PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Ohio State's forgotten quarterback has returned as the leading man.
Making his first start of the season for the top-ranked Buckeyes, J.T. Barrett passed for 223 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 101 yards on 13 carries and two more touchdowns in the Buckeyes' 49-7 win over Rutgers on Saturday before 53,111 at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The defending national champions have won 21 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. The Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) have also won 28 Big Ten regular season games in a row - a conference record. The NCAA conference record is 29 by Florida State.
Barrett started in place of junior Cardale Jones, the hero of Ohio State's 2014 championship run. Barrett's ability to flourish in the read-option attack and his third-down efficiency persuaded coach Urban Meyer to make the switch.
Ohio State was 3-of-6 on third-down conversions under Barrett.
A fractured ankle in the last regular season game of 2014 against Michigan kept Barrett out of Ohio State's run to the championship. He didn't practice in the spring and he was rusty in the summer
Barrett stepped in for Jones in Ohio State's 38-10 decision over Penn State last week, accounting for four of the Buckeyes' five touchdowns.
The sophomore dual-threat completed 14 of his 18 passes against an overmatched Rutgers defense that allowed 530 total yards. Jones took over for Barrett in the fourth quarter.
"J.T. doesn't surprise me," admitted Meyer. "I think he is in full swing now. He was really efficient throwing the ball.
"He was checking it down when he needed to check it down. We're playing at a very high level now."
Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Big Ten's leading rusher, ran for 142 yards on 19 carries and two scores. It was his 13th consecutive 100-yard outing.
Quarterback Chris Laviano was 10-for-20 for 117 yards for Rutgers (3-4, 1-3).
Rutgers was able to penetrate into Ohio State territory on just three of its 11 possessions. Ohio State recorded five tackles for a loss.
"We didn't perform well as a program tonight," said Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, "and that begins with me. We were unable to convert on third down and we were not able to run the ball."
Rutgers was 5-of-15 on third-down conversions and managed only 104 rushing yards. Star wide receiver Leonte Carroo was slowed by a sore ankle, limiting him to only three catches.
The Scarlet Knights scored with 13 seconds to play on a 4-yard pass from quarterback Hayden Rettig to wide receiver Andre Patton.
The Buckeyes scored on their first three possessions of the second half to move ahead 42-0.
On the first possession, Barrett engineered a quick 76-yard, four-play drive that ended when wide receiver Curtis Samuel ran past the Rutgers' secondary and caught a 30-yard strike from Barrett.
Barrett tossed a one-yard pass to H-back Jalin Marshall with 4:34 left in the third. He then sprinted in from the 10 with 8:24 left in the quarter.
"He (Barrett) puts a tremendous amount of stress on your defense, because he can run it like a running back and throw it like a quarterback" said Flood. "
Ohio State scored two touchdowns in less than four minutes toward the end of the first half to grab a 21-0 lead.
Barrett, who rushed for 85 yards on 10 attempts in the half, bolted in from the 2-yard-line with 3:02 left in the half and connected with wide receiver Michael Thomas on a 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 6:48 left.
Elliott scored from 2 yards with 10 seconds left in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead. Barrett ran for 56 yards on six attempts in the quarter.
Rutgers put together an impressive opening drive, but it ended when Kyle Federico's 28-yard field goal attempt dinged off the left goal post.
NOTES: Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring, rushing and pass defense and is second in total offense and interceptions. ... Ohio State DEs Joey Bosa and Tyquan Lewis rank in the Top 10 in tackles for a loss. ... Rutgers starting CB Blessuan Austin sat out with an upper-body injury. He was replaced by freshman Ronnie James, who was making his first career start. ... Todd Frazier, a Rutgers alum and the 2015 Home Run Derby champion from the Cincinnati Reds, was introduced to the crowd. ... This was the fifth time that Rutgers played the No. 1 team in the country. It lost to Miami in 2002 and 2001, Pittsburgh in 1981 and Alabama in 1980.