Nebraska’s week began with so much promise. College GameDay was back in town for the first time in over a decade, plans for a new $150 million practice facility were unveiled and the Huskers were ready for a primetime showdown against a top-five opponent.
Instead, it took barely a quarter of football for that promise to dissipate. Instead, Husker fans were left with feelings they’ve grown accustomed to over the past few years--- anger, sadness and most of all, disappointment.
Nebraska was thoroughly embarrassed on its home field Saturday night, as the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) dominated the Huskers (3-2, 1-1) 48-7.
“It’s always a buzzkill when we can’t perform in front of our home crowd,” senior nose guard Darrion Daniels said. “Our fans expect so much from us and it hurts just knowing that we let them down today.”
Just as in 2017, a 56-14 home loss to the No. 5 Buckeyes, Nebraska was completely shut out in the first half as Ohio State rolled to a commanding lead. The disaster began immediately, as sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez threw an interception on the game’s opening drive.
Talented Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields quickly established a stark contrast between himself and Martinez. The Georgia transfer looked calm and composed in his biggest road test as a starter, scoring touchdowns with both his legs and arm on the team’s first two possessions.
Meanwhile, Martinez’s second drive was a three-and-out, and while the Huskers experienced some offensive success on their next drive, Martinez’s last pass of the drive was overthrown and glanced off the hands of freshman wideout Wan’Dale Robinson for another interception.
At the end of the first quarter, Ohio State already had a 14-0 lead, but the worst was yet to come.
The Buckeyes tacked on a field goal before Martinez’s poor performance got worse. On Nebraska’s next possession, he sailed a ball 10 feet over senior wide receiver Mike Williams for an easy Buckeye interception, his third turnover of the game.
“We keep preaching turnovers, we can’t turn it over three times in the first half, especially against a team like that,” Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said.
Fields immediately broke off a 41-yard run and freshman running back Master Teague III punched in the eight-yard score two plays later. With the Buckeyes up 24-0 midway through the second quarter, the rout was on.
A hapless Husker offense could do nothing right against the Buckeye defense, as it ended the half with three consecutive three-and-outs, gaining just four yards on nine plays. Ohio State continued to pile on the points, as Teague added another rushing score and Fields tossed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Austin Mack.
The Buckeyes took a 38-0 lead into halftime and when the two sides re-emerged for the second half, the stands were not quite at full capacity. Ohio State continued to dominate, as it added another field goal before Fields tossed a six-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson, his fourth score of the night.
Down 48-0, Nebraska finally got on the board after Martinez scrambled for a 56-yard run into Buckeye territory, by far the team’s longest play of the game. Junior running back Dedrick Mills then ran in the nine-yard score to ensure the Huskers wouldn’t be shut out on their home field. The remainder of the fourth quarter passed by quickly, bringing a crushing 48-7 defeat to a close.
Martinez had perhaps his worst game as a Husker, as he completed 8-17 passes for just 47 yards, tossing three interceptions in the first half. He did add 81 yards on the ground, but it was a night to forget for the team captain.
“I’m going to shoulder a lot of that responsibility for the offensive side of the ball and putting the defense in bad situations,” he said. “That’s on me and it’s something I’m going to continue to work on and get better on.”
After a week’s worth of confidence and excitement for Saturday night’s game failed to translate into on-field success, the Huskers spoke about remaining confident in the team’s progress moving forward.
“They’re not going to doubt what we’re doing,” Frost said. “They’re not going to doubt any of that, they’re just hungry to play better.”
With two key West division games in the next two weeks for the Huskers, the team will have to put the crushing loss behind them.
“This game’s not going to define this team. It won’t. We’re going to learn from it… and we’re going to get back to work,” Martinez said. “It’s going to be a lesson for us.”