College football: 6 things to know about Ohio State-Rutgers game

Buckeyes host Scarlet Knights at 7:30 p.m. Saturday

When Ryan Day was asked this week if he views every game played during the coronavirus pandemic as a type of victory, “Sort of,” was the Ohio State football coach’s reply.

The uncertainty of the answer represents the year as a whole in the world of sports, where COVID-19 has been a disruptive force since the cancelation of the NCAA Tournament and many other events in the middle of March.

“It’s week to week, day to day for sure,” Day said. “You hold your breath all week. You hold your breath the day of.”

That is because not only is there always the threat of an Ohio State player or coach becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 but also the possibility of asymptomatic players testing positive and being unable to play for three weeks or more.

Even if Ohio State manages to keep the virus out of its locker room all year, there remains the possibility its opponent is unable to go. Nebraska and Purdue know how that feels after having games against Wisconsin canceled the past two weeks while the Badgers are fighting an outbreak that has afflicted players and coaches.

Day has continually said he has confidence in Ohio State’s protocols for preventing the spread of the disease, “but it’s just like anything else: If one person gets it and exposes others, that’s where it can get out of hand, and we just cannot stop focusing on that.”

Here are five more things to know about the game:

1. The game will be a reunion for Ohio State and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano.

After building the Scarlet Knights into a competitive Big East team that was still good enough to win eight games in its first year in the Big Ten without him, Schiano is back in charge in Piscataway.

His time away included a stint as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL and as defensive coordinator at Ohio State from 2016-18.

At that time he worked with many current Ohio State staffers, including Day and Kerry Coombs.

“I really liked Greg,” said Coombs, who was cornerbacks coach then and is defensive coordinator now. “He’s a outstanding football coach, and I think he’s a better man. He’s a good husband. He’s a good father. I really like Greg and learned a lot of football from Greg when he was here at Ohio State. Got to compete against Greg way back in the old Big East and learn to dislike him when he was coaching the other team.”

He sees Schiano, a defensive-minded coach, having already put his stamp on the team.

“Those kids are playing hard now,” Coombs said. “They’re playing hard and playing with discipline, and he’s done a remarkable job.”

Day, who was hired as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator in 2017, said he respects the way Schiano went about his business daily at Ohio State and is thankful for the guidance he provided when Day served as interim head coach for Urban Meyer in 2018.

“When everything went down that summer leading into (my) taking over for those first three games and the preseason, he was a huge help to me,” Day said. “Just a great resource. Really helped me in terms of just navigating through the preseason and the first three games, so I’m forever in debt to him for that.”

2. Saturday is also a homecoming for two Rutgers players.

Brendon White, a legacy Buckeye who wore scarlet and gray for three seasons before leaving last winter as a graduate transfer, is a starting safety for the Scarlet Knights.

“Greg’s done a good job of putting him in good spots,” Day said of the son of All-Big Ten defensive back William White. “He’s playing that free safety position, and I think what they’re asking him to do fits his skill set really well. He’s going to have a good career there. He’s got a lot of talent.”

The younger White has 17 tackles this season and had an interception and a fumble recovering in the Knights' Week 1 win over Michigan State.

The Rutgers roster also includes Malik Barrow, a defensive tackle who began his career at Ohio State but medically retired before resurfacing at Central Florida and then transferring to Rutgers.

3. A transfer also leads the Rutgers offense.

Quarterback Noah Vedral, a transfer from Nebraska, has thrown for 299 yards and three touchdowns while running for 40 yards and another score.

Running back Isaiah Pacheco leads the team in rushing (85 yards) and receptions (nine for 69 yards).

4. Ohio State will be missing its top kicker.

The school announced Friday morning kicker Blake Haubeil, who left last week’s win at Penn State with what Day described as a groin issue, will not play this week.

Walk-on Dominic DiMaccio replaced Haubeil and went 1 for 2 on field goals last week, but Day said early in the week the staff would consider using freshman Blake Seibert, a well-regarded recruit from Cincinnati La Salle, if Haubeil were unavailable.

Cam Brown, who was splitting one of the top cornerback roles with Sevyn Banks, is also out with what reportedly is a season-ending Achilles injury.

Also among the unavailable are freshmen defensive back Lejond Cavazos, who would be a candidate for more playing time with Brown down, and senior tight end Jake Hausmann, who is part of a deep rotation at that position.

5. Day still wants to see his team improve in general team as the season progresses.

That will be necessary for the Buckeyes to live up to high expectations.

“If we’re chasing greatness, if that’s what we really want to be, then every day we should be going after this thing 100 miles an hour,” Day said. “And it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It shouldn’t matter. It’s more about us, and that’s what we’re chasing right now, but we’re not there. We’re not close, so we gotta prove it.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Rutgers at Ohio State, 7:30 p.m., BTN, 1410

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