COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio State is on an historic roll and quarterback J.T. Barrett is leading the way.
The freshman completed his first nine passes, ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns and threw for three more scores to lead the 13th-ranked Buckeyes past Rutgers 56-17 on Saturday.
It marked the first time Ohio State has scored at least 50 points in four games in a row in its 125 years of competition.
“I’m focusing on getting the offense better every week and keeping this thing rolling,” Barrett said after carrying seven times while scoring on runs of 33 and 5 yards and completing 19 of 31 passes for 261 yards without an interception before departing midway through the fourth quarter.
No wonder coach Urban Meyer figures his team is on the rise.
Asked if his Buckeyes are a top-10 team, he said, “I think we are. I’m sure you’re asking me so someone will blog it out and say, `Here’s coach Meyer, rantin’ and ravin’.’ I’m not.
“Do I think we’re top 10? I don’t really watch other teams but I think we’re playing at a pretty high level right now.”
The Buckeyes (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) have averaged 56 points in a four-game win streak since losing at home to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6. They’ve made a steady move up the rankings since.
Barrett — a preseason sub for injured three-year starter Braxton Miller — continues to put up remarkable numbers in his first year of college competition.
“He’s a really talented player, and you’d better be on point or you’re not going to get him on the ground,” Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said.
The victory was Ohio State’s 18th in a row in the Big Ten, drawing within two of tying the conference mark set by the 2005-07 Buckeyes.
Despite throttling the Scarlet Knights, some of the Buckeyes said it wasn’t enough.
“It feels good but we’re never satisfied,” linebacker Darron Lee said. “I was talking to some guys (in the locker room). We just beat this team pretty badly and it almost felt like a loss. That just shows the hunger we have on the defense and that’s why we’re going to continue to improve.”
It was the worst loss in 12 years for Rutgers (5-2, 1-2), which had a three-game winning streak end. The Scarlet Knights played before their largest crowd ever (106,795).
“People who’ve watched us play this year know that when we play well we can compete with anybody,” Flood said. “If you don’t play well, unfortunately, this is the kind of game that you end up in when you play really talented teams.”
The Buckeyes — averaging 614 yards per game over their win streak — amassed 585 total yards. They scored on their first three possessions — with Barrett going 8 for 8 passing — and the outcome was never really in doubt again.
He hit Nick Vannett on scoring tosses of 12 and 31 yards, the latter on a perfect lead pass over the middle before the backup tight end lumbered to the end zone. In between, Ezekiel Elliott carried four times in a 74-yard march that he capped with a 1-yard plunge.
The Scarlet Knights have had plenty of firepower, with one of the Big Ten’s best offenses. Gary Nova completed 17 of 28 passes for 192 yards with an interception for the Scarlet Knights, who beat Michigan 26-24 in their last game before a bye last week. Desmon Peoples carried 15 times for 83 yards and touchdowns of 1 and 12 yards against the Buckeyes.
They were still in it down 21-7 midway through the second quarter before a defensive strike by the Buckeyes.
Nova flipped a pass on first down deep in his own territory to Janarion Grant in the left flat but he was hit by Lee and then really got cracked by backup defensive end Rashad Frazier. Grant lost the ball as he was going down, with Eli Apple — a New Jersey native who almost went to his home-state school — scooping up the loose ball and trotting the final 4 yards.
Barrett then scored twice early in the third quarter and the crowd thinned out as it began to rain.
“They were what we expected,” Nova said. “We thought we had a good plan for them. Credit them. They’re a good defense but a lot of the stuff we did today is on us.”