Confidence, Quarterbacks the Storyline for Saturday

By Kyle Rowland on October 3, 2012 at 10:00a
34 Comments

Saturday’s slate of college football games features several matchups of undefeated teams. There may not be two more confident teams in the country than Nebraska and Ohio State, though. 

Martinez left Ohio State with nightmares last year.

The one-loss Cornhuskers enter Saturday night’s game off a comeback win over Wisconsin that was eerily similar to last season’s victory against Ohio State. In a near replay of the Buckeyes’ 21-point collapse last October, Wisconsin led, 27-10, in the third quarter before Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez engineered the turnaround.

Nebraska won, 30-27.

The come-from-behind win over Ohio State doubled as the biggest lead blown by the Buckeyes since they started playing college football and the biggest comeback for the Cornhuskers. The Wisconsin win was Nebraska’s second-largest turnaround, and without the first, they may not have had the ammo to corral Wisconsin.

“We knew we had done it before and could do it again,” Martinez said after the Wisconsin game. “Pretty much everyone was chattering about it.”

He finished with 288 yards of total offense, which helped propel Nebraska to victory. Martinez threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 107 yards and one score. All told, he was named co-offensive player of the week in the Big Ten.

A loss would have dropped Nebraska to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference, striking a big blow to its Legends Division title hopes. Rarely has a team lost its first conference game and gone on to win the Big Ten and play in the Rose Bowl. The famed stadium in Pasadena actually played host to the Cornhuskers’ lone loss on the season – 36-30 to UCLA.

Ohio State’s confidence comes from winning a road game against a ranked opponent. The Buckeyes played their most complete game of the season in beating Michigan State, 17-16.

“Our confidence is high as a team,” running back Carlos Hyde said. “I feel we’re a complete team right now. We’re all together.”

The defense, a unit that was shaky the first four weeks, virtually shut down the nation’s third-leading rusher, Le’Veon Bell, and forced an unproven quarterback to beat them. But Andrew Maxwell faced heavy pressure from the Ohio State front seven and ultimately couldn’t make a big play in the fourth quarter when needed.

The offensive line also delivered its finest performance of the season. So much so that head coach Urban Meyer honored the starting linemen collectively as players of the game. They opened up holes in the fourth quarter to allow the Buckeyes to run out the clock, and also kept Braxton Miller upright in the pocket, limiting Michigan State to one sack. 

Without Miller, OSU could have two loses. 

“It’s a real confidence booster, definitely,” wide receiver Corey Brown said. “I love this team. They know how to come out and win.”

At 5-0, Ohio State is one of only two teams in the Big Ten that remains undefeated – Northwestern being the other.

Last season’s meltdown against Nebraska was a popular topic of conversation on Monday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Similar to this season, Ohio State was coming off a game against Michigan State. The result was remarkably different, however. The Spartan defense had nine sacks, battering Miller in his second career start. Ohio State’s only points came on a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the game as Michigan State won, 10-7.

But the following week at Nebraska, a switch was flipped. The offense moved the ball at will against No. 15 Nebraska. The Buckeyes were 3-2 and still experiencing a great deal of uncertainty throughout the program. On one night, though – or two and a half quarters – they put everything on the backburner.

Miller was five of eight for 95 yards and a touchdown throwing the football. He gained an additional 91 yards running. It was the coming-out party everyone was waiting for, and it came a week after the worst game of his career.

Then he injured his ankle and could not return. A 27-6 lead evaporated quickly, and Ohio State lost, 34-27.

“We were up and then we blew it,” left tackle Jack Mewhort said. “It hurt our confidence and ego. We owe them one.”

That situation could have played out again this past Saturday – Miller leaving the game with an injury and Ohio State losing. But the signal-caller only missed a handful of plays and instead of watching a loss from the sidelines, he heaved the game-winning touchdown pass.

Miller went down twice and has done so in other games this year. On the Buckeyes’ opening drive he was hit late out of bounds and crashed into an equipment case. Kenny Guiton led the final three plays of the series, handing the ball off until Jordan Hall reached the end zone.

What looked to be a serious knee injury followed in the third quarter. Miller planted with his left leg trying to elude a Michigan State defender, but his knee buckled. Miller fell to the ground without the football and remained down for several minutes before walking off under his own power.

Meyer is aware of the fragility of the situation.

Martinez has thrown for 11 touchdowns and one interception.

“Oregon had a chance to go play for a national championship and Dennis Dixon (was) finished (by an injury),” he said.

The 2007 Oregon Ducks were 9-1, ranked second in the nation and well on their way to a possible national championship when Dixon tore his ACL. Oregon lost its final three regular season games and finished the year in anonymity.

