LINCOLN, Neb. – While J.T. Barrett and Ohio State’s offense scored on eight straight possessions in Saturday’s 56-14 win at Nebraska, it was an uneventful night on the sideline for Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman.
Aside from being the holder on each of Ohio State’s eight extra points – the first two of which enabled Sean Nuernberger to set the Big Ten record for most consecutive extra points made – Chrisman saw no action in Saturday night’s game, as the Buckeyes never called upon their punter.
That didn’t give Chrisman much to distract him from the chilly, windy conditions at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, but Barrett certainly didn’t feel bad about that.
"I go out there and try to score points. If we got a touchdown at the end of a drive, that means I did my job," Barrett said. "As far as keeping the ball, I did talk to Drue toward the end of the game. He was like 'It’s cold out here on the sideline, huh?' I was like 'Yeah, you’re right.' He was like 'Yeah, I didn’t punt tonight.' I almost wanted to say 'I apologize,' but I didn’t."
Ohio State’s offense stole the show on Saturday night, passing for 354 yards and rushing for 279 yards, but the Buckeyes defense – despite allowing 393 yards – had its moments worth remembering in Saturday night’s game too.
The most impressive individual play by an Ohio State defender on Saturday night was made by Buckeyes safety Jordan Fuller, who made a shoe-string tackle 38 yards downfield on what otherwise would have been a catch-and-run touchdown by Nebraska wide receiver JD Spielman.
A tackle like that is a tough play to simulate in practice drills, but Fuller says the Buckeyes do their best, and the sophomore credited that with allowing him to make the play he did against Spielman.
"We rep that in practice every day, so it was just instincts," Fuller said. "We set up a bag and the bag’s moved away from us. I’ve been doing it ever since last year."
If any Ohio State defensive player deserved credit for his performance on Saturday, it was Fuller, who had six total tackles to go along with a pass breakup against the Cornhuskers. Fuller, who rotated with Erick Smith at safety to start the season but has now solidified himself as a full-time starter for the Buckeyes, has been a standout in the secondary in recent weeks but still believes he has significant room for improvement.
"My confidence level is high right now," Fuller said. "I know I can excel. There are a lot of things I got to get better at the same time."
As a unit as a whole, though, Ohio State’s defense didn’t mind the Buckeyes offense getting most of the credit for Saturday’s win.
"They’re making it a lot easier," said Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker on the Buckeyes’ offense. "When you’re up 14-0, 21-0, they make it real easy to play defense. It’s definitely fun and definitely make it easier for a defense."
While Ohio State had no problem walking into Memorial Stadium and dominating its opponent for a road win, some of college football’s other top teams ran into trouble in road games this week, including four top-10-ranked teams – Clemson, Washington, Washington State and Auburn – who all lost on the road. Perhaps most notable among those losses was Clemson’s, which came against Syracuse – which, like Nebraska, was just 3-3 entering this week – on Friday night, giving Ohio State players the opportunity to see what happened in that game and react to it as they prepared to avoid a road letdown of their own.
Barrett said he did take notice of what happened to Clemson on Friday night, but also that the Buckeyes had already been warned about the potential pitfalls on playing a road night game even before the Friday night losses by Clemson and Washington State.
"That’s something we did talk about, understanding that we’re coming to a place with a lot of tradition and a lot of pride here in Nebraska," Barrett said. "They were going to take their best shot at us, and we had to be prepared and ready to go. So we did talk about that before what happened last night to Clemson, but that was something throughout the week we talked about.
"Before last week, there was talk about (Nebraska) had 20 straight night home game wins. It’s not easy to do 20 straight, so I’m glad we came out here really focused and prepared."
There was a time in Nebraska’s history, and not all that long ago, where a 56-14 loss by the Cornhuskers at home would have been unimaginable. It wasn’t all that shocking on Saturday night, as the Cornhuskers now sit at 3-4 and have shown no signs of being able to contend with the Big Ten’s top teams. But Nebraska coach Mike Riley, whose place on the hot seat appears to be burning after Saturday night’s game, said he felt the final score was less indicative of his team’s weaknesses than it was of Ohio State’s strengths.
"Ohio State, when they are rolling and have the running back going, the quarterback going, the run-option stuff going and the quarterback’s going like that, that’s kind of, like I’ve said for a while, the standard," Riley said. "They have both the talent and the execution to make it look like that and we had an impossible time, it looked like, getting them off their flow, which we didn’t."
"I don’t think anybody on our team quit, I think we had just a hard time tackling them, stopping them, catching them."
There was also a time in Nebraska’s history, again not all that long ago, that the rest of college football wanted to be like the Cornhuskers. After Saturday night’s game, however, Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee admitted that the Cornhuskers wanted to be like Ohio State.
"It's a big-time learning experience, that's what we want to be," Lee said. "Before the season, we wanted to be what Ohio State just was. We'll learn from the film, and I think we'll continue to work. They are a good team, and they deserved to win."
Nebraska linebackers Chris Weber and Mohamed Barry couldn’t help but be impressed by the Buckeyes offense.
"They went up-tempo," Weber said. "We didn’t get stops on third down and they moved the ball down the field."
"They went wild," Barry said. "They know what they want to do. They dictate what they want to do. They played well."
One of the only bright spots for Nebraska in Saturday’s game was the play of Spielman, the nephew of former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman and adopted son of Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. A former Ohio State lacrosse commit whose ties to Ohio State were documented by Eleven Warriors earlier this week, Spielman caught 11 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown and added four kickoff returns for 60 yards.
Lee said he wasn’t surprised by Spielman’s breakout performance, which set Nebraska’s single-game school record for receiving yards.
"That doesn't surprise me," Lee said. "He's a hard-working guy. We see it week in and week out, how valuable he is to us in this offense, and he continues to show up on big downs, and he continues to make big plays and make guys miss and score. We're really glad we have him out there."