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How did Rutgers score 21 points against Ohio State?

It was a historic day in the five-year rivalry between Rutgers and Ohio State. For Rutgers, a 56-21 defeat meant another blowout loss to the Big Ten East powerhouse. But, those three touchdowns crossed off multiple milestones in a season deprived of positives.

Pacheco Ends The Drought

In just the first quarter, interim head coach, Nunzio Campanile, scored more points against Ohio State than former head coach Chris Ash had in three years combined.

It took a miraculous sequence, but when sophomore running back, Isaih Pacheco, crossed the goal line in the first quarter, confetti began to fall from the stands of SHI Stadium. The confetti was not planned by the stadium’s production team. It was a gesture by a group of anonymous fans that proved to be the stadium’s most appropriate theatrics of the day. 

“What I told the kids was, if you see the people in the stands, I think they’re really proud of the effort that those guys are giving,” Campanile said. “There was a point where I heard a lot of people say that these guys quit. These guys have not quit, they’re playing very hard for each other.”

With Rutgers already trailing 21-0 in the first quarter, Rutgers had to punt on fourth down. Ohio State had a chance to put Rutgers in a historic hole. A fourth Buckeye touchdown in the first quarter would have been the most the Knights have ever given up in a first quarter since the turn of the century. 

But the punt actually ended up being the biggest gain the Knights would net to that point. Garrett Wilson muffed it and set up the Rutgers offense at the Ohio State 33 line. This was the best starting field position the Knights would have all day.  Then, Isaih Pacheco got around Buckeye defenders, going 26 yards into the endzone for a career-highlight touchdown. It was the first Rutgers touchdown against Ohio State since 2015, and the first against any Big Ten opponent in the first quarter since Pacheco went 75 yards into the endzone last year against Michigan. 

“No one really said anything about it,” Pacheco said. “It doesn’t really matter to me … I like to act like I’ve been there before. Yeah, it feels good inside but hey let’s go out there and keep working hard together to prove how much we care.”

Melton’s Moment

It wasn’t quite the momentum shift that would spur a Rutgers upset as Ohio State scored the next four touchdowns to go up 49-7. But toward the end of the third quarter, freshman quarterback Johnny Langan uncorked what may be his career highlight on a 35-yard bomb to junior wide receiver Bo Melton. 

“We have a team that really wants to fight and wants to play the game,” Melton said. “We play for each other, we play for everybody next to us, no matter what the score is … and we just keep working.”

The Johnny Special

With the game well out of reach at that point, Rutgers had one quarter left to get that elusive third touchdown that no one other team had found against Ohio State all season, and elusive it was. 

But the Knights got their chance with less than four minutes left in the game. Defensive back Tre Avery bursted past the line to Buckeyes backup quarterback Chris Chugunov, forcing the only Rutgers takeaway on defense. 

Langan capitalized, leading the offense to the one-yard line, and with a historic offense output on the line, he took the ball to the endzone himself and seemingly fumbled the opportunity away for an Ohio State recovery. 

The fumble wouldn’t have made a difference on the result of the game, or Rutgers’ failed season, but a chance at a gleaming positive was seemingly lost.

That was until the Knights caught a rare break. 

All turnovers are reviewed. Even without any conclusive visual evidence that Langan had crossed the goal line, the officiating team in Chicago overturned the call and ruled that Langan had scored.

“I knew for a fact we scored, 100 percent. I was running on the sideline like ‘yes a touchdown,’” Langan said. “I feel like our offense has really improved a lot and we just need to keep building off of it.”

Does It Matter?

Despite the win Rutgers’ threat of finishing the season on a 21-game losing streak in the conference still looms. Now, next week’s senior day game against unranked Michigan State is potentially  the team’s only chance of snapping a streak that has climbed to 19 after today’s loss.

Will the success they found on offense today carry over to next week’s winnable game? 


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