Nebraska fell flat in front of a national audience, playing poorly in all aspects while getting blown out 48-7 by Ohio State. A loss like this is sure to cause doubts among fans for good reason, but there’s a lot to look at when it comes to these kind of games.
Here are five takeaways from the loss.
Turnover issues continue
Last week, four Nebraska turnovers kept Illinois in a game where Nebraska out-gained the Illini by nearly 400 yards. The Huskers knew if they wanted a chance at pulling the upset against Ohio State, that couldn’t happen.
Nevertheless, Nebraska struggled yet again in the turnover department. Sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez threw three interceptions in the first half that turned into 17 Ohio State points. The Nebraska defense struggled to slow down the Buckeyes, partly because of the poor situations they were put in time and time again.
It seems like there won’t be just one solution for Nebraska’s turnover woes. Last week, it was four lost fumbles. This week, the Huskers only fumbled once (a strip-sack of Martinez that he instantly recovered) but threw three picks.
Nebraska’s offense has the talent and potential to be explosive, but crucial turnovers have doomed them in almost every game this season. The Big Ten has no shortage of talented defenses, so the Huskers will have to continue to focus on limiting giveaways to succeed in conference play.
Ohio State is better than last year
No matter the opponent, a 41-point blowout loss at home is inexcusable. However, it would be naive to not acknowledge how good of a team Ohio State is.
Going into the game, the whole country knew Nebraska was overmatched. Some expected a blowout, and the Buckeyes delivered that and more. Much of the hope for an upset this year stemmed from Nebraska’s near-upset against the Buckeyes last season, as the Huskers lost by only five points, but Ohio State crushed that thought quickly.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields dominated Nebraska’s defense much more than Dwayne Haskins Jr. did a year ago. Running back J.K. Dobbins had 163 yards in last year’s contest, and followed that up with 177 yards in tonight’s game.
Star junior defensive end Chase Young didn’t make much of a mark last year against the Huskers, but it’s difficult to contain a talent like him two years in a row. This time around, Young dominated the offensive line all game, with three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. When he wasn’t getting tackles, he was consistently putting pressure on Martinez.
The Buckeyes earned their No. 5 ranking, and it showed tonight. While the loss may be embarrassing for the Huskers, it came against one of the best teams in the country.
Husker defense needs to be better
The offense turning the ball over was one problem from this game, but the Blackshirts not forcing turnovers or getting stops is another reason Nebraska couldn’t get much going.
The Blackshirts’ ability to force turnovers has been vital to Nebraska’s success all season, and has shifted some games in the Huskers’ favor.
Against Ohio State, Nebraska didn’t force a turnover for the first time all year.
The Buckeye offense is the best Nebraska has faced and likely will face all season. Ohio State has a great offense and doesn’t turn the ball over often. However, creating takeaways against elite offenses is something the Blackshirts will have to do to win big games.
The Huskers also struggled to stop the run, one of their strong points this season. The Buckeyes rushed for 368 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
After a strong start, the Blackshirts have looked questionable to begin conference play, which will need to change for the Huskers to find consistent success.
Nebraska’s offense is unpredictable–which is good and bad
Every possession, it seems like nobody knows exactly what the Nebraska offense will produce. The Huskers may go three-and-out on consecutive drives, then score a long touchdown on the next.
While those inconsistencies are mostly negative, the team also has a level of unpredictability that could be useful if channeled properly. In the first quarter, the Huskers came out in the I-formation for a drive, something Nebraska fans haven’t seen much of under Scott Frost. The Huskers proceeded to run a mix of option plays and fullback dives down the field before Martinez’s second interception. However, the drive was mostly positive, and definitely something Husker fans aren’t used to seeing.
Postgame, both Frost and Martinez declined to comment on whether they will use that again in the future. Both kept their answers to just a few words, with Frost saying “we’ll see” and Martinez saying “I guess we’ll find out.”
We’ve known about the offensive weapons Nebraska has for a while now, and it seems Frost is finding new ways to use them. That versatility could prove effective in the future, as it seems we will never know exactly what to expect from Nebraska’s offense on a given drive.
Huskers remain confident
A blowout loss on a national stage can be demoralizing, but Frost and his players seemed surprisingly calm and focused on the future in the press conference. Frost commented on the emotions of the players postgame, saying the Huskers are just ready to improve.
“They are just hungry to play better,” he said. “I can see that in their eyes in the locker room.”
Martinez, who played one of his worst games in a Husker uniform, was passionate about how the team will move forward.
“This game will not define this team,” he said. “We’re going to learn from it and what’s going to define our team is how we finish. We have a whole season ahead of us.”
In past years, Nebraska has taken blowout losses and struggled to rebound. That looks like it’s beginning to change, as the attitude the Huskers have after this kind of loss is a good sign for the rest of the season.