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Football: No. 3 Ohio State to host ‘creative’ Rutgers team during Homecoming Saturday

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The No. 3 Ohio State football team will take on Rutgers on Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

The Buckeyes opened their season with five-consecutive home games, and they’ll round out the homestand with Homecoming weekend against Rutgers Saturday with a familiar face returning to Columbus.

No. 3 Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) hosts the Scarlet Knights, who are led by former defensive coordinator and head coach Greg Schiano, in its second conference game of the year. Schiano oversaw the Buckeyes defense from 2016-18 before returning to the helm at Rutgers.

Head coach Ryan Day arrived at Ohio State one year after Schiano, and he said he learned a lot from Schiano, who’s an “intelligent” coach and “motivates” those around him.

“He’s an excellent motivator, creates great relationships with his players,” Day said. “He’s very intelligent. Really can drive the whole program at a high level. He sees it, understands what needs to get done. I think he’s an excellent leader.”

The Scarlet Knights (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) won five Big Ten games in the previous two seasons under Schiano, more than any two-year span since joining the conference in 2014. They began this season with three-consecutive wins, including a 22-21 victory at Boston College Sept. 3, before falling to Iowa 27-10 Sept. 24.

Graduate safety Josh Proctor played under Schiano during his first season at Ohio State in 2018. Proctor said his experience under the current Rutgers head coach gives him more diligence in preparation for the Scarlet Knights because he knows which traits to look for in prospective players.

“He recruits dogs, I’ll say that. He wants to know that when it’s time to get gritty and dirty, you’re there. You’re not running from it,” Proctor said. “I think that’s the kind of mentality he took to Rutgers, and they kind of bought in. Over the years you can see they play with teams, and they’re not given up a lot like they used to.”

Two quarterbacks have started under center for the Scarlet Knights this season, led by sophomore Evan Simon who’s thrown for 566 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, Rutgers sophomore defensive lineman Wesley Bailey is fourth in the Big Ten with 2.5 sacks and senior defensive back Christian Izien leads the team with 33 tackles.

Rutgers fell by at least three possessions in each of its eight matchups against Ohio State, not without keeping the Buckeyes on their toes.

In 2020, former Scarlet Knights wide receiver Bo Melton caught a lateral pass and returned a punt for a 58-yard touchdown. Their special teams trickery didn’t work last season, as a fake punt on their opening drive in Piscataway, New Jersey, led to a turnover on downs after which Ohio State scored on its ensuing possession.

“They’re a creative offense,” fourth-year safety Ronnie Hickman said. “They’re not so traditional in offense, but you stay true to your cues and have good eye control, you’ll be good.”

The Buckeyes look to return several cornerbacks to the football field after graduate Cameron Brown and second-year Denzel Burke missed last Saturday’s game due to injury. In their places, second-year JK Johnson and first-year Jyaire Brown made the first starts of their collegiate careers.

Ohio State has dealt with nicks and bruises at cornerback since the preseason, notably second-year Jordan Hancock has yet to play this season as he deals with injury. Cornerbacks coach Tim Walton said the Buckeyes “deal with the situation as it is,” leaning on their depth to step up.

“That’s why we try to have everybody ready because when your number is called, you got to be ready to perform,” Walton said. “We try to develop all the guys and make sure everybody on the roster is ready to go because that’s the part you can’t control, so you try to control the controllables.”

Running backs third-year Miyan Williams and second-year TreVeyon Henderson ran for over 100 yards apiece against Wisconsin, becoming the first Buckeye duo to do so in the same game since former quarterback Justin Fields and running back Trey Sermon during the 2020 season.

Under new offensive line coach Justin Frye, graduate offensive lineman Matthew Jones said he’s focused on “little techniques” to keep the rhythm up front and open gaps at the line of scrimmage.

“We kind of just start from the basics, just knowing the right footwork that comes from whatever we play,” Jones said. “There’s always little things we got to work on and grow together. But once we’re off the ball together, we just fight through whatever.”

Ohio State will also commemorate Saturday’s game with the 100 Years of Ohio Stadium Celebration, looking back at its history since opening Oct. 7, 1922.

Day and head coaches around the Big Ten recalled their memories from inside the ‘Shoe over the years, and the Buckeye skipper said he enjoys listening to the crowd after an Ohio State defensive stop on third down or touchdown.

“When you look back on those times, it makes you smile,” Day said.

Opening kickoff between the Buckeyes and Scarlet Knights is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Big Ten Network will broadcast.

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