By Jim Naveau
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The wait is over.
The No. 1 team in the country looked like it was definitely No. 1 for maybe the first time this season on Saturday when Ohio State dominated Rutgers 49-7.
The team Ohio State fans expected to see at the beginning of the season was on the field at High Point Solutions Stadium in a display of offensive and defensive dominance against a team it was supposed to dictate terms of surrender to.
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) led 21-0 at halftime, then scored touchdowns the first four times it had the ball in the second half.
In his first start of the season, quarterback J.T. Barrett validated the decision to make him the starter by hitting 14 of 18 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
A 55-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter put Ezekiel Elliott (142 yards on 19 carries, 2 TDs) over 100 yards for the thirteenth game in a row.
“It all starts with great defense. We pitched a shutout for 59 minutes and whatever seconds,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “The obvious is J.T. Barrett came in and played very well and energized us. I’m very pleased.
“I think he’s in full swing now, obviously. I think he played great,” Meyer said. “You ask a defensive coach, anytime you’ve got a guy who can throw and run, you (defenses) have a problem.”
Ohio State’s win was its 21st in a row and its 28th consecutive Big Ten regular-season win.
Slow starts have been part of most of OSU’s games this season and Saturday night started out the same way.
Ezekiel Elliott’s two-yard run for a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the first quarter broke up a scoreless game.
OSU’s 7-0 lead after one quarter was the first time in four Big Ten games it was in front after the first 15 minutes. The Buckeyes have outscored their opponents only 38-20 in the opening quarter this season.
But once Ohio State started to roll, it continued to roll. And Barrett was the player who ignited the first-half uprising.
He accounted for 221 of Ohio State’s 248 yards in the first half (5 of 7 for 136 yards and a touchdown and 85 yards rushing and another TD).
Big passes in the final 6:48 of the first half helped OSU take a 21-0 lead into the locker room.
Barrett hit Michael Thomas with a 50-yard scoring pass with 6:48 left in the first half. Then Braxton Miller made a spectacular juggling catch for 45 yards two plays before Elliott’s second touchdown of the game that put OSU up 21-0 last in the first half.