Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska-Ohio State Notebook: Blackshirts Hang Tough Once Again in Big Matchup

November 06, 2021

The Nebraska defense held Ohio State scoreless in the first quarter on Saturday. The Buckeyes had scored points in their last 12 quarters of football, as Derek Peterson pointed out. The last team to hold Ohio State scoreless in the first quarter? Then-No. 7 Oregon back on Sept. 11.

Looking more broadly, the Huskers have only allowed six points in the first quarter over six home games in 2021 (16 overall when you factor in the away games).

Back to Ohio State though, the Buckeyes’ offense came into Saturday’s matchup averaging 6 yards per carry. The Blackshirts held them to 4. Ohio State had 5.9 yards per play against Nebraska, which is lower than every game of the Ryan Day coaching era outside of the matchups with Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game last season and Penn State in 2019.

Even more impressive, Nebraska held Ohio State to 21 points below its season scoring average.

“I think the defense played outstanding,” defensive lineman Casey Rogers said postgame. “I think we showed again why we can hang with anyone in the country. I think the defensive backs played out of their mind against some of the best receivers we’ll face playing in college football. Hats off to them. I think the d-line played great. I think we held them to 90 rushing yards. That’s huge for us. They’ve been averaging over 100 per game. I think again that the defense showed we can hang in there with anyone.

“We can only control our side of the ball but I think we showed today again that we can hang in.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Nebraska was 2-for-13 on third downs by the end of the game. Quarterback Adrian Martinez was sacked five times, with four of those coming in the first half. Martinez also seemed a little off—Coach Scott Frost confirmed post-game that he’s been playing with a broken jaw and a high-ankle sprain—and seemed limited in his running capabilities.

The Blackshirts deserved better.

They prepped for a guy like running back TreVeyon Henderson, who came into the game averaging over 100 yards rushing per game. Nebraska held him to a net of 92 yards on Saturday. Henderson was an example, of course, because that’s just how Nebraska’s defense has prepared all season. It’s never been about one specific player but every player they come up against.

“We prepared for him like we have every other running back. That’s the thing about the Big Ten,” Rogers said. “You play against good running backs. So it’s kind of the norm when you get set up against a guy like that. He’s a great player. We just executed our schemes and did what we had to do and we were able to stop it.”

On the other side of the ball though? Not so much, but linebacker Nick Henrich said the defense never falters in confidence when the offense fails to convert on key plays.

“Always confident in them,” Henrich said. “We see them working every day in practice so when they’re not making them in games, we know, ‘All right, they’ll get the next one.’ I mean, we’ve always got their back and we try to emphasize that in, ‘All right, the offense might not be on, the defense might not be on and vice versa but we’ve both got to pick each other up so we have 100% confidence in them.”

At some point though, the offense has to step up to the plate. The defense is doing what it needs to do for Nebraska to win, but for as much as players—like Henrich—preach each side picking the other up, it feels like one side might be doing most of the heavy lifting.

After all, the Blackshirts held Ohio State scoreless in the first quarter. Just like like Oregon did in September. The difference?

Oregon won that game against Ohio State, 35-28. Nebraska, on the other hand, lost 26-17.

More news and notes:

>> Punter William Przystup said the best way to block out the noise surrounding the program right now is to just delete social media apps off his phone.

“There’s no need for that,” Przystup said, adding that a lot of bad energy comes from how normal it is to be hateful online. With that said, Przystup also pointed to the team leaders for their guidance and support through this season.

Defensive lineman Ben Stille shared some insight when asked if the team leaders are a big part of helping block out the noise.

“Yeah, I think it comes from (team leaders),” Stille said. “I think guys on the team know that we got good players. We got a good . . . good . . .  a lot of good players and guys with a lot of pride. That take pride in doing their job and what they’re here for and what this university stands for.”

>> Now that Frost has confirmed Martinez’s injuries, Stille spoke more openly about the quarterback and his toughness through the season so far.

“Obviously he is a leader of this team,” Stille said. “He is the leader of this team. He understands that. He understands his role and I don’t think there is a better teammate on the team and I really respect that and what he stands for.”

>> Frost said that outside linebacker JoJo Domann played hurt against Ohio State, which included a decision to even play against the Buckeyes or not. Will he play in the final two games of the season then? Frost said Domann will have a choice, but it won’t be an opt-out situation.

As for Domann’s teammates, multiple shared similar comments post-game that they admire him and appreciate the opportunity to play with him against Ohio State.

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