One of the main goals of the Nebraska Cornhuskers coming into this season was to make a bowl game, something that hasn’t happened since Mike Riley’s 2016 team went to the Music City Bowl.
With a 26-17 loss to the No. 5-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the Huskers’ streak of missing a bowl extends to five seasons. Nebraska’s record drops to 3-7 and 1-6 in the Big Ten, which means, even with two wins over No. 21 Wisconsin and No. 22 Iowa, Nebraska won’t make the six-win bowl-qualifying mark.
Here are three thoughts on Nebraska’s loss:
The Blackshirts deserve better
Erik Chinander’s unit did everything you’d want in a game against an offense that’s leading the country in average scoring. It held the Buckeyes scoreless in the first quarter. JoJo Domann and Myles Farmer both picked off CJ Stroud. It forced a turnover on downs.
But all of that was all for nothing because Nebraska’s offense couldn’t protect quarterback Adrian Martinez or move the ball against the Buckeyes’ defense to start.
Nebraska’s offense had opportunities to take a lead in the first half, but failed. You can’t have that happen and expect to compete with an elite team. The Blackshirts did their part, stopping the Buckeyes’ high-scoring offense on its first three drives before it scored a field goal on its fourth in the second quarter.
The Husker offense, however, didn’t do its job. It was 0-for-6 on third downs at halftime (2 of 13 for the game) and Martinez was sacked four times in the first two quarters—Ohio State finished with five sacks for the game. Martinez didn’t look 100% healthy either after being slow to get up following a first-quarter run. Yet, his number was called on runs in key situations, like a third-and-7, which had you scratching your head. But this is Nebraska football, you tend to scratch your head a lot.
The Blackshirts, yet again, did their part to win a football game. They deserve a better offense than the one they have.
Special teams make the wrong kind of impact
When you’re a bottom-of-the-Big-Ten team like Nebraska is, and you’re trying to pull off an upset against a College Football Playoff hopeful and juggernaut of your conference, you need to make the most of your opportunities. But for the Huskers, that wasn’t the case in two of the three areas of the game—offense and special teams.
Credit to kicker Chase Contreraz for coming in last week and nailing a 33-yard field goal against Purdue. But he missed a 45-yarder on Nebraska’s first series of the game, which would’ve given the Huskers a lead, something no one thought would happen in this one. Then he missed a 31-yarder in the fourth that would’ve cut the deficit to 23-20 with 9 minutes left. Poor decision or not by head coach Scott Frost to kick it on fourth-and-4, good teams don’t make these mistakes.
Contreraz wasn’t the only culprit. Punter William Przystup, who unleashed a 58-yarder earlier, shanked a 13-yard punt into his own sideline, giving the Buckeyes the ball on the Husker 49 in the second quarter. They promptly drove down the field in seven plays and scored a touchdown to put the Huskers in a 10-0 hole. It was only 10 points, but at the time it felt like 20.
Even though the Huskers showed some offensive life late in the second quarter with that 72-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to Samori Touré, they were still trailing in large part because of special team gaffes.
Nebraska’s tackles couldn’t block Ohio State’s pass rushers
It’s hard, stopping all the talented edge rushers, and the Huskers’ offensive line has faced some good ones this season. But Turner Corcoran and Bryce Benhart, Nebraska’s left and right tackles respectively, really struggled against Ohio State’s trio of monsters in Tyreke Smith, Zach Harrison and Javontae Jean-Baptiste.
It’s not just Corcoran and Benhart, the entire o-line didn’t block well in the loss. Martinez had no time to operate, and when he did he wasn’t that good anyway.
Out of everything this program needs to improve on, the offensive line should be at the top of the list if it wants to compete in the Big Ten West.