Few gave Nebraska a chance to even compete with No. 10 Ohio State heading into Saturday’s game in Columbus but even so, the Huskers took the Buckeyes right down to the wire before ultimately falling 36-31.
A brutal third quarter offensively negated a first-half lead for Nebraska but the Huskers never let Ohio State run away from them. The Buckeyes led by nine heading into the fourth quarter, but after a few three-and-outs the offense put together a field goal drive to make it a one-score game midway through the period.
A stop would have given the Huskers a chance to retake the lead. Ohio State began its drive with completions of 12 and 17, but an incomplete pass and a 6-yard run followed, setting up the Buckeyes with a third-and-4. Ohio State kept the ball on the ground with JK Dobbins on third down, and it looked like the Huskers had the play shut down as Dedrick Young II made contact a few years short of the line to gain, but the low man wins in football and Dobbins went low, driving Young back and falling forward to pick up the yardage he needed.
The following play is this week’s Play of the Game, a dagger of a touchdown run by Dobbins that put the Buckeyes up 36-24 (after a failed 2-point attempt) with just under five minutes to play.
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) November 3, 2018
Nebraska had it’s 3-3-5 nickel defense on the field. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins handed off to Dobbins once again as the right tackle blocked Luke Gifford off the edge and the right guard took on end Khalil Davis. Tre Neal, the deep safety on the play side, crept forward on the snap and decided to plug the B-gap even though the guard was already blocking Davis that direction.
The center moved upfield to block inside linebacker Mohamed Barry. The result was a wide open A-gap as Carlos Davis wasn’t able to get off his block to get a hand on Dobbins.
Play-side corner Lamar Jackson holds back to protect the edge in case of an outside run but doesn’t see Dobbins knifing through the middle until it’s way too late for him to involve himself in the play. Safety Antonio Reed gives it his all trying to sprint over from the other side of the field but Dobbins proves to have too much speed.
We’ve seen this story play out before: Nebraska failing to get off the field when it had the chance and a bust on the next play put points on the board.
I don’t know what Neal’s responsibility was or what his keys were in this play, but flying to the B-gap rather than the A-gap gave Nebraska no chance to stop this play.
The 42-yard run put the Buckeyes up two scores once again. Adrian Martinez and the Nebraska offense responded with a touchdown drive of its own, traveling 75 yards on 7 plays in 1:55 of game time, but the Buckeyes got the ball back with just under three minutes to play and salted away the clock.
“That last drive we needed to get off the field and we couldn’t make a play,” sophomore defensive end Ben Stille said. “That was the disappointing part. We shut them down in the run all game and then when it’s on the line and we need a stop, we’ve got two chances, two sets of downs to get one and we couldn’t get one. That was the most disappointing part to me.”
Nebraska overcame a handful of mistakes on offense, defense and special teams throughout the game to take the Buckeyes down to the wire, but they couldn’t quite make the one last play needed to get over the hump.
That’s why JK Dobbins’ 42-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter is this week’s Play of the Game.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.