COLUMBUS — For a moment in the second quarter of Saturday night’s 63-38 loss to Ohio State in Columbus, it looked like Nebraska might survive another disastrous start. It was only a moment as the Buckeyes ran roughshod over the Huskers for the better part of the next three quarters on a record-setting night. In front of the most people ever to fill Ohio Stadium (106,102), the Buckeyes put up the most points of the Bo Pelini era.
Ohio State got on the board first thanks to a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown by Bradley Roby but Nebraska recovered from the early momentum swing.
On the next series, Rex Burkhead busted out of the line for a career-long 73-yard run, setting Nebraska up inside the 5-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Nebraska got creative motioning Martinez out from under center, sliding Burkhead up who then took the snap and pitched to Ameer Abdullah who took it in for the touchdown.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, and a 47-yard punt return from Abdullah, Nebraska ran the same formation and play again, this time from the 3-yard line, for another touchdown to take a 14-7 lead. When Ohio State coach Urban Meyer gambled, running a fake punt that fell short of a first down, on the ensuing drive, the Huskers pushed the lead to 17-7 on a 26-yard field goal with 11:59 remaining in the second quarter.
And then Braxton Miller happened. After holding the star quarterback to 1-of-4 passing and minus-9 yards rushing in the 1st quarter, Miller erupted in the second for 146 yards rushing and 71 through the air. He passed for a touchdown and ran for another, while running back Carlos Hyde added two more on the ground in Nebraska’s disastrous second quarter.
The total damage was 28 points, 242 yards and a 35-24 halftime lead for Ohio State. What was the difference between the first and second quarters defensively?
“Not getting off blocks, unblocked guys not making tackles,” coach Bo Pelini said. “We didn’t play good enough. We didn’t play well, obviously. I give Ohio State credit. They deserved to win the football game.”
The Buckeyes left no doubt of that after halftime. Nebraska answered to open the second half going 77 yards in seven plays, but lost Burkhead on the drive. The star senior went down clutching his left knee, the same one he injured in the season opener, and didn’t return. Pelini said following the game that he didn’t believe the injury would keep Burkhead out long term.
But it wasn’t Burkhead’s absence that cost the Huskers. It was, once again, self-inflicted wounds and a shaky defense. After scoring touchdowns on all four drives in the second quarter, Ohio State scored on its first two drives of the second half before a Hyde fumble finally ended the run.
It was too little, too late, in another embarrassing road loss in a high-profile game. Nebraska was penalized nine times for 76 yards. Martinez was intercepted three times and fumbled once. Over the final three quarters, the Buckeyes rolled to 481 yards, led by Miller’s 313 total yards and two touchdowns. Hyde added 140 yards of his own and four touchdowns. The 63 points allowed were the fourth-most in school history.
“We didn’t play good enough and then, in the penalty area, we killed ourselves,” Pelini said. “We’ve been here before. We’ve done it before on the road and that’s the most disappointing thing. (We) talk about it, talk about it and talk about it. Believe me, I’m frustrated and I’m disappointed.”
The loss dropped Nebraska to 1-1 in Big Ten play and likely out of the polls for the second time this season. Perhaps most importantly, it removed any room for error going forward in conference play.
“It’s a team loss and we’ve just got to move on from here,” Martinez said. “We still have everything ahead of us. This game really didn’t matter either way. If we win out we’re still going for our goal.”