Not much went right for the Nebraska offense against Ohio State last week. The Huskers found limited success rushing the ball, but any progress they made was undone by a passing game which mustered only 47 yards and accounted for three interceptions.
Sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez played his worst game with the team, but for offensive coordinator Troy Walters, the blame for the offense’s poor performance doesn’t fall on one single player.
“In this offense, if 10 guys are doing their job and one guy is not then it's not going to work,” Walters said. “The interceptions, a lot of times the quarterback is going to get blamed for it. No. It's all of us.”
Whether it’s wide receivers running the right routes, offensive line protection holding up or even play calling issues, Walters acknowledged a variety of factors went into the blowout loss. Now, it’s up to the players to decide how they respond to a gut punch of a loss against the Buckeyes.
“We’re in this thing together,” Walters said. “We’re a team, we can’t listen to the outside noise, we can’t listen to everybody who says this and that. We’ve got to trust each other and we’ve got to play together.”
Perhaps the sole positive Nebraska can build upon from last week is the success of its I-formation triple option plays. With junior Dedrick Mills deputizing at fullback, the Huskers debuted the new look last week, gaining chunks of yardage. On Monday, head coach Scott Frost said the team would consider using the formation moving forward, a sentiment which running backs coach Ryan Held echoed.
"You never know. When we got here, everybody thought it was dead,” he said. “It might have come back from the dead [and is] reliving again."
Nebraska will continue to work on the old-school look in practice, and Walters hopes the addition of a more efficient rushing attack can open things up for his receivers. Junior wideout JD Spielman had just one catch against the Buckeyes, which Walters called “inexcusable.”
The team’s wide receiver depth received a temporary boost last week when sophomore Kade Warner made his first appearance of the year. Warner hadn’t appeared in a game to that point as he struggled with injuries, and Walters said Warner re-aggravated an injury and is day-to-day at this point. After catching 17 passes last year, Warner could make a big impact for the team when healthy.
“I think the quarterbacks trust that he’s going to be in the right position and going to run the right routes,” Walters said. “We miss him and hopefully he gets back soon and gets healthy.”
With last week’s loss in the rearview mirror, Nebraska now has to take on Northwestern next week, a team which has troubled the Huskers in recent years. Walters said the Wildcat defense is strong up front and won’t allow much rushing room between the tackles. Taking care of the ball will be a priority next week, as the Husker have struggled with turnovers all season.
Sitting at 3-2 and 1-1 in the Big Ten, this week marks an important point for the Huskers. They can either let the Ohio State loss continue to affect them, or they can get their season back on track and keep pace in the Big Ten West.
“We understand we didn’t play well [against Ohio State] and we’ve looked past that,” Walters said. “We’re looking forward to Northwestern, getting back on track and getting some positive momentum around here.”