Nebraska Notebook: A Pair of Pick-Sixes, Defensive Changes and Ohio State Players React to Tommy Armstrong's Injury

By Tim Shoemaker on November 6, 2016 at 10:30 am
Isaiah Prince, Billy Price and Pat Elflein

Over eight minutes ran off the clock before Ohio State's offense took the field Saturday night.

And when J.T. Barrett finally led the offense out for its first series, the Buckeyes already had a 7-3 lead.

On Nebraska's third play from scrimmage, quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw a pass that was tipped by Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan. It landed right in the hands of junior safety Damon Webb, who returned it 36 yards to the house.

It's safe to say starting the game with a pick-six helped give the Buckeyes an edge.

“That was a great start to the game. I don’t think we could ask for a better start defensively," defensive end Sam Hubbard said. "Our leader on defense, Raekwon, made a play and we rallied around it.”

That, of course, wouldn't be the final defensive touchdown for Ohio State in Saturday's 62-3 pounding of Nebraska. The Buckeyes added another pick-six in the second half, this one from Malik Hooker. 

The pair of pick-sixes moved Ohio State's total to six on the season — a new school record. Five different players have registered interceptions returned for touchdowns this year for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State's defense was so good at creating turnovers during the first month of the season. That slowed down a bit once Big Ten play started, but the Buckeyes' ballhawking secondary returned in a big way against the Huskers.

“A defensive score gives momentum to the offense and that’s what we try to do every time," cornerback Marshon Lattimore said. "If we get our hands on the ball we try to score so we can put points up on the board.”

A Swap at Nickel

Ohio State's nickel package had a bit of a different look against the Huskers.

After Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr grabbed eight passes for 158 yards last week — primarily lined up in the slot against nickel corner Damon Arnette — the Buckeyes made a switch.

On third downs against Nebraska, it was All-Big Ten candidate Gareon Conley who moved inside to cover the slot receiver. Lattimore and Denzel Ward manned the outside guys. Arnette did not see a ton of playing time with the first-string defense.

What it did was give the Buckeyes a chance to have their best three cover corners on the field together. The Huskers completed a few passes, but nothing that really had much of an impact on the game.

"We were just getting the job done," Lattimore said. "We can get the job done with Gareon or Damon Arnette in the slot, but we just wanted to switch it up this week and it worked."

Ohio State Players React to Armstrong Injury

A scary scene unfolded Saturday night when Armstrong went down on the sideline after being tackled by Hooker. The Nebraska quarterback was stabilized and carted off the field, with the school saying he briefly lost consciousness when he hit the turf.

Armstrong returned to Ohio Stadium later under his own power — a great site — but it was clear his injury had an effect on the players.

"That was rough," Buckeyes left tackle Jamarco Jones said. "I didn't see the actual play but I just had to pray for him because we saw he wasn't moving. I saw he ran back onto the field so that was a good sign, but that's a part of the game that everybody hates to see."

Added Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett: "I think that was one of those things, it was great to see him come back. I've been down before with a broken leg. Devin Gardner, he came and showed me love. Because you don't want to see that. We understand that football is a dangerous game. It's fun but it can always be very dangerous. It was good to see him jog back on the field."

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