Ohio State Pulls Away from Nebraska, 52-17, to Win Season Opener

By Dan Hope on October 24, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Ohio State’s long-awaited 2020 season began with a win on Saturday.

While the Buckeyes’ defense gave up some plays early, Ohio State scored 38 of the game's final 41 points and pulled away for a 52-17 win thanks to an unsurprisingly brilliant performance by Justin Fields, who accounted for 330 total yards and three touchdowns to lead the home team to victory in front of a crowd of less than 1,400 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The game got off to a disastrous start for Ohio State’s defense as Nebraska needed just four plays to score the game’s first touchdown. Adrian Martinez ran for nine yards, backup quarterback Luke McCaffrey checked in and ran for 47 yards and Martinez ran for a 10-yard touchdown on three straight plays to give Nebraska a 7-0 lead less than two minutes in.

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4  
#5 Ohio State 14 10 14 14 52
Nebraska 7 7 3 0 17

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, their offense issued a strong response. It took a 4th-and-5 conversion from the 30-yard line, on which Fields completed a 12-yard pass to Garrett Wilson from his new position as the slot receiver, but Ohio State finished in the red zone from there, with Master Teague scoring the Buckeyes’ first touchdown of the year from one yard out.

Ohio State’s defense stepped up on its second series, forcing a 3-and-out. And it didn’t take long for the Buckeyes to take their first lead of the game after that, as Fields completed a 42-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Wilson.

But after both teams traded punts on their next possessions, Ohio State’s defensive woes reared their ugly head again. Martinez completed multiple long passes to tight ends over the middle, including a 26-yard completion to Austin Allen, as part of an 11-play, 78-yard drive that culminated with a 3-yard game-tying touchdown run by Dedrick Mills.

28 1st DOWNS 17
6-6 RED ZONE 3-3
8-13 3rd DOWNS 4-10
2-2 4th DOWNS 0-0
3-14 PENALTIES 8-90
33:14 POSSESSION 26:46

Ohio State put together an 11-play, 71-yard drive on its next possession, highlighted by a 29-yard completion from Fields to Chris Olave, but the Buckeyes were forced to settle for a 34-yard Blake Haubeil field goal after Wilson was flagged for an illegal shift on a 4th-and-1 quarterback sneak by Fields.

Ohio State’s defense was able to force a punt on its next defensive series, and a personal foul penalty against Nebraska gave the Buckeyes the ball on the Cornhuskers’ side of the field. They took advantage of the short field with a five-play, 46-yard drive, capped by Teague running into the end zone from six yards out, giving the home team a 24-14 lead with 1:10 before halftime.

The Buckeyes quickly built on that lead on the opening possession of the second half, putting together an eight-play, 75-yard drive that Fields capped off with a 17-yard rushing touchdown, complete with a Braxton Miller-esque spin move.

Just a few minutes later, Sevyn Banks scooped up a Martinez fumble and returned it 55 yards to the Nebraska end zone for a touchdown, extending Ohio State’s lead to 38-14 less than halfway through the third quarter.

The Cornhuskers nearly scored a touchdown on their subsequent possession after Martinez got Nebraska inside Ohio State’s 10-yard line on a 39-yard run, but a wide-open Kade Warner was unable to catch a pass from Martinez on 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line, and Nebraska opted to settle for a field goal to cut Ohio State’s lead to 21 points.

That did nothing to affect the outcome of the game, as Ohio State ultimately extended its lead to 28 points with 9:58 to play in the fourth quarter after Jaxon Smith-Njigba – in his first game as a Buckeye – made a spectacular toe-tapping catch at the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown.

Nebraska’s next possession ended in Ohio State territory after Dallas Gant forced a fumble that was recovered by Josh Proctor.

Jack Miller made his debut as Ohio State's No. 2 quarterback on the Buckeyes' final possession of the game and ran for a 2-yard touchdown – he also had a 21-yard run earlier in the drive – to score the final points of the game, giving Ohio State a 35-point win.

Fields finished the game with just one incompletion, completing 20 of his 21 passing attempts for 276 yards and two touchdowns while adding 54 rushing yards and another touchdown on 15 carries.

Game Notes

  • With only one captain allowed to go out for the coin toss this year, Tuf Borland took that responsibility for Ohio State on Saturday.
  • Ohio State's starters on offense were Justin Fields, Master Teague, Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Luke Farrell, Jeremy Ruckert, Thayer Munford, Harry Miller, Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis and Nicholas Petit-Frere.
  • Ohio State's starters on defense were Jonathon Cooper, Tyler Friday, Antuwan Jackson, Tommy Togiai, Tuf Bolrand, Pete Werner, Baron Browning, Shaun Wade, Sevyn Banks, Marcus Williamson and Marcus Hooker.
  • Trey Sermon made his Ohio State debut on the Buckeyes' second offensive possession.
  • Haskell Garrett, less than two months after being shot in the face, checked in as part of the second defensive line unit along with Tyreke Smith, Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Jerron Cage on the Buckeyes' third defensive series.
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba made his Ohio State debut on the final play of the first quarter. He was the first true freshman to check into the game on offense. He made his first career catch on the Buckeyes' opening play of the second quarter.
  • Julian Fleming substituted in for Chris Olave on one snap late in the second quarter to make his Ohio State debut. He was the only other true freshman to play on offense or defense in the first half. He made his first career catch in the fourth quarter.
  • Kamryn Babb made his Ohio State debut Saturday as a member of the kickoff return team after missing his first two seasons as a Buckeye with knee injuries.
  • Olave left the game late in the third quarter after taking a hard hit from a Nebraska defender and did not return. He was replaced in the lineup by Fleming.
  • With members of the general public unable to attend, the official attendance for Saturday's game was only 1,344, by far the lowest in Ohio Stadium history.
  • Wilson (129 yards) and Olave (104 yards) became the first duo of Ohio State receivers to top 100 yards in the same game since Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon against Maryland in 2018.
  • Two Nebraska defensive backs, Cam Taylor-Britt and Deontai Williams, were ejected for targeting during the second half of Saturday's game.
  • Gee Scott Jr. made his debut at wide receiver in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game.
  • Ty Hamilton was the only true freshman to play on defense.
  • Paris Johnson Jr. was in at right tackle for the final possession of the game.
View 191 Comments