“What’s interesting is (Miller) went down in the first drive,” Meyer said. “Bang, Kenny Guiton goes in and stays cool. That was the same guy that I’ve mentioned since January probably from here to there in the biggest turn around. 

“I don’t think Kenny is as good as Braxton. If he was, he’d be playing, but I think he’s a very functional quarterback. And if Braxton had to go down, how do you win? Somebody else has to pick up that slack or they’re not as good.”

The health of Miller has been a theme throughout the season. Through five games, he’s carried the ball 90 times, an average of 18 per game. That is well over Meyer’s target of 12-15 carries a game. Miller’s had games with 27, 23 and 17 rushes.

The double-edged sword shows Miller is also the 13th-leading rusher in the country and the driving force behind Ohio State’s success to this point. Even Meyer admitted the Buckeyes wouldn’t be undefeated without their quarterback.

Martinez is just as valuable to his team. Perhaps no quarterback in the country has faced as much criticism from his fan base as Martinez. But in his junior season, he’s finally putting his immense talent and skills all together.

No one has ever doubted Martinez’s running ability, but his passing has been the subject of much debate – similar to Denard Robinson at Michigan.

Martinez completed 59 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a freshman starter. His percentage dipped to 56 percent as a sophomore with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Year 3 has been the turnaround. Martinez is completing 68 percent of his passes and has 11 touchdowns versus just one interception. He’s ranked 12th in the country in passing efficiency and is averaging nearly a yard more per completion this season than over his first two years.

It doesn’t just stop there, though. Martinez is the Cornhuskers’ second-leading rusher with 298 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on a 92-yard run at UCLA. Martinez is only averaging a half-yard less per carry than Miller and he’s rushed the ball 50 times – 40 less than Miller, which translates into fewer beatings.

Said Meyer: “You will see two of the finest athletic quarterbacks in America on the field this weekend.”

34 Comments

Comments

bassplayer7770's picture

This could be a major showdown, and I hope Braxton rises to the occasion.

bhardy22132's picture

Miller rising to the occasion in a big game is nothing that I am worried about he has already shown as a freshman that he can handle the big stage. He also showed that he handles high pressure situations very well so him rising to the occasion this weekend is not a concern of mine. This kid seems to thrive off of these kind of games.

bassplayer7770's picture

I understand what you're saying in the sense that Braxton is a huge part of our Offense, but I'm referring to the 3 turnovers he had against MSU.  I think we need him to make some better decisions and hold on to the ball when he does run it.  That's what I meant by "rising to the occasion."

Earle's picture

Good test for the D this week.  Great effort against MSU, but they were so one-dimensional.

Italics are for emphasis; an ellipsis represents an unfinished thought.

bassplayer7770's picture

I'd imagine the D will make Martinez beat us with his arm, but he's not a statue like Maxwell.  Our D will have their hands full with the likes of Martinez, Burkhead, Abdullah, and Kenny Bell.

20sider's picture

Abdullah's kick return ability and our coverage ability scare me the most in this game. Burkhead and Martinez will get their yardage and scores in a very good game. The return game could turn it in the Huskers favor.

GO BUCKS!

Maestro's picture

He beat them with his arm last year.  I am not looking forward to this match up for the Bucks defense.  They will have to play their best game of the season to hold Nebraska under 24 points.
I expect OSU to be able to score enough as long as they don't turn the ball over.

vacuuming sucks

ellspar's picture

I agree. With our tackling issues on the edge, we need to improve tremendously

bassplayer7770's picture

I expect OSU to be able to score enough as long as they don't turn the ball over.

Agreed.  IMO, we can't go -3 on turnover margin and expect to beat Nebraska.

20sider's picture

...a flip was switched.

I see what you did there... lol.

GO BUCKS!

wibuckeye's picture

We need to blitz TMart so he arm punts an interception or two.  Over/Under for ints?

WIBUCKEYE

Tim's picture

I'd say 2 picks, but we definitely have to force a few turnovers because I think they'll be able to move the ball on us.

Party Liquor's picture

"Arm punts"... ha ha. I guess that explains why they use a kicking ball on offense. Seriously though, check it out. It always looks worn and broken in. He must have small hands, cause there's no doubt it's easier to grip a broken in ball as opposed to a newer one. I really thought there was a rule regarding that. I bet if they made him use a newer one, he'd "punt" a few more picks. A natural passer, he is not. A lot of flat ones. DL really needs to emphasize the hands up technique to knock a bunch down.
I think 2 picks is on the money.

hodge's picture

He scored on a 92-yard run at UCLA. Martinez is only averaging a half-yard less per carry than Miller and he’s rushed the ball 50 times – 40 less than Miller, which translates into less beatings.

Hmmm...methinks that 92 yard run might be cooking his books a little bit?

