Overmatched Rutgers Didn't Quit in Loss to No. 2 Ohio State
It was a game where not much was expected of Rutgers. Instead of being blown out, the Scarlet Knights instead battled hard with No. 2 Ohio State in a 56-21 loss.
And while the margin of error showed the talent discrepancy on the field between these two Big Ten teams, the fact that Rutgers (2-8, 0-7 Big Ten) fought while creating some headaches for one of the best teams in the country is a sign that this team has the potential to be competitive in the conference sooner rather than later.
Being at the level of Ohio State and the Big Ten’s upper programs is well out of reach in the immediate future, but Rutgers is just the second team all year to put up three touchdowns on Saturday’s opponent. It might be lipstick on a pig, but for a Scarlet Knights program seeking an identity it is something.
Ohio State (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten) ran out to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter and a dominant 35-7 halftime margin. Behind a 15-of-19 for 304 yards with four touchdowns by quarterback Justin Fields, Ohio State’s offense showcased their efficiency against an overmatched Rutgers. The Buckeyes accumulated 594 yards of total offense and 31 first downs in what was an offensive clinic.
Yet Rutgers, on a day where they honored the famed 2006 team that won the first bowl game in program history, didn’t give up. Defensively, despite poor field position all afternoon, the unit exceeded expectations in making things difficult for the visitors.
And while a five-touchdown margin of victory for Ohio State is certainly humiliating for Rutgers, it shows some progress from scorelines in years past against this same Ohio State program and other bluebloods such as Michigan and Penn State. Rutgers lost, and they lost badly.
But they surely weren’t run off the field.
Saturday’s loss against a far superior opponent was a difficult result but interim head coach Nunzio Campanile said that the hallmark of what he wants to see from this team was seen against Ohio State.
“Toughness. Effort. To me, if you go around and watch New Jersey high school football, that's what you see. A lot of really well-coached teams that play really hard and really tough - when we go on the field, they need to see that when we're playing,” Campanile said.
“You know, I was a high school coach for a long time, so I know what guys want to see when they come back. They want to see just what they are being taught to be the same thing. I'm not saying that wasn't being taught or anything. I'm just saying that's what the product has to be. That's the calling card of New Jersey and New Jersey football is a tough place. I think people take pride in that. I think people need to see that when they come watch us play, and I think when they do see that, I think they will be proud of it and give it an opportunity to grow.”
Rugers was paced by running back Isaih Pacheco (17 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown) as well as wide receiver Bo Melton (3 receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown). Defensively, cornerback Christian Izien (12 tackles) and linebacker Tyshon Fogg (11 tackles) led the way for Rutgers.
In what has been a difficult year for Rutgers, Campanile said that the players will continue to put forth a strong effort to finish strong.
“What I told the kids was if you see the people in the stands, I think they are really proud, the people that were still there, are really proud of the effort that those guys are giving,” Campanile said.
“I guess there was a point where I heard a lot of people saying, oh, these guys have quit. These guys have not quit at all. They are playing really hard for each other. You just see the forced turnover, pick it up, almost run it back for a touchdown and then to finish the drive. So from that standpoint, I think the kids feel really good about, they know what we are talking about in practice and the meetings, they are bringing to the field.
“Obviously the execution isn't perfect, but I think they are really proud of that to be able to go out there, and as I told them, we haven't put 21 points on a lot of teams, so to put 21 points on them is a good day I guess in some ways.”