Huskers fall to Ohio State after strong start
COLUMBUS, Ohio – On Thursday, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said he felt his team truly believed it could not only compete with No. 10 Ohio State, but also potentially even with the game.
The Huskers fell short of the upset in a 36-31 defeat on Saturday at Ohio Stadium, but they more than held their own against one of the Big Ten’s best in front a crowd of 104,000.
After leading 21-16 at halftime, NU’s offense couldn’t come up with enough big plays and the Buckeyes finally got rolling. Ohio State ended up out-scoring the Huskers 20-10 and out-gaining them 284-199 in the second half.
Quarterback Adrian Martinez had another impressive showing, accounting for 338 total yards and three touchdowns, and the Blackshirts forced three key turnovers for the second time in as many weeks.
Yet all of that wasn’t enough to pull off the biggest win of the Frost era, dropping Nebraska to 2-7 on the year and all but eliminating any remaining hope for bowl eligibility.
Nebraska set the tone from the opening drive, methodically marching 75 yards on a 12-play, five-minute drive and finishing with a one-yard touchdown run by running back Devine Ozigbo.
Martinez was as good as ever to start, completing 3-of-3 passes for 25 yards and rushing seven times for 46 yards on the scoring drive.
But immediately after NU took the early momentum, Caleb Lightbourn biffed an onside kick attempt to spot Ohio State at the Husker 31-yard line. Despite taking the field with its back against the wall, Nebraska’s defense stuffed four straight Ohio State runs to get the ball back on a turnover on downs.
The offense wasn’t able to get anything going on its second series and quickly went three-and-out, but special teams bit the Huskers again when the Buckeyes blocked Isaac Armstrong’s punt and the ball bounced out of the end zone for a safety.
On Ohio State’s ensuing possession, quarterback Dwayne Haskins took advantage of a bad coverage breakdown and hit a wide-open Johnnie Dixon for a 42-yard touchdown pass to claim the lead at 9-7 with 5:11 left in the first.
Following another quick three-and-out by Nebraska, the Buckeyes scored again on a 10-yard touchdown run by J.K. Dobbins to make it 16-7 at the end of the first quarter. On the drive, cornerback Dicaprio Bootle was called for pass interference that turned a third-and-19 into a first-and-10.
Desperately needing an answer, Martinez connected on a beautifully designed 41-yard pass to tight end Austin Allen and eventually moving all the way down to a first-and-goal at the OSU 5.
Martinez then made a costly error with an ill-advised backward pass to J.D. Spielman, who dropped the ball and the Buckeyes recovered at the Buckeye 26. The Blackshirts were able to hold firm again, though, and actually forced Ohio State to punt for the first time since 2012.
A sack fumble forced by defensive back JoJo Domann got the ball back and provided a spark, and Martinez capitalized with a two-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 16-14 with 4:52 left in the half.
The Huskers came back with another key turnover on the very next drive, linebacker Luke Gifford knocked the ball out of receiver K.J. Hill’s hands and NU recovered at the Buckeye 47.
And once again, Martinez directed the offense on an eight-play, 47-yard drive that ate up nearly four minutes and scored on a two-yard touchdown rush to take a 21-16 lead with just 15 seconds left on the clock.
Nebraska ended up out-gaining OSU 256-212 in total yards, held a 17-9 edge in first downs, and owned an eight-minute advantage in time of possession in the first half. That resulted in the Huskers’ first halftime lead over Ohio State since 1955.
The Buckeyes came storming out of the gates to open the second half and quickly drove down to the Nebraska 18. But the Huskers came up with yet another clutch turnover when cornerback Lamar Jackson picked off Haskins in the end zone.
The offense couldn’t capitalize and was forced to punt, and this time the Buckeyes found their way back in the end zone on a three-yard touchdown from by Dobbins to take a 23-21 lead.
One drive later, running back Mike Weber broke OSU’s longest run of the day with a 37-yard scamper, and receiver Parris Campbell finished it off with a nine-yard shovel pass for a score to make it 30-21 with 1:43 to go in the third.
That score held into the fourth quarter, when Martinez hit receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. on a 46-yard bomb to the Buckeye 20. That led to an 18-yard field goal by Barret Pickering that made it a one-score game at 30-24 with 7:46 to play.
The Huskers finally gave up that big running play when JK Dobbins scampered for a 42-yard touchdown run to put the Buckeyes up 36-24. A failed two-point conversion by the Buckeyes was stopped at the two-yard line, giving the Huskers just under five minutes to make up the deficit.
The Huskers wouldn't go away late in the game as Martinez threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Spielman. A converted extra point by Pickering cut the Buckeye lead to five with three minutes left in the game.
The Buckeyes were able to run the rest of the clock out and came away with a 36-31 win over the Huskers in Columbus
Nebraska will return to action next week when it hosts Illinois. Kickoff time and TV information for the game have yet to be announced.