I’ve had a couple of days to come to terms with happened Saturday night. The Ohio State win wasn’t that surprising, but the total “death and/or dismemberment” that the Buckeyes inflicted on the Cornhuskers was. To me, at least. In JC’s cautiously optimistic preview, he predicted a 40-27 Ohio State victory. In my comments to his preview, I somewhat chided him for being so optimistic about OSU’s offensive performance. As it turned out, JC was just a bit off, while I was way off the mark.
Before I get into the recap, I want to express our (JC, me, everyone…) relief that Tommy Armstrong, Jr. came out of the evening as well as he appeared to have. There was absolute horror when, after crashing into the ground, Armstrong was still. Too still. Forget the overwhelming Ohio State victory; the best news of the evening was Tommy Armstrong’s return to the Nebraska sidelines.
So, back to the game. Exactly, how did this turn out the way that it did?
The offense certainly came to play on Saturday. After being
excoriated chided for play/player selection (where’s your best play-maker?) OSU’s first two plays from scrimmage put the ball in Curtis Samuel’s hands for 27 yards. Curtis ended the game with 178 yards on 13 touches. That’s pretty good.
J.T. Barrett was sharp (26-38-290-4) and Joe Burrow (6-6-62-0) did not disappoint. I did notice that, despite giving up over 350 passing yards, the Husker defense wasn’t that terrible. There were several passes that J.T. completed by rifling accurate passes into tight windows due to Nebraska coverage. Yes, there were a few plays where Buckeye receivers were wide open (Samuel’s’ TD reception to open 2nd half comes to mind) but overall, I didn’t think Nebraska coverage was that bad. The Buckeye passing game was efficient. The OSU running game; 42 carries, 238 net yards (5.7 per carry) was brutally efficient.
Yes, at one level, the OSU offensive production was the result of improved, creative play calling. The foundation was improved offensive line play. In 44 passing attempts, there were no sacks by Nebraska on OSU quarterbacks. More telling, Ohio State had 240 yards gross rushing; 238 yards net. The losses were on two carries by Demario McCall (3rd qtr, 4th qtr) of 1 yard loss each. The first loss ws at the 9:00 mark in the 3rd quarter with OSU up 45-3. The second loss was on OSU’s 3rd to last play in the game, leading 62-3. When these ‘losses from scrimmage’ occurred, OSU was comfortably in the lead. For reference, McCall finished the game with a team leading 16 carries and 75 yards, for a 4.6 YPC. It’s not like ‘D-Mac’ coasted on Saturday evening.
Well, as good as the offense was, the defense was spectacular. When the game is (almost) book-ended by Buckeye pick-6s, the defense, or at least the secondary is certainly doing its part. Unfortunately for Nebraska, their quarterback TA, Jr suffered a severe-enough injury, but I don’t think that even a healthy Armstrong could have saved this day for Nebraska.
Of Nebraska’s 11 drives, 7 were 3-and-out. Compared to OSU’s 86 offensive plays, Nebraska ran 57. And, they averaged only 3.8 yards per play.
The Huskers Ryker Fyfe (5-18-1 Int) was barely passable in relief on Armstrong. And to be honest, Tommy Armstrong (4-15-1 Int) didn’t exactly light it up when he was playing, although he did provide a running dimension that Fyfe could not.
This was just an outstanding effort (coaches and players) by Ohio State. Hopefully, this is a launch pad for the remaining games.
Saturday night was an incredible performance by Ohio State’s special teams, particularly from what we’ve seen over the past 2-3 weeks. Tyler Durbin was perfect on the night; 2-2 in field goals and 8-8 in extra points. Nothing close to being blocked. Cam Johnston needed to back in to get his weekly scholarship stipend since he did not have to punt in this game. I guess one way to not have any punts blocked is to, well, not have to punt.
In contrast, Nebraska’s special teams were ‘bleh’ I thought. Not bad, not good. However, their one failing was the attempted kickoff return in the 2nd quarter after Ohio State took a 21-3 lead. Husker returner Tre Bryant field Durbin’s kick near the sideline at the 2 yard line (it was clearly going out of bounds) and returned it to the 8 yard line, only to be pushed back to the 5 yard line due to illegal block.
Nebraska could do nothing on that drive, while Ohio State, with a short field, did manage a FG on its ensuing drive. One bad ST decision by Nebraska short-circuited a Husker drive and led to 3 fairly easy points by OSU.
One final point; Dontre Wilson didn’t have a good evening on punt returns. His muffed punt in the 2nd quarter pretty much “dog-housed” him on punt returns, but to Urban’s credit, he did maintain Dontre as part of his H-back rotation.
What’s it Mean?
Well, in terms of post season, etc, it means that the Buckeyes still are in a position to Take Care of Business regarding CFB Final Four by winning out, including the game against division leaders Michigan.
More importantly, it meant that Urban & Co regained their footing with creative play calling and much crisper execution. These traits need to be solid going into the regular season finale vs UM.
The Buckeyes travel to Maryland (5-4, 2-4) for a 3:30 ET game. You can watch the game on ESPN and/or listen to it on 97.1