By Darren Ivy
It takes all phases to click to beat a top 10 team, and the Huskers once again showed against No. 6 Ohio State that they are just a few clicks short of getting over the hump.
Each phase let the Huskers down at points in their 26-17 loss before 84,426 at Memorial Stadium against the Buckeyes (8-1, 6-0).
“This isn’t the record that we planned,” linebacker Garrett Nelson said. “And, like you said, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to make this whole season flip. Instead of 3-7, 7-3. It could have been that easy, but we just have to make the plays when it matters and just finish games. And I think we’re making progress, we’re not quite there yet.”
On special teams, Nebraska (3-7, 1-6) missed two field goals, had a 13-yard punt that led to an OSU touchdown, were flagged for a kick interference call and gave up a 21yard return that led to another score.
The defense played well, facing 84 Buckeye plays, except for giving up a 75-yard touchdown on the first play after the Huskers scored their first touchdown of the game. Additionally, Ohio State was able to convert 9 of 19 on third down, including several late ones when NU was trying to rally.
The offense answered after the long OSU touchdown and after a second half Buckeye field goal with long catches by Samori Toure, who finished with four catches for 150 yards, Otherwise, the offense struggled to find much consistency going just 2 of 13 on third down conversions. NU ran 65 plays compared to 84 by OSU.
It was revealed after the game that starting quarterback Adrian Martinez has been playing with a broken jaw since the Michigan State game and a high ankle sprain suffered in practice the week before the Minnesota game. He rushed 18 times for 51 yards and one score and finished 16 of 31 for 248 yards and one score, but was sacked five times and was under pressure much of the game.
“Not good enough,” head coach Scott Frost said of his line’s protection. Trailing 23-10 late in the third quarter, Nebraska’s best two offensive possessions of the second half came on the last drive of the third quarter and first drive of the fourth quarter. Answering the field goal, the Huskers picked up a first down (their eighth of the game) on a pair of runs. The Buckeyes were then called for defensive holding, which moved the ball to the 46. A 53-yard completion to Toure led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Martinez that cut the deficit to 23-17 with 22 seconds left in the third quarter. The fiveplay 75-yard drive took just 1:43.
Myles Farmer intercepted Stroud on the first play of the fourth quarter. On the return, there were offsetting penalties resulting in NU starting at its own 29-yard line. Johnson, who finished with 62 yards on 16 carries, gained 12 yards on first down before Martinez gained 11 yards to the OSU 48. Martinez then gained 17 to the OSU 31. The Huskers then faced third –and–three and Martinez got four to pick up Nebraska’s first third down conversion of the game. Another third-and-four resulted in an overthrown pass of a wide open Levi Falck.
Then Contrarrez missed the 31-yard field goal with 9:47 left leaving the score 23-17.
“That was a chip shot, he’s been kicking really well,” Frost said. “I wish I had it back now, obviously you second guess yourself. But again, to try to make it a three-point game, that’s the right football decision, whether or not it was the right situational decision. Knowing what I know now, I would’ve done something different.”
The defense was able to hold the Buckeyes without points on their ensuing drive and force another punt.
The Huskers started at their own 10 with 6:11 left. Martinez rushed for 21 yards on the first play. Betts and Manning were then was unable to catch the next two passes setting up third and 10. On that play, Manning fell down and no penalty was called meaning NU was 1-12 on third downs and had to punt.
The Buckeyes took over on their own 13yard line with 5:17 left. They picked up a pair of first downs and yet another first down reset the downs with 2:20 left with the ball at the NU 34-yard line.
That’s when Nelson, who had been flagged for two offsides penalties, hit Stroud and forced a fumble, which bounced along the field for several seconds before an Ohio State lineman jumped on it at the 45-yard line with 1:42 left to set up second–and–21. The Buckeyes gained five yards on second down and 11 on third down to force a 39-yard attempt, which Ruggles knocked through to make it 26-17 with 1:29 left.
Nebraska’s last drive ended with an interception off a deflected pass near midfield. To start the game, Nebraska stopped Ohio State on downs after Luke Reimer knocked the pass away and NU took over with 11:28 left. Samori Toure caught a 24-yard pass on the first play. Rahmir Johnson ran twice for eight yards before losing two yards on third down. Chase Contreraz, however, missed the 45-yard field goal at the 9:17 mark.
JoJo Domann nearly intercepted the second play of the drive but dropped it. Cam Taylor-Britt nearly intercepted the pass on the fourth play. The Buckeyes continued to drive and Domann, who announced his season was over during the bye week that followed, finally intercepted the third opportunity at the NU nine-yard line with 6:45 left in the first quarter.
Neither team scored in the first quarter before Ohio State went up 10-0. After NU cut it to 10-3, Ohio State hit NU back with a 75-yard touchdown on the first play to go up 17-3.
Not to be outdone, Nebraska answered with a two-play, 75-yard drive that was highlighted by a 72-yard touchdown catch by Toure to cut the deficit to 17-10 with 2:53 left in the first half.