A Bauserman Curse: The Origin Story of Ohio State's Dominance Over Nebraska

By David Regimbal on October 19, 2020 at 2:50 pm
J.K. Dobbins
Bruce Thorson – USA TODAY Sports

An evil magic was unleashed upon the Nebraska football program on October 8, 2011.

As new members of the Big Ten conference, Bo Pelini and the Cornhuskers were off to a rocky start. They managed their way through a non-conference slate that included Chattanooga, Fresno State, a mediocre Washington team and Wyoming. That set up a matchup between a pair of undefeated teams to kick off league play in Week 5, but Russell Wilson and Wisconsin rolled in a 48-17 rout.

A week later, Nebraska played host to a struggling Ohio State team for a primetime matchup. The Cornhuskers' sluggishness in Big Ten play continued as the worst Buckeyes team in over half a century built a 27-6 lead midway through the third quarter.

But that's when things shifted.

Then-starting quarterback Braxton Miller went down with an injury, forcing Joe Bauserman into action. Instead of riding a running game that had been key to building that lead, former offensive coordinator Jim Bollman put the game on Bauserman's unreliable throwing arm, and he responded by completing precisely one of his 10 pass attempts.

Bauserman's haunting inaccuracy gave Nebraska both the time and possessions they needed to mount a comeback. The Cornhuskers scored touchdowns on four of their final five possessions, giving them a 34-27 victory.

Nebraska fans remember the night fondly as the only win it's registered over Ohio State. Buckeye fans dread the memory.

But those sentiments are backwards, because a curse was born that night. The football gods bore witness to a great wrong, and much like when those people watched that VHS tape in The Ring, Nebraska unleashed an evil it's been running from ever since.

Or maybe I've been watching too many scary movies recently. Either way, let's look at the horror.

2012: Ohio State 63, Nebraska 38

There was a nervous energy to start the 2012 game, which took place under the lights in Ohio Stadium. Nebraska led 17-7 after 20 minutes of action, and Ohio State's perfect 5-0 start was in jeopardy. 

But that's when Miller and the Ohio State offense kicked it into high-gear. Miller piled up 313 yards of total offense and two touchdowns while Hyde added 140 yards and four more touchdowns on the ground.

The second half was essentially an avalanche Nebraska couldn't survive.

2016: Ohio State 62, Nebraska 3

The next matchup between the two programs featured a pair of top-10 teams, but the result didn't reflect that.

In 2016, Ohio State sealed one of the signature wins it needed to secure a playoff spot despite not playing in the Big Ten title game. The Cornhuskers were 7-1 and ranked No. 10, but they got nothing going against the Buckeyes defense, managing just 204 yards of total offense. Ohio State, meanwhile, piled up 590 yards and handed Nebraska its second-worst loss ever in program history.

Fun notes from this game: Joe Burrow saw action and completed 6-of-6 passes for 62 yards, and Ohio State's defense registered two pick-sixes.

2017: Ohio State 56, Nebraska 14

This was the J.T. Barrett game before the 2017 Penn State game happened.

Ohio State's quarterback was surgical against Nebraska in 2017, completing 27-of-33 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns (against no interceptions) to complement 48 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on the ground.

The Buckeyes scored the game's first 42 points and cruised to a blowout win.

2018: Ohio State 36, Nebraska 31

In every horror movie, the protagonist or hero capitalizes on an opportunity or moment to reverse course and escape the terror.

That opportunity arrived for Nebraska in 2018.

The Buckeyes were in the midst of former defensive coordinator Greg Schiano's general badness, and they had given up an average of a lot of points per game that year.

Ohio State was a week (plus a bye week) removed from a shocking 49-20 upset loss to Purdue, but still had a shot at gaining a coveted spot in the College Football Playoff.

But the Buckeyes didn't improve their resume when they hosted a two-win Nebraska team. Ohio State appeared to assert control with a 12-point lead late in the fourth, but the Cornhuskers scored late to make things interesting. The Buckeyes survived to win 36-31.

Schiano's defense was the only thing that gave Nebraska a chance to break Bausmerman's suffocating curse. That hope was extinguished with Schiano's departure a year later.

2019: Ohio State 48, Nebraska 7

After a year of frightening mediocrity, Ohio State reestablished its dominance over Nebraska.

Justin Fields was brilliant in his first true road test of his sophomore season, completing 15-of-21 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 72 yards and another score on the ground as the Buckeyes went on to win by 41 points.

Fields' performance helped Ohio State outgain Nebraska 580-231 as the Buckeyes cruised to a 41-point win.

Ohio State fans can easily conjure the horror of that night in October of 2011, when the Buckeyes forfeited a three-touchdown lead. But since that final whistle blew, Ohio State has outscored Nebraska by an average of nearly five touchdowns in the five meetings between the two teams.

It would be safe to assume those scores are a result of two programs trending in two different directions. But my belief is Bauserman unearthed a viscous evil with his aggressive incompletions nine years ago, and Nebraska is paying the price of that penalty to this day.

View 32 Comments