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Husker QB Adrian Martinez trying to get away from defense
Photo Credit: Ohio State Athletics

McCaffrey, Martinez, Williams Make Standout Plays at Ohio State

October 25, 2020

Saturday’s game at Ohio State certainly got away from Nebraska, but even in a 52-17 loss there were certainly some bright spots. The Huskers moved the ball pretty efficiently, they made a few big plays on defense and they played the Buckeyes to a draw through the first 26 or so minutes.

The last 34 minutes of the game showed how far the Huskers still have to go, but let’s focus on a few of the highlights for now.

Nebraska’s longest play came on its third snap. After a quick completion to Jack Stoll on the first play and a nice gain on the ground by Adrian Martinez on the second, Frost sent back-up quarterback Luke McCaffrey into the game in the Duck-R spot.

Martinez motioned McCaffrey into the backfield about 8 yards deep then handed it off to him as Jack Stoll came across to serve as a lead blocker. Left tackle Brenden Jaimes got to the second level and slowed down the middle linebacker while tight end Austin Allen sealed the outside linebacker to the inside. The Huskers left the defensive end unblocked, but McCaffrey’s speed made him a nonfactor as the redshirt freshman beat him around the edge.

Stoll picked off the cornerback and McCaffrey showed off his burst, running through the inside ’backer’s diving tackle attempt. McCaffrey ran a good 12 yards before another Buckeye, outside linebacker Tuf Borland coming over from the opposite side, managed to get into the picture, but McCaffrey cut it back inside and ran right by him, making the Buckeye captain look silly.

McCaffrey’s weaving allowed Baron Browning to catch up and take him down, but not before he picked up 47 yards. Also, check out Wan’Dale Robinson 45 yards downfield looking to block for McCaffrey.

That big run was only the beginning for McCaffrey’s involvement. He got 10 touches (nine carries and one reception) and turned them into 85 yards and also completed four of his five pass attempts for 55 yards.

McCaffrey wasn’t the only Husker quarterback who did a lot of damage on the ground, however. On the very next play, Martinez capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run.

Nebraska ran a read play, and with his eyes on the left side, Martinez decided to keep the ball instead of handing it off to Dedrick Mills. Stoll came across and picked up a rusher, but Martinez still saw some penetration on the left side and stepped up in the pocket. He saw the defensive end, Jonathan Cooper, coming off the left side and escaped the pocket to his right behind a great block from Mills. From there it’s a race to the pylon and Martinez easily beat cornerbacks Marcus Williamson and Marcus Crowley, who had dropped back in coverage on Robinson and Kade Warner.

It didn’t last long, but Nebraska took the lead on the Buckeyes largely on the strength of their quarterbacks’ legs. Martinez led everyone with 85 rushing yards on 13 carries, and that includes a pair of sacks.

Let’s flip over to the defensive side of the ball for our last play here. Nebraska showed some real flashes on that end, but they couldn’t do it consistently enough to get the Buckeye offense off the field more than a few times. Still, the six tackles for loss, three sacks and 4.1 yards-per-carry average on 23 carries by Ohio State’s primary running backs are all promising signs.

We’re focusing on the lone turnover the Huskers forced, however. The game was well in hand for the Buckeyes by this point with a three-score lead late in the third quarter, but the play still happened.

After a 9-yard run on third and short gave Ohio State a fresh set of downs, Justin Fields dropped back to pass. Sophomore Quinton Newsome was lined up against Ohio State’s Chris Olave to the left side and Newsome Gave Olave a good cushion. The Buckeye wideout ran about 5 yards and sat down, and Fields hit him.

Olave turned up field and picked up the first down and then some as Newsome attempted to close the space between them. Safety Deontai Williams was waiting deep in the secondary, however. As Newsome tackled Olave from the side, Williams lowered his shoulder and dropped the boom.

The force of Williams and Newsome squeezing Olave popped the ball free for the fumble, and JoJo Domann quickly dove on it for the clear recovery. The officials called him down by contact, but upon review they got it right and gave the ball to Nebraska. Unfortunately, Olave got shaken up on the play.

Newsome got credit for the forced fumble, but I personally would have given it to Williams who has become quite adept at jarring balls loose. He had two fumbles in his limited role at Nebraska as a sophomore in 2018, and he forced two more the year before that in 10 games at Jones College. Williams is a big hitter. However, that can be dangerous as we saw soon after.

On the next play, Williams got ejected for a targeting penalty and will have to miss the first half against Wisconsin barring a successful appeal to the Big Ten. Williams is going to have to find that middle ground between playing smart and playing with the kind of aggression that we see on some of his big hits.

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