Another ranked opponent, another heartbreaking loss for Nebraska football.
Although many predicted yet another Ohio State beatdown on Nebraska, the Huskers kept the Buckeyes on their toes throughout the game. However, the final result was ultimately a different song with the same beats.
Here’s the position grades from Nebraska’s 26-17 loss to Ohio State:
Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez had his ups and his downs all throughout the game, as he’s been doing all season. However, unlike last week, where he threw four interceptions with his two touchdowns, Martinez finished the game with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run.
Unfortunately for the Huskers, Martinez also threw an interception near the end of the game, and was sacked five times. Martinez finished the game going 16-of-31, throwing for 248 yards and rushing for 51 yards.
After making an impressive 24-yard pass to senior wide receiver Samori Toure on Nebraska’s first drive, Martinez took two sacks and mustered up just 14 more yards on the next three drives in the first quarter. Things were a bit quiet for the quarterback during the first half of the second quarter as well. Near the end of the half, Martinez threw for 40 yards and rushed for five to set Nebraska up for a field goal to make it 10-3 Ohio State.
Following a 75-yard touchdown pass by the Buckeyes, Martinez and the Huskers answered right back with a 72-yard touchdown pass to Toure that put Nebraska right back into the game. In the third quarter, Martinez led the Huskers on a 75-yard drive before waltzing in for a one-yard score to make the game 23-17.
In the fourth quarter, Martinez led Nebraska on another long drive that took it from the Nebraska 29 to the Ohio State 13-yard line. On the drive, Martinez rushed for 37 of his 51 total yards in the game. Unfortunately for the team, the drive ended with a missed field goal. After getting the ball back with 6:11 left in the game, Martinez picked up another 21 yards on the ground, but then went three-and-out.
On the team’s last drive of the game, Martinez threw his lone interception of the game, which ended any chances of Nebraska possibly making a comeback.
Running Backs: D+
Most of the Big Noon matchup was quiet in terms of the running game, and it was even quieter for the running backs. Redshirt freshman running back Rahmir Johnson was the only running back to take carries for the Huskers in the game, but off of just 16 touches gained only 62 total yards. Johnson finished the game averaging 3.9 yards-per-carry.
Johnson gave a valiant effort each time the ball was in his hands though, but a lack of big holes and an aggressive Ohio State defense saw Johnson only get as much as 12 yards on a carry in the game.
With Martinez going 16-of-31 for 248 yards, the receivers saw much action and for the most part, got Nebraska into good spots against a tough Ohio State defense.
As mentioned earlier, Martinez completed a 24-yard pass to open up the Huskers’ first drive. On the receiving end of the pass was Toure, who finished the game with 150 yards off of four catches.
Toure led the receivers with his total yardage and constant big-play threat, including two huge plays that gave Nebraska a fighting chance. The first came when Toure burned his defender for a 72-yard touchdown pass, which made the score 17-10 just before halftime.
Toure also brought Nebraska to the Ohio State 1-yard line off a 53-yard reception in the third quarter, 34 yards of which he gained after the catch. Toure broke three tackles on his reception to set up the Huskers for an eventual touchdown, making the score 23-17 right before the end of the third quarter.
Along with Toure, junior tight end Austin Allen hauled in some big receptions. In the second quarter, Allen had a 26-yard catch, 11 of which he gained following the reception. This set the Huskers up for a field goal to put them on the board. However, Allen only had one other catch in the game, a seven-yard reception late in the fourth.
Junior wide receiver Omar Manning was targeted the most by Martinez on the day. However, of the nine balls thrown his way, Manning could only haul in three for a total of 26 yards. Rounding out the receiving core for Nebraska was junior tight end Travis Vokolek, who hauled in 3-of-4 targets. However, his catches only got him a grand total of 14 yards.
Offensive Line: D
Much of the game was a struggle for the offensive line. Martinez was sacked five times, one of which was a strip-sack the Buckeyes nearly recovered.. The game marked Martinez’s first game since the loss to Michigan State where he’s been sacked more than twice.
The offensive line allowed Martinez to be pressured, leading to scrambles and sometimes throwaways to prevent a loss. Not to mention, there was a total of 113 yards on the ground by Nebraska, part of it due to much tenacity from the Buckeyes’ line.
Defensive Line: B-
The Nebraska defensive line made Ohio State throw. With the Buckeyes finishing the game on only 90 yards rushing, it’s safe to say that the Husker defensive line came to play, limiting the effectiveness of freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson.
However, on Ohio State’s final scoring drive, the Huskers gave up 35 yards on the ground, over half of the yardage the Buckeyes gained in total on the drive, which set Ohio State up for the game-securing field goal.
The Nebraska defensive line also had its moments when it came to dealing with redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud. Although Ohio State’s quarterback spent most of the game sack free, he felt the presence of the Husker line. Then in the fourth, he was sacked twice, the second one leading to a fumble which was nearly recovered by Nebraska.
The defense’s second level came to play, picking up 35 of the team’s 75 total tackles in the game. The linebackers also helped keep Ohio State’s passing and running game in check, for the most part.
On the Buckeyes’ first drive of the game, sophomore inside linebacker Luke Reimer broke up a crucial pass on fourth down, which would’ve set Ohio State up in the redzone if caught. Then on Ohio State’s second drive, senior linebacker JoJo Domann came up with an interception while falling towards the sidelines.
Domann also shut down a possible touchdown opportunity in the second quarter, taking down Henderson in open field on third down at the Nebraska 9-yard line. Domann then shut down another attempt by Ohio State in the third quarter taking down Henderson again following a reception. The drive ended up being another field goal for the Buckeyes.
The linebackers were also the ones who recorded the two sacks in the game. Delivering sack number one was junior outside linebacker Caleb Tannor, who caused Stroud to be called for intentional grounding, earning him a nine yard sack. The second sack came from sophomore outside linebacker Garrett Nelson, who forced the aforementioned fumble late in the fourth that could’ve set Nebraska up for a go-ahead touchdown.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State’s sophomore wide receiver, haunted the secondary today, picking 15 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was a 75-yard pass, which saw Smith-Njigba go 68 yards after the catch.
However, outside of Smith-Njigba’s performance, the secondary gave up an additional 165 yards in the air, but only allowed one other touchdown. Redshirt freshman safety Myles Farmer did give the Huskers a big play at the start of the fourth, picking off Stroud on an attempted fourth quarter deep ball.
Special Teams: D
Two missed field goals and a shanked 13-yard punt which led to a Buckeyes’ touchdown, were definite sores in the game for Nebraska. Sophomore kicker Chase Contreraz began the game by missing a 45-yard field goal in the first quarter, then missed a 31-yard field goal late in the game. His second miss would’ve made it a 23-20 game in the early stages of the fourth quarter, and both missed boots reflected the unfortunate play of the unit this season.
As for punting, sophomore punter William Przystup shanked a 13-yard boot that put Ohio State on Nebraska’s 49-yard line early in the second quarter, which Ohio State turned into a touchdown.
Contreraz did make a 39-yard field goal in the second quarter. Also, outside of the shanked punt, there was a solid defense overall by Nebraska’s punt team. Out of the four punt returns that were attempted by Ohio State, the Huskers gave up a total of 32 yards, averaging eight yards a return.