COLUMBUS, Ohio — In a game Nebraska wasn’t supposed to be in with an opponent it wasn’t supposed to even be comparable with, Nebraska went toe-to-toe with the 10th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes on the road. The Buckeyes (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) closed things out down the stretch because they did what a team of their caliber is supposed to do down the stretch and the Huskers (2-7, 1-5 Big Ten) fell 36-31.
Nebraska scored on its opening drive. Really, it walked down the field. The Buckeyes had a sack and Nebraska had a 20-yard run wiped out because of an illegal procedure penalty, but Nebraska went 12 plays and 75 yards to open Saturday’s action. Running back Devine Ozigbo punched it in for a 7-0 lead.
Nebraska held a halftime lead, too, 21-16. The Husker offense put up 256 yards of total offense in the first half and the defense created two takeaways. If Nebraska could just find a way to remove special teams from the equation, things would look so much better.
Immediately following the possession, kickoff man Caleb Lightbourn lit the Internet on fire with an attempted onside kick that went awry. Ohio State began its first possession at Nebraska’s 22-yard-line. The Huskers got a stop but went three-and-out and had their next punt blocked out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Ohio State scored on its next drive.
Punter Isaac Armstrong averaged 38 yards per punt, wideout JD Spielman got one shot at a punt return for a net negative-2 yards, Lightbourn kicked another kickoff out of bounds and you get the idea.
Nebraska’s defense played well. Really well, to be fair. They held the No. 1 scoring offense in the Big Ten to 36 points. The Blackshirts produced three turnovers and held the conference’s top quarterback to 252 yards on 18-for-32 passing. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins entered the day completing 71 percent of his passes and averaging 350 yards through the air.
As has been the case for Nebraska throughout most of the 2018 season, phases of the game were clicking but never at the same time. When the defense started to build some confidence and special teams stabilized, the offense went cold.
Nebraska opened the second half with five straight punts on drives that gained a combined 59 yards. Ohio State won the third 14-0 and then put the game too far out of reach on a 42-yard touchdown run from tailback JK Dobbins with five minutes to play in the fourth.
Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez engineered a seven-play, 75-yard drive that lasted just 1:55 on the Huskers’ next possession to bring the deficit back down to five but the Huskers’ couldn’t get the ball back.
Martinez finished the day 22-for-33 with 266 yards and a score passing and another 72 yards and two scores on 20 rushes. Running back Devine Ozigbo went for 86 yards and a score on 20 carries. An offense that has been explosive throughout the entire season was held to just one run that topped 15 yards. Nebraska came into the day leading the conference in 20-yard run plays.
Nebraska will return home next week to welcome Illinois (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) to Memorial Stadium. A kick time has not been announced.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.