from scrimmage.
Henderson moved past Pete Johnson and Lydell Ross on the OSU career rushing list and into the top 20. His season totals in 6 games are 7 touchdowns, 585 rushing yards and 170 receiving yards. But it’s more than the numbers that impress.
Henderson looks like the best back in the country, doing it with speed, moves and a more physical style than he showed during his first 2 seasons.
Biggest surprise: The Rutgers trick play
The Buckeyes are always on alert for Schiano to get a little crazy. The key to that from Rutgers’ standpoint, of course, is still finding a way to catch the opponent off guard. And Schiano did.
Early in the second quarter the Scarlet Knights faced 4th-and-1 at their 43 trailing 7-0. Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt set up under center. Running back Kyle Monangai (159 rushing yards) lined up right behind Wimsatt. Surely the tush push popularized by the Philadelphia Eagles would be the call.
Instead, Wimsatt took the snap then snapped it to Monangai for a double-hike. But rule, that’s just an unusual-looking lateral. Perfectly legal. Monangai took off around the right side while the Buckeyes sold out to stop Wimsatt. Monangai was tackled 45 yards later at the 12. However, the defense tightened up and forced the first of 3 second-quarter Rutgers field goals.
Biggest concern: Slow-starting offense
Average at best first halves aren’t new for the Buckeyes. Saturday’s edition, however, was the most unusual. The Buckeyes trailed 9-7. In their first 9 meetings against Rutgers (all since 2014), the Buckeyes led each time and the closest margin was 21 points on 2 occasions. In most of the other meetings, the Buckeyes led by 5 touchdowns.
Every week, head coach Ryan Day says he wants a better start. But as long as his team keeps finishing strong and going 1-0 every week, he’s not going to complain too much.
Developing trend: Injuries in the secondary
The latest defensive back to go down was Josh Proctor, in the third quarter Saturday. Proctor has been the Buckeyes’ most prominent playmaker from his safety position, and he was knocked out of the game helping to make the game’s most important play.
Proctor spotted a running back releasing out of the backfield and broke up the pass. The ball popped into the air, and cornerback Jordan Hancock intercepted it and returned the football 93 yards for a touchdown and a 14-9 lead.
Proctor left the game. He said he wanted to return but also said he felt the collision in his head. Whether he plays next week will probably not be known until Saturday. The Buckeyes were already without Denzel Burke, their best corner, and safety Lathan Ransom.
Key stat: Ohio State’s 2nd-half efficiency on 3rd down
One reason for the slow start was an 0-for-5 result on third down in the first half. But the Buckeyes were 6-for-7 in the second half and scored 3 offensive touchdowns on 4 possessions.
Two conversions came on touchdown passes of 4 and 2 yards to Marvin Harrison Jr.
First impressions about Week 11
at Michigan State, 7:30 Saturday (NBC): The Spartans (3-6) defeated Nebraska 20-17 on Saturday for their first Big Ten win. But this isn’t going to be one of those tough Big Ten games that coaches talk about.
This could actually be a night when the Buckeyes start fast and lead comfortably at halftime.