Triv's picture

I would like to see the percentage of each QBs carries that went for 10 yards or more. That would be a better estimate for who is running the ball more efficiently IMO. Also, if Braxton learns the read option better, that will cut off 5-6 hits and carries per game because he keeps it far too often.

Sorry Urban, Woody is still my favorite

Maestro's picture

Braxton is 4th in the country (20) in 10+ yard runs and 3rd in the country (7) in 20+ yard runs.  Martinez has 13 and 4 respecitively, but he also has 40 fewer carries than Miller.  He is very dangerous and undoubtedly Nebraska will pile up yards.  Just gotta keep them to FG's and get some turnovers.

vacuuming sucks

O-H Kee Pa's picture

The thought of a 30-27 type of game makes me a bit uneasy. I'd prefer to not have to rely on the Brax to Smith heroics again. Give me a classic BIG smashmouth affair in which we punch Martinez in the mouth repeatedly. Nebraska hasn't been properly introduced to a Silver Bullets D yet. Hopefully, the two become acquainted this weekend.

Max Power's picture

The only problem is I'm  not sure we have a "proper" silver bullets d to introduce them to. We have to wrap up our tackles to win this one.

O-H Kee Pa's picture

Which is why I said that the two will "hopefully" become acquainted because I, like you, am not toally confident.
 

Doc's picture

I'm getting more nervous as the week goes along.  I'm hoping that we can handle them like we did in the first half of last years game.  We would have won the game with a competent OC and back up "QB".  Blowing a 21 point lead is inexcusable.  I think the D can hold them in check.  I believe the Offense can score points as well.

"Say my name."

Triv's picture

No doubt the Offense will score. Nebraska has always struggled against mobile quarterbacks. Unofrtunately, our D has struggled against mobil anything so far this year. Similar to the way we handled Bell, I think we need to have a LB spying Martinez on just about every play.

Sorry Urban, Woody is still my favorite

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Gut feeling but I think Braxton has his best game to date this Saturday against Nebraska!  That 63 yard pass he threw to Devin was dead on and I believe we'll see a few more of those against the corn!  If our defense shows up again - I believe we win this one by a couple of TDs.

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

O-H Kee Pa's picture

From your keyboard to God's ears.

Doc's picture

For sure!

"Say my name."

Packer3Baller's picture

Hope more play calls are made that look to exercise the vertical passing game. Braxton proved he can throw it, and I really don't see how Nebraska can cover it consistently as long as the line gives him time (which I have confidence they will after last week). Either way, the 'Shoe is going to be rockin' Saturday night, and I can't wait.

If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?

CowCat's picture

Night game in the 'Shoe.   We haven't lost many of those  (though MSU in 1998 and Texas in 2005 were hard to take).
The students will be already drunk and very loud. The defense will feed off of it.
Big win for TOSU.
 

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Iron_Buckeye's picture

I'm excited and filled with anticipation for this game. I love night games in the Shoe, there is nothing like it. I'm thinking that both the offense and defense will continue to improve this weekend, I would like nothing more but to see cold hard retribution delivered to the children of the corn.

“The minute we stop expecting greatness from our football program, we become Wisconsin.” Craig Krenzel

Max Power's picture

Three things are in our favor. 1: As stated above, night games in the shoe usually yield success. 2: Defense should play with more confidence after a good showing in East Lansing. 3: No Joe Bauserman/Jim Bollman to botch the play calling this time around! Go Bucks!

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

@Alex - are there any big recruits coming to the game this weekend?  I'm guessing the Shoe is going to be freakin crazy and that has to be a huge positive!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

jrich612's picture

I think Bell is coming up for this game, but don't quote me. Also, Quick, Timmons, and Gibson are listed in the visitors thread. 

Boxley's picture

There are more than 20 recruits coming this weekend. bucknuts has a article listing them all.
 
http://ohiostate.247sports.com/Article/Ohio-State-to-host-several-top-recruits-for-Nebraska-game-93713

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Triv's picture

This very website is a large list compiled for every game. Here it is for future reference
http://www.elevenwarriors.com/forum/football/2012/08/official-season-vis...

Sorry Urban, Woody is still my favorite

WiliestBuckeye's picture

We have improved with every game and as long as the trend continues we will beat Nebraska. Remember, this is a night game at the Horseshoe, its going to be a crazy atmosphere. Not to mention the team is feeling pretty good after beating a solid Michigan St. team at their place.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."

Idot08bojangles's picture

Anyone else miss the BAUSERBOMBS!?!?! 
 
yeah me neither....Let's get a big first half lead and KEEEEEEEPPPPP IIIITTTTT

Scarlet and Grey until the day I die.
idotter: September 27, 2008. OSU vs. Minnesota