The good: redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey and junior Adrian Martinez were great on the ground. The tandem combined for 21 carries and 164 yards. McCaffrey and Martinez both had their moments on the ground.
McCaffrey had a 50-yard run and Martinez was consistent, scoring on the first drive of the game. Martinez also was fairly accurate, going 12-for-15. However, Martinez did lose a fumble that the Buckeyes returned for a touchdown, as well as missed a throw in the third quarter to a wide-open Kade Warner in the end zone. McCaffrey took over in the fourth quarter and like Martinez, took the safe passes as well.
Nebraska’s quarterbacks didn’t throw any interceptions, but also didn’t throw much downfield. Since there weren’t many shots taken down the field, neither quarterback punished Ohio State’s defense for daring to sell out and stop the run, limiting Nebraska’s offensive ceiling.
In the second half, Nebraska’s offense was flat, and one important reason is its quarterbacks rarely passing five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Running Backs: D+
Senior Dedrick Mills disappointed with just 33 rushing yards, but that’s because the quarterbacks ran wild. He never got going, averaging just above three yards a carry.
On the receiving end, the running backs weren’t used as much and had only two catches. The majority of passing snaps, Mills and redshirt freshman Ronald Thompson both helped in the backfield as pass protectors.
Wide Receivers: C-
Junior Kade Warner had a wide-open touchdown sail through his hands, and the receivers did not make life easy for the quarterbacks. Only sophomore Wan’Dale Robinson was a consistent, threat carrying the receivers’ grade.
When the ball got into Robinson’s hands, he made the most of it on screens and short passes. He finished with six catches for 49 yards, far and away the Huskers’ most productive receiver Saturday afternoon.
The rest of the wide receiver corps had two catches while Robinson had six. He was flawless when targeted, catching all his targets, but he did not touch the ball enough.
Tight Ends: B+
If there’s one skill position that stood out, it was the Nebraska tight ends. On the blocking front, tight ends like senior Jack Stoll and junior Austin Allen paved the way for the ground game to succeed against the Buckeyes.
Whether sealing the edge or second-level blocking, the tight ends were all over the field in the first half. On the receiving end, the tight ends were reliable as Stoll was a consistent target for Martinez before he sustained an injury in the first half that kept him out for the rest of the game.
Stoll had two receptions for 24 yards against the Buckeyes. Still, Allen had a great 26-yard catch and run off a play-action that helped put Nebraska in position to tie the game at 14. After the Stoll injury, the tight ends weren’t used for the rest of the game on the passing front.
Offensive Line: B+
The pipeline was phenomenal on the ground, creating holes for McCaffrey and Martinez to run through or sealing the outside to let Martinez or McCaffrey get into the open field. Junior center Cam Jurgens didn’t have the hiccups from the beginning of last year, where he was shaky at times.
The high grade for the offensive line came while in pass protection, where Ohio State’s pass rushers did not make Martinez’s life a living nightmare. The Buckeyes did have three sacks, but compared to last year’s seven-sack performance, Martinez and McCaffrey had time to make throws.
A clean pocket is a quarterback’s dream and the pipeline created that on Saturday.
Defensive Line: C
The new batch of Husker defensive linemen had a performance that surprised even the commentators. In the interior, Ohio State’s ground game didn’t get going until late into the game as the Buckeyes could not use sophomore Master Teague III or graduate transfer Trey Sermon in short-yardage situations.
What the defensive line struggled with is containing junior quarterback Justin Fields. Fields tore up Nebraska on the ground, totaling 54 yards and a touchdown. Fields was Ohio State’s best runner for the majority of the game and he felt little pressure by the defensive linemen.
Fields had time to throw, and when he couldn’t throw, Fields ran with ease. However, on the whole, it’s hard to stop the junior dual-threat quarterback, so the defensive line’s performance can be considered about average.
The best defensive play came from the linebackers as they swarmed Ohio State. Senior linebackers Will Honas and Colin Miller complemented the defensive line in stopping the Buckeye ground game.
Senior outside linebacker JoJo Domann stopped an important 3rd-and-1 and forced Ohio State to kick a field goal — one of the best Husker defensive plays of the day. Domann flew in from the left tackle spot and got Sermon by the ankles, forcing the Buckeyes to settle for a field goal after a penalty moved Ohio State’s offense back by five yards.
The linebackers were also able to sack Fields, unlike last year where he wasn’t touched. Honas had two sacks while senior outside linebacker Caleb Tannor had a sack himself. The linebackers struggled in pass coverage, but compared to last year’s performance, the linebackers stalled the Buckeyes’ ground game.
This was the group with the most experience on the defense, but that didn’t seem to matter toFields. He went 20-of-21 with 276 yards and a passer rating of 237.1, picking any spot on the field to pass and it would be complete.
Senior cornerback Dicaprio Bootle and junior cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt struggled heavily against sophomore wide receiver Chris Olave and redshirt freshman wide receiver Garrett Wilson. The two were nearly flawless against the Husker secondary, being targeted 14 times and catching 13 passes.
To put the cherry on top, Taylor-Britt and senior safety Marquel Dismuke both had targeting penalties that saw them leave the game in the 3rd quarter. Both players are now suspended for the first half against Wisconsin next week.
The play of the secondary hurts the team in two different games, giving the unit a performance so bad that it would almost be impressive.
Special Teams: B
Special teams did what was expected of them and did not make any comical errors. Grad transfer kicker Connor Culp was perfect with 2-of-2 on extra points and made a 22-yard field goal, providing stability to a normally shaky spot for the Huskers.
On kickoffs, the Buckeyes didn’t have any big kick returns and the coverage team bottled up any potential Buckeye returns on punts.
Sophomore punter Will Przystup had two 50-plus yard punts, Buckeyes inside the 10 on one occasion. Przystup is a major upgrade at the position, and his performance made Nebraska's special teams much more respectable than at any time last year.