One thing is certain, the Ohio State-Nebraska game was offensive. For some it meant a considerable amount of points were scored. Others would define it as upsetting. Defense went out the window on Saturday night in Ohio Stadium as the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers combined to score 101 points.
Ohio State’s resounding 63-38 victory sent a message to an already suffering Big Ten. Urban Meyer’s offense is taking hold and the catalyst, Braxton Miller, is only a sophomore.
“We have a quarterback, obviously, that's kind of ridiculous running the ball,” Meyer said.
Miller already broke the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback in the season opener. Then, on Saturday, he shattered it, running for 186 yards. The highlight added to an ever-growing Heisman campaign was a 72-yard second-quarter run that sparked the Ohio State offense.
“I was just handing off the ball to Carlos (Hyde),” Miller said. “It was my chance to get the ball, so I'm going to try to make something happen with it.”
The Buckeyes were trailing 17-7 at the time with the only touchdown coming on a Bradley Roby interception.
Two plays after Miller’s run – all led by Kenny Guiton after Miller limped off the field – Carlos Hyde plowed into the end zone for his first of four touchdowns on the night.
Miller’s 186 yards came on 16 carries. He completed seven of 14 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
“The O-Line stepped it up real big,” Miller said. “They worked hard throughout the week, every day.”
Ohio State started the game poorly on offense. The first possession included Devin Smith bringing the opening kickoff out from two yards deep in the end zone only to be met at the 15-yard line by a Nebraska defender. The first offensive play was a false start. Ohio State would go three-and-out.
After Ohio State forced Nebraska to punt, Smith fumbled the kick, but Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown pounced on the ball. Once again, the possession was plagued by miscues. A false start, sack and dropped third-down pass by Corey “Philly” Brown led to an Ohio State punt.
The Buckeyes trailed 14-7 at the end of the first quarter. The offense had zero first downs and only 17 total yards, an average of 1.4 yards per play. But the second half would feature a dramatic shift.
“The first quarter was a trainwreck for our offense,” Meyer said. “They came out and hit us in the mouth.”
The Buckeyes scored 28 points – all on consecutive possessions – and gained 242 yards in the second quarter. They led 35-24 at halftime. Over the second and third quarters, Ohio State scored on six of seven possessions, and that doesn’t include a punt return from Philly Brown.
“I imagined types of points like this one day,” Miller said.
Nebraska came out of the locker room and put together a seven-play 77-yard drive to cut the Ohio State lead to 35-31. But Ohio State scored 21 straight points to put the game out of reach.
Hyde finished with a career-high 140 yards and four touchdowns.
“We wanted to really rely on Carlos Hyde a little bit,” Meyer said.
One of the main storylines of the game buildup revolved around Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and his marked improved throwing the football. That came to a screeching halt in front of a record Ohio Stadium crowd of 106,102.
Martinez was completing nearly 68 percent of his passes and had thrown 11 touchdowns and just one interception on the season. With the Silver Bullets bringing continuous pressure, Martinez completed 15 of 25 passes for 214 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Roby’s interception return, a 41-yarder, resulted in a touchdown. He had another pick in the second quarter that helped set up the Buckeyes’ third touchdown and first lead since it was 7-0. Miller found tight end Jeff Heuerman wide open on a dump pass in the right flat. Heuerman scooted untouched into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Nebraska – and Martinez – answered on the next possession, though, with a 74-yard gain on a catch and run by wide receiver Kenny Bell. Martinez ended the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run to put Nebraska in front, 24-21.
But like a heavyweight boxing match, Ohio State matched the Huskers and retook the lead again, 28-24, on Hyde’s second touchdown of the game. The biggest play of the scoring possession was a 32-yard pass play to tight end Nick Vannett.
After holding the Huskers, Ohio State had a 4th-and-2 at the Nebraska 31. The Buckeyes hurried to the line of scrimmage and ran Hyde for a three-yard gain and first down. But Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini called timeout before the snap. It proved to be an unfortunate series of events for Pelini and the Huskers. After the timeout, Miller took the snap and raced 32 yards to the paydirt.
It was the second half in Lincoln when all things well apart for Ohio State. There was no repeat performance in Columbus. Martinez’s third interception went to Orhian Johnson late in the third quarter, effectively ending Nebraska’s chances.
“We saw a lot of opportunities to make big plays because he's a really good quarterback, but he loves to run the ball,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “His feet are his main weapon and his arm the secondary weapon, and we took advantage of it today.”
Ohio State shut down Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell last week, but it was a different story with Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead. He got his yards – all 119, in fact. Burkhead was injured, though, on Nebraska’s fourth play of the second half and never returned. Martinez had 40 yards rushing and two touchdowns and backup running back Ameer Abdullah had 28 yards and two scores.
“Defense can get better,” Meyer said. “Created some turnovers, but can get better. Pleased with their effort, but we all know we can't give up those kind of yards and those kinds of points and win the game.”
Nebraska gained 437 yards – 223 coming on the ground. Ohio State totaled 498 yards with 371 coming via the run.
For the Nebraska defense, it was the most points given up since the 2007 Colorado game, when the Buffaloes scored 65 points. The Buckeyes hadn’t reached the 60-point plateau since a 73-20 victory over Eastern Michigan in 2010.
Ohio State and Penn State – both ineligible for the conference championship game – are the only remaining teams in the Leaders Division with undefeated conference records. The Buckeyes are the lone Big Ten team undefeated overall.
Suddenly, the path to 12-0 is looking more realistic as each week comes and goes.