PISCATAWAY, NJ (AP) — No. 11 Ohio State isn’t the only one returning to face Rutgers.
Saturday’s game at High Point Solutions Stadium marks the first time that former Scarlet Knights head coach and second-year Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano will be coaching in a game at Rutgers since leaving in 2011 for a two-year run with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Schiano transformed Rutgers from one of the worst programs in college football to a one that the Big Ten added in the 2014 expansion. He was out of football for two seasons before joining Urban Meyer’s staff after Chris Ash resigned to take the Rutgers head coaching job last year.
Schiano helped Ash during his transition period. The two haven’t talk much this season but will see each other Saturday when the Buckeyes (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) face a rebuilding Rutgers (1-3, 0-1).
“It’s remarkable what they were able to do, and you know, that’s — honestly that’s one of the reasons that I made the decision to come here is because it’s been done before,” Ash said, referring to Schiano, who led Rutgers to winning seasons and bowl berths in six of his final seven seasons. “It takes a lot of time, effort and a lot of people to get it done but hoping to be able to rebuild it and get it back to where it was during his time here.”
Rutgers has a long way to go under Ash. It went 2-10 last season and it has a 15-game losing streak in conference games dating to 2015.
Ohio State has won all three of its meeting with the Scarlet Knights, including 58-0 last season.
Still, Rutgers is improving. It had a chance to win in each of its three losses, including a 30-14 setback to now No. 6 Washington.
The biggest improvement for Rutgers has been its defense.
“Coach Ash is a defensive-oriented guy,” Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “They’re solid up front. They’re big up front. They’re good on the edges. Rutgers did a really nice job (against Washington).”
Here’s some things to watch in the game:
SOFT PASS PROTECTION: Ohio State’s pass protection is a work in progress, with young defensive backs still making plenty of mistakes. Cornerback Kendall Sheffield was flagged for pass interference twice last week, and also was caught for holding. Cornerback Denzel Ward also committed pass interference on a fourth-down play that wiped out an interception and extended UNLV’s first scoring drive. Cornerback Damon Arnette and safety Damon Webb were penalized for pass interference in the 35-16 loss to Oklahoma. “If you play press coverage, that’s going to happen once in a while. We’ll keep tweaking it,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said.
LEWIS AGAIN: True freshman quarterback Johnathan Lewis is again the unknown in Rutgers offense. He ran for four touchdowns and threw for another in the 65-0 win over Morgan State. Against Nebraska, he took only one snap because coordinator Jerry Kill was concerned about how he would react to the Huskers’ blitzing defense, It was a mistake and the 240-pounder who is a lot more mobile than starter Kyle Bolin probably will see more action this week.
BARRETT ROLLING: Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was in the zone last week, throwing five first-half touchdowns against UNLV. He didn’t play in the second half of a game in which seven different Buckeye receivers caught TDs. Barrett needs 14 yards of total offense to reach 10,000 in his career. He is also 200 yards shy of catching Art Schlichter as Ohio State’s all-time passing yardage leader.
HEALTHY AGAIN: Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley, who injured a foot in the Sept. 16 game against Army, will probably play. He was the starting middle linebacker before he got hurt. Running back Mike Weber, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a redshirt freshman, has been cleared to play. He has been out with a hamstring injury since preseason camp. True freshman J.K. Dobbins has been the workhorse, rushing for a team-high 520 yards and three touchdowns. Rutgers star KR-WR Janarion Grant missed the Nebraska game with headaches. He has worked more in practiced this week, but he probably will be a game-time decision.