Football games often spark emotional responses and anyone watching tonight’s Ohio State- Nebraska matchup probably went through pretty much every emotion imaginable in what turned out to be one of the craziest and most up and down games that I have seen in a while.
The Ohio State offense opened the game looking like they forgot that they actually had a game today. Fortunately, Bradley Roby remember there was a game and his 41 yard interception return for a touchdown put OSU up 7-0 without the Buckeyes even getting a first down. The Cornhuskers didn’t let that phase them though as they responded, using a 73-yard run by Rex Burkhead to set up a short touchdown run by Ameer Abdullah. Nebraska would score the next 10 points, another Abdullah touchdown and then a field goal, thanks to a Buckeye offense that couldn’t move the ball and a strange fake punt on fourth down that came up short and gave the Cornhuskers excellent field position.
Down 17-7 and having been unable to get a first down in the opening quarter, the Ohio State offense finally got on track as Braxton Miller broke a long run and Carlos Hyde followed with a touchdown to pull the Buckeyes within 3. Another Cornhusker miscue gave the Buckeyes a short field and Miller found tight end Jeff Heuerman for an 18 yard touchdown, the first of Heuerman’s career. Just as the Shoe was getting truly rocking again, Nebraska responded with a long pass play aided by a facemask by OSU to get into the red zone. The Buckeye tackling demons showed back up on the next play as Taylor Martinez slipped in for a 9 yard touchdown to put the Cornhuskers back up 24-21. The Buckeyes responded though, scoring the last two touchdowns of the half to go up 35-24.
Nebraska found the endzone on their opening drive of the second half but from then on it was all Ohio State. The Buckeye offense was nearly unstoppable and the defense solidified and came up some big plays as the Buckeyes cruised the rest of the way to a 63-38 win.
After looking completely moribund in the first quarter, the Ohio State offense exploded, finishing with 495 yards on the day. Braxton Miller broke his own qb rushing record with 185 yards and 16 carries, an amazing 11 yard per carry average! Miller had a solid passing night, going 7 of 14 for 127 yards and a touchdown; it wasn’t flashy but he only made two poor throws and none that were very bad. The tight ends finally got involved with the passing game and that certainly is a good sign and hopefully something we will see more of going forward. Miller wasn’t the only one to get it done on the ground though as Carlos Hyde had 28 carries for 138 yards and 4 touchdowns. Rod Smith got into the game after Hyde briefly left with an injury and he took advantage of his chance with a 33 yard td run, he finsed with 2 carries for 38 yards. The 63 points was the most that an Ohio State teams has scored since 1996, definitely no Tressel-ball tonight.
Statistically it would seem like the defense had a bad night as they allowed 438 yards. It was true that in the first half the Buckeye defense was getting gouged, getting caught out of position and over pursuing on several occasions and having some tackling issues. However the defense did make some nice plays but they were interspersed with miscues. The second half saw the defense really stiffen up and the Cornhuskers struggled to move the ball after their opening possession of the second stanza until it was too late. The OSU defense also forced four turnovers, with Bradley Roby coming up with two interceptions and Orhian Johnson coming up with a pick of his own.
This was definitely an exciting game and was a heck of a lot of fun if you are a Buckeye fan. Overall it is probably the best game that the Buckeyes have put together all year. The offense didn’t do anything in the first quarter but they put it together and had their best performance on the ground of the season. The defense came up big when it had to and even scored.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that need to get better, there certainly are. The offense cannot count on just waking up and turning it on whenever they feel like it. Last week the offense got off to a good start against MSU but for most of the season it seems to take until the second quarter for the offense to really get on track. The defense has improved its tackling but there were times tonight, for example the Martinez touchdown run, where the defense once again was going for the big hit instead of just concentrating on wrapping up the ball carrier. The defense also got hit with two big face mask penalties tonight, something they need to clean up. The special teams was not terribly impressive, giving up a couple returns that gave Nebraska good field position and muffing a punt that almost gave the Cornhuskers the ball back. At the same time the special teams did give us a touchdown as Philly Brown took one 76 yards to the house late in the third quarter.
Tonight’s game truly showed just how explosive the OSU offense can be against a Big Ten opponent, even though the Cornhusker defense is highly overrated as their game against UCLA showed. There is still work to do but this team is definitely getting better. Most impressively, the team showed that it can handle adversity and dig themselves out of an early hole. Tonight’s win should move OSU into the top 10 and makes them the new favorites to win their division.