Robert Landers wants to be as disruptive as possible for the Ohio State Buckeyes defense. He tells himself to get off the ball as fast as possible at the snap and get past the line of scrimmage.
On Saturday in No. 4 Ohio State’s 52-3 victory over Rutgers at Ohio Stadium, Landers showed why coaches handed him a starting job at defensive tackle in his redshirt junior season. He made the first tackle of the game, taking down running back Raheem Blackshear for a loss of three yards and added two more tackles.
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The Buckeyes improved to 2-0 with the type of dominant defensive effort they didn’t display in a season-opening 77-31 victory against Oregon State a week earlier.
“It felt a lot better,” said Landers, a Wayne High School graduate. “I feel we executed our game plan very well from top to bottom, from the starters to the young guys, so I’m very proud of our performance.”
The Buckeyes outgained Rutgers 310-45 in total yards in the first half. A 41-yard field goal in the third quarter stopped Ohio State from blanking Rutgers for the third straight season. The Buckeyes have outscored the Scarlet Knights 166-3 in the last three seasons.
“Going into every game as a defense, the goal is to get a shutout,” Landers said. “It didn’t happen that way. At the end of the day, Rutgers was a very good and solid team. (A shutout) was our goal, but the biggest thing was coming out with a win.”
Touchdown machine: Johnnie Dixon caught two touchdown passes Saturday and now has 10 touchdowns in 23 receptions in the last two seasons. He finished with four catches for 89 yards.
The Buckeyes scored on their first five possessions against Oregon State and on five of their first six possessions against Rutgers. A deep group of receivers has made a big difference.
“I think the way we practice,” Dixon said, “the way we come out each day, the way we’re pushing the tempo, we’re gassing (defenses). We’re ready for it. That’s the biggest thing right now. We’re practicing really hard and really well.”
Backup performance: Tate Martell set an Ohio State accuracy record by completing 10 of 10 passes for 121 yards. He’s the first quarterback in school history to attempt at least 10 passes and complete them all. He threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin in the second quarter and ran for a 47-yard score in the fourth.
“That was the first time I really got to go out there and throw the ball and throw in rhythm,” Martell said. “I know what I’m doing when I’m out there, which is a huge difference than what it was last year, when I was, like in practice, kind of second-guessing myself. This year, I know exactly what I’m doing. I know protection and stuff like that, and it’s just a whole different ballgame now.”
Great start: In his first two games as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, Dwayne Haskins has completed 79.2 percent of his passes (42 of 53) for 546 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception.
Dixon described the deep ball Haskins throws as “mom’s home cooking just falling into your lap.”
Haskins completed 20 of 23 passes (86.9 percent) against Rutgers. It was the third-highest completion percentage in school history. Only Martell and Bill Mrukowski (10 of 11, .909, in 1961) stand above him.