Huskers fall short again in 26-17 loss to No. 5 Ohio State
Just as it had been so often already this season, Nebraska found itself in the final minutes of the fourth quarter with a chance to pull off a statement upset over a top-10 team on Saturday.
But, like all the other opportunities, the Huskers couldn’t make the biggest plays when they needed them the most in a 26-17 loss to No. 5 Ohio State.
A stellar performance by the Blackshirts against the No. 1 scoring offense in the country had NU down by only six points with a little under six minutes to play. But more special teams blunders and missed opportunities on offense led to NU dropping its fourth straight defeat.
Nebraska fell to 3-7 overall and 1-6 in Big Ten play, while Ohio State kept its College Football Playoff hopes alive and improved to 8-1/6-0.
Nebraska had the chance to take the first lead of the day after Ohio State threw deep to tight end Jeremy Ruckert on a fourth-and-1 from the NU 43-yard line, and linebacker Luke Reimer broke it up for a turnover on downs.
Adrian Martinez hit Samori Toure for a 23-yard completion on the next play, but the drive came up empty when Chase Contreraz - who made his second straight start in place of Connor Culp - missed a 45-yard field goal try wide left.
Ohio State marched into Husker territory again, but linebacker JoJo Domann made a diving catch along the sideline for an interception at the NU 14.
Neither offense could put points on the board in the first quarter, and it wasn't until Ohio State's Noah Ruggles hit a 26-yard field goal with 11:25 left in the second quarter that the game saw its first score.
In the next series, Nebraska had its first special teams mistake when punter William Przystup shanked a 13-yard punt and spotted OSU at the Husker 49-yard line.
The Buckeyes capitalized that time, going seven plays and finally reaching the end zone on a three-yard touchdown pass from Stroud to Chris Olave to make it 10-0 with 6:41 left in the half.
Needing to get anything going offensively, Martinez responded with a 26-yard completion to tight end Austin Allen and then a 14-yard pass to wideout Omar Manning to move the ball to the Ohio State 25. The drive would eventually stall, but Contreraz at least got something out of it this time with a 39-yard field goal.
But it took just one play for the Buckeyes to reclaim all of that momentum. Stroud found Jaxon Smith-Njigba on a curl route, and the receiver broke free for a 75-yard touchdown to push the lead to 17-3.
While it looked like OSU was about to break the game open, Nebraska fired right back with a 72-yard scoring pass of its own two snaps later from Martinez to Toure to pull back within 17-10 with 2:53 remaining before the half.
That score held into halftime, as the Huskers overcame 278 total yards on 46 Ohio State plays to keep it at a seven-point deficit.
Ohio State got its lead to 20-10 with Ruggles's career-long 46-yard field goal to open the third quarter. Ruggles later added his third field goal of the day from 35 yards out to increase OSU's advantage to 23-10 with 2:05 left in the third.
Nebraska once again got a big play when it needed it the most, though, as Martinez found Toure again for a 53-yard catch and run that got the ball down to the OSU one-yard line. Martinez took it on a touchdown keeper from there to get it 23-17 going into the fourth quarter.
Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Myles Farmer intercepted Stroud on a deep pass into double coverage. Nebraska marched to the Buckeye 13 but opted to try a 31-yard field goal on a fourth-and-four.
Contreraz's line-drive kick sailed wide and again left NU empty-handed with 9:47 left to play. Time continued to dwindle, and a 46-yard field goal by Ruggles with 1:29 remaining put the nail in the coffin for the Huskers' comeback hopes.
On a tipped pass at midfield, linebacker Steele Chambers intercepted Martinez on Nebraska's final drive, and OSU kneeled out the last 56 seconds to seal the victory.
Ohio State finished with 495 yards of offense and 405 yards passing, both opponent season-highs against the Huskers. Stroud completed 36-of-54 passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Smith-Njigba hauled in 15 catches for 240 yards and a score.
Martinez went 16-of-31 through the air for 248 yards, a touchdown, and a pick, while Toure finished with four receptions for 150 yards.
The Huskers will have their second bye of the season next week before returning to action at Wisconsin on Nov. 20.