Empty Husks: Outclassed And Overmatched

(Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports)

There’s not a lot to say in this one. Coming into this week, my only hope was that Ryan Day’s Ohio State looked better than they actually were. To that point, the best team they had played was a Cincinnati team that had clearly regressed after their 11-2 breakout season in 2018. Well, Ohio State is as good as advertised, and they proved it in a hostile Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. 14 of their starting 22 will likely be drafted or picked up as UDFAs next year, and the guys behind them are just as good.

Adrian Martinez throws on the run, Chase Young in pursuit (photo: Eric Gregory/Journal Star)

Nebraska’s best chance to stay in this game was to play next to perfect. That meant no turnovers, no more than a few penalties, and hitting those big plays the offense needs to move quickly. Oh, and they probably needed to force Justin Fields to make a few mistakes as well. Instead, Ohio State played lights out on both sides of the ball, while Nebraska threw 3 interceptions in the first half. Not ideal.

Picking Them Apart

There’s no excusing those turnovers, especially with the track record this team has. They’ve given the ball away 14 times this season, fumbling 9 times and throwing 5 picks. The only FBS team with more is Hawai’i at 15 total turnovers lost. Nebraska’s first pick of the night came on the opening drive, when Adrian Martinez tried to force the ball to Wan’Dale Robinson on 3rd down. CB Jeff Okudah baited him into throwing it, slowing down just a half a step before leaping in front of Robinson to take the ball. 

The next came at the end of a promising series. Nebraska ran several plays in a row that looked straight out of the 90s: using Dedrick Mills as a fullback, executing a nice HB toss, and pounding OSU on the ground. Ohio State was reeling, and was forced to use a timeout to regroup. The first play out of the TO was a deep shot at the end zone, Martinez to Robinson. Okudah had slipped, and Robinson had no one between him and the goal line. Robinson leapt for the ball. It bounced off his left hand and straight into the arms of Okudah, who was flat on his back.

The final pick of the game was just a poor choice by Martinez, who sailed it over his intended receiver’s head and right into 3 OSU defenders. Through the first half, Martinez completed more passes to the Buckeyes than his own team, going 2-8 passing for 10 yards. Nebraska had better production on the ground, ending the night with 184 yards, but a majority of that came in the second half. 

Jordan Fuller makes third OSU pick of the night (photo: Eric Gregory/Journal Star)

Hope For The Future

On their second to last drive, Nebraska scored for the first time on Saturday. On their final drive, the Buckeyes turned them back at the goal line. Ohio State scored 7 touchdowns, 2 field goals, and punted just once. As lopsided as the box score was, I really didn’t feel too bad about this game, for two reasons. The first is that Ohio State is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, team in the country this year. No other team has looked as complete as the Buckeyes through 5 games. The second is that Nebraska never quit. 

Dedrick Mills prevents a shutout, scores NU’s only TD (photo: Emily Haney/Journal Star)

Nebraska played games like this in 2016 and 2017. The results were similar, but the fight of the team was drastically different. Those teams gave up in the second quarter; this team fought until the very end. Even when it was obvious that the game was over, the staff and the players didn’t pack it in. They continued to fight on every drive. The offense never stopped trying to score, and the defense made OSU earn every yard. This is a team that still has most of conference play ahead, and I have no doubt that they will bounce back next week with renewed determination. 

As for Ohio State? Good luck rest-of-the-B1G. You’re going to need it.

We’re On To Northwestern

This week, Northwestern comes to town, fresh off a strong performance against a previously dominant Wisconsin. The Wildcats just held Wisconsin to their lowest offensive production of the season, but struggled on offense themselves. If Nebraska can stop RB Isaiah Bowser on the ground, then they have a great shot at winning. No matter what happens though, Nebraska is 3-2 this year. That’s not something they could say at this time last year.

Nebraska 38, Northwestern 32

Christian is a co-host of Between The Numbers, a weekly podcast recapping the best college football news from around the country and offering smokin’ hot takes.

This author is a member of Between the Numbers LLC and is the independent author of this article/journal/editorial and the contents therein may not be used or disseminated without the express written consent of Between the Numbers LLC. The views and opinions expressed in the foregoing are the property of Between the Numbers LLC and may have been formulated using copyrighted material utilized under fair use. The content of the foregoing may be offered for educational, entertainment, or satirical purposes and should not be utilized in real-world analytic products. Between the Numbers LLC and its managers and members are in no way professionally or contractually affiliated with the host of this content. ©2019 Between the Numbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.