Sad Mike Riley

Head Nebraska football coach Mike Riley walks back to the sideline after tending to Tommy Armstrong Jr. in the game against Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016.

On the third play of the Nebraska vs. Ohio State football game, Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong dropped back to pass. He tried to zip a ball into a small window to Jordan Westerkamp. The ball was tipped and caught by Ohio State’s Damon Webb and returned 36 yards for a touchdown.

“It’s not a way you want to start a game obviously,” Nebraska senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp said.

Ohio State’s lead swelled to 14-3, then 21-3, and by halftime, it was 31-3. By the time the final whistle sounded, it was 62-3 in favor of the home team. Nebraska was just handed the second worst loss in a matchup of two AP top-ten teams in school history.

“That was real bad, and we’re all responsible for it,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said.  

All night, Ohio State’s offensive line got a great push and opened up big holes for running backs Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel. And when the Buckeyes weren’t running, they were passing. When Nebraska was lucky enough to get a little pressure, quarterback J.T. Barrett escaped and extended the play.

When Nebraska got the ball, it struggled to get any push, and on many drives, if you looked down for a minute, punter Caleb Lightbourn was already on the field, kicking the ball away to Ohio State. And the Buckeyes would just march down the field again - the only kicks OSU punter Cameron Johnston had were warmups.

It was a big game and a big loss for NU.

Anyone seen this before? Anyone?

Nebraska’s loss to Ohio State was bad, ugly, terrible, horrible, no good and every other negative adjective you can think of, and it all looked very familiar.

In what could’ve been the game that shifted Nebraska’s fortunes from years of being slightly above average to competing for conference titles, Mike Riley’s team looked a lot like those Bo Pelini used to trot onto the field in big matchups. Mike Riley and Bo Pelini are different in almost every way imaginable, but Saturday in Columbus, the two were interchangeable.

Like Pelini, who got blown out in his share of important games, Riley’s team got beat up, outplayed and appeared severely overmatched on the road against the No. 6 team in the country.

“We were beaten thoroughly in all of the phases, and it really didn’t remind me of our team,” Riley said.

With Pelini, fans came to expect it, which is probably the worst part of this loss. This one, no one really saw coming. Some probably expected a loss, but not like this - not one of this magnitude.

Not one against a team that had been favored by double digits in its previous three games and hadn’t covered the spread once.

Not one after Nebraska proved by all accounts that it was for real after taking Wisconsin to overtime in Camp Randall the week before.

Not one when you started 7-0 and were the No. 10 team in the country.

And certainly not one when Mike Riley was your head coach.

There was no way to see this one coming. Everyone thought Nebraska was past this.

“This game came out of the blue to me,” Riley said. “And it really didn’t remind me of our team.”

No matter who Riley played in his first two season at Nebraska, he had never been blown out. His worst loss was by 10 points on the road against Purdue last Halloween. Saturday, that changed - in a big way.

“We didn’t come to play football today,” Nebraska senior safety Nate Gerry said. “Just bad football on our part.”

When Pelini left in 2014, Nebraska fans thought the days of losing 59-24, 48-17 and 70-31 to Wisconsin were gone. Nebraska fans thought the days of losing to Michigan 45-17 were gone. Nebraska fans thought the days of allowing 41 unanswered to UCLA were gone.

“It’s college football - it could happen; it could not happen,” Westerkamp said. "It’s just how the cards fell tonight.”

Now, the Huskers can add a new blowout to the list: a 62-3 primetime thumping by Ohio State with a chance to control their own destiny for the Big Ten championship and potentially, the College Football Playoff on the line.

sports@dailynebraskan.com