With over 300 days between games, there's no question Ohio State showed some collective rust but Justin Fields sure didn't, completing 20-of-21 throws for 276 yards and two scores, leading the Buckeyes to a 52-17 win over Nebraska.
Fields added another 54 yards and a score on the ground with his lone error coming on what could've easily been a long touchdown completion to Chris Olave. The ball was slightly underthrown, allowing coverage to catch up, but Olave still nearly came down with the ball.
No matter, Fields, Olave and Garrett Wilson provided the security blanket a middling run game and retooled Ohio State defense needed.
Wilson blew up in his first game as the team's slot receiver, catching seven balls for 129 yards and a score. Olave tallied 104 yards on six grabs before a head-shot ended his afternoon early.
Ohio State led just 17-14 late in the first half before outscoring the Cornhuskers 35-3 the rest of the way. Even with the dominant finish on the scoreboard, the details suggest Ryan Day and staff will have plenty of teachable moments to address before the Buckeyes head to Happy Valley next weekend.
Before we turn our focus toward Penn State, here are Five Things from the 35-point win over Scott Frost's squad.
QB RUN WASN'T FUN
Maybe the chief concern coming out of the victory was Nebraska's offensive success early on, particularly in running the ball with its quarterbacks.
Everyone knows Adrian Martinez isn't going to shred a team through the air but despite his shortcomings as a passer, Ohio State, at times, had trouble containing his legs. Martinez ran for 77 yards on 12 carries, with five attempts going for seven or more yards. He hit the Buckeyes for a 10-yard touchdown run to open the game and his 39-yard effort to the OSU 8 set up a field goal (lol Frost) cutting the home team's lead to 38-17.
That long run was ominous in that it looked like the entire secondary had its back to the quarterback, leading to nothing but open space for Martinez.
Backup signal-caller Luke McCaffrey hit Ohio State for 87 yards on just nine carries although not all of those came from under center. Still, he was a problem in the open field that Ohio State struggled to solve at times.
With Penn State's Sean Clifford on deck after running for 119 yards yesterday versus Indiana, Kerry Coombs and company will be focused on increasing consistency at containing the quarterback run this week in practice.
4.17 YARDS AND A CLOUD OF RUST
It was to be expected that Ohio State would experience a drop-off in the run game - at least early in the season - with the departure of a 2,000-yard rusher in J.K. Dobbins.
That was certainly the case yesterday as the new primary rushers, Master Teague and Trey Sermon, averaged 4.17 yards per carry on 23 attempts (96 yards). For comparison, Dobbins averaged 6.7 yards per try a season ago.
Third down rushing was a major challenge with the pair combining for eight yards on four attempts with just one first down. Sermon was stuffed twice for no gain on 3rd-and-1s while Teague got two yards on a 3rd-and-2 and a six yards on a 3rd-and-4.
To be fair, the offensive line didn't consistently open the types of holes we saw last year but these two have to be better so Fields doesn't have to carry it 15 times. Making the first guy miss was something seldom scene from both Sermon and Teague yesterday. That was a theme from Teague last year too, he's just not a super-shifty back, as pointed out in the 11W roundtable although some fans seemed to disagree with that assessment. He can be a solid runner but he needs a hole to get going downhill.
(I almost headlined this section White Rushin after backup quarterback Jack Miller logged Ohio State's longest run of the day with a 21-yard jaunt late in the fourth quarter.)
MORE LIKE HASSLE GARRETT
Hat tip to Haskell Garrett.
The kid was literally shot in the damn face just 55 days ago yesterday which limited his practice time and certainly gave him another challenge outside of preparing to play football games and he responded in a big way.
Garrett was eliminated by Nebraska's right guard on a 10-yard Martinez run to start the Cornhuskers' third possession of the day but after that the defensive tackle was lights out either in making plays for himself or creating havoc up front, freeing up teammates to do the same.
With Ohio State nursing a 17-14 lead late in the second quarter, Garrett recorded a 3-yard sack on 2nd-and-17 and followed that up with another quarterback pressure on 3rd-and-20, allowing Josh Proctor to swarm in for a 5-yard tackle for loss.
The two individual plays forced a Nebraska punt to about midfield and Ohio State's offense found the end zone six plays later to take a 24-14 lead with just over a minute left in the first half.
No question about it, Garrett and Tommy Togiai are Ohio State's best defensive tackle and nose tackle combo and they looked to log heavy snap counts when the game was competitive.
Again, salute to Garrett for coming back from adversity I'm thankful 99.9% of us can't relate to.
BIG DEPOSIT FROM SEVYN BANKS
Leading just 24-14 at halftime, Ohio State wanted to come out hot in third quarter and extinguish any hopes Nebraska had of pulling an upset.
The offense did its part as Justin Fields led the Buckeyes on an 8-play, 75-yard scoring march pushing the score to 31-14 with 11:24 left in the quarter.
It was then up to the defense to make a statement. The Buckeyes did allow Nebraska to drive 30 yards to the Ohio State 45 but on a 2nd-and-3 Adrian Martinez run, defensive end Jonathon Cooper knocked the ball loose and cornerback Sevyn Banks was once again in the right place at the right time.
The junior cleanly fielded the loose ball on one bounce, avoided a shoe-string tackle and glided into the end zone with 8:02 left in the third quarter, giving Ohio State a commanding 38-14 lead.
Big plays are obviously nothing knew for Banks who is most famous for returning a blocked punt for a touchdown in Ohio State's 62-39 spanking of Michigan in the 2018 version of The Game. Last year, Banks blocked a punt against the Miami RedHawks leading to a touchdown.
Banks was otherwise quiet yesterday, recording one tackle, but his knack for big plays is something to behold.
ON BENDED KNEE
Make no mistake, Ryan Day is the man, but I'm not a fan of apologizing to Scott Frost in the post-game presser for scoring a touchdown on Ohio State's final possession of the game.
First off, Nebraska's own stank - running three plays for -3 yards and taking just 1:33 off the clock - put Ohio State in position to get the ball back. Then its punter uncorked a 31-yard shank giving the Buckeyes the ball at the Nebraska 40.
Day inserted a true freshman quarterback and nothing but reserves at every other position before running it six times in a row. No throws. Only one of those runs went out of bounds and it's not like Ohio State was running a hurry up offense.
Hell, Xavier Johnson, a fourth-string running back with zero collegiate carries, who is probably fourth string only because Marcus Crowley and Miyan Williams are out, logged four of those runs, going for 17 yards.
I fully support being respectful of your opponent but I support even more the notion of being respectful to your own players. Johnson may never see another carry in his Ohio State football career and he'll remember yesterday for the rest of his life.
Frost will have forgotten about that fair and square possession by tomorrow, if he hasn't already.