Husker defense makes adjustments, catches stride in second half

 

The Nebraska defense did a complete turnaround midway through the second quarter. Or was it a result of who was lining up under center for the Buckeyes?

Braxton Miller rushed for negative 27 yards against Michigan State two weekends ago. The Ohio State Buckeyes have been waffling this season on who the starting quarterback should be.

Where was that Saturday?

Miller and the Buckeyes front gave the Nebraska defense fits in the first half. At halftime, the true freshman had 79 rush yards on seven attempts for an 11.3 yard per carry average. The OSU team on the field looked nothing like the team that gained just 178 yards last weekend against the Spartans.

"They wanted it," Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said. "They were focused. This was the best I had seen them on a Friday night. Just everything. They know what it is about. They didn't like how they played last week."

OSU sucked nearly eight minutes off the clock on its first possession and finished with a field goal. The Buckeyes had 36 yards rushing on the opening drive, which was one yard more than their four-quarter total against MSU.

Miller found Jake Stoneburner for a 32-yard score on the Buckeyes' next possession to give OSU a 10-3 lead. Running back Carlos Hyde added a 63-yard score with 12:46 remaining in the second quarter.

On OSU's first two scores, the Buckeyes were able to break through NU's first line of defense and were nearly untouched to the end zone.

"It was one guy after another in the first half missing a tackle here, a tackle there, a missed assignment here," NU coach Bo Pelini said. "We had a lot of breakdowns."

The Huskers changed up their front on defense a little bit to counter OSU's heavy power-running game, NU defensive line coach John Papuchis said. Defensive tackles Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler spent time lining up on the end of the line.

"We wanted to be able to play both a four-man front and a three-man front without having to sub a whole lot," Papuchis said.

Nebraska's preparations didn't appear to be working too well early on. Miller was able to dance around the pocket and create extra yardage with his feet. OSU only had two negative yards through the running game in the first half.

"They did some things with him in the quarterback run game that they hadn't showed," Papuchis said. "We were anticipating that would be a possibility because he is such a tremendous athlete. You do your best to prepare for all the things you expect to see."

Ohio State scored again on its first second half possession sandwiched between two NU three-and-outs. Miller had a critical 27-yard competition on third down to keep the drive alive.

But Lavonte David changed the momentum with his forced fumble and recovery. Then Miller left the game with an ankle injury after Sean Fisher brought him down for a two-yard loss.

Enter Joe Bauserman. Exit Ohio State's offense.

The Buckeyes gained only three first downs after Miller left the game. They didn't score and Bauserman went 1-for-10 passing in a more than a quarter of playing time.

"When they were getting us early with the quarterback draw early in the game, that was well executed on their part and I thought we continually looked for ways to make adjustments for that," Papuchis said.

"When he went out, that concern went away."

The Buckeyes gained 39 yards with Bauserman under center. The Husker defense played with more aggression and energy after David's forced turnover. It played with more confidence after Miller left the game.

Maybe OSU quarterback woes were just what Nebraska's defense needed to start moving in the right direction.

"I wouldn't say we made any major adjustments," safety Austin Cassidy said of the defense's effort. "We started making tackles and stopped blowing assignments. Maybe some guys had enough and just said, ‘Let's go. It's now or never.'"

dougburger@

dailynebraskan.com