Huskers Start Strong Then Falter, Fall in Opener at No. 5 Ohio State 52-17

Huskers Start Strong Then Falter, Fall in Opener at No. 5 Ohio State 52-17

A fast start and improved offense had Nebraska in the game early. But inconsistency and timely penalties aided the 52-17 loss at No. 5 Ohio State.

Under first year offensive coordinator Matt Lubick, the Huskers dominated the first offensive possession of the game. Nebraska utilitzed an Adrian Martinez pass to Jack Stoll for nine yards, a Martinez run for nine yards, and a 46-yard run by Luke McCaffrey to set up shop in the red zone.

Martinez capped off the drive with a 10-yard run to take a 7-0 lead.

The projected top offense in nation in Ohio State then methodically marched for the answer. The Buckeyes needed to convert a fourth and five as part of the 11 play drive that saw Master Teague III score on a one yard run.

But penalties would knock Nebraska off course.

Following a nine yard pass to Wan’Dale Robinson, Wyatt Liewer was called for a false start on second down. Nebraska followed that with two incomplete passes to bring out Will Przystup for his first of his five punts on the day.

Ohio State started another would-be methodical drive, but showed their big play ability with a 42-yard strike from Justin Fields to Garrett Wilson, giving the Buckeyes a 14-7 lead.

Nebraska and Ohio State exchanged punts on the next two possessions, but the Huskers regained momentum in their first drive of the second quarter.

With both Martinez and McCaffrey on the field for multiple plays, Nebraska marched 76 yards with only two plays for more than 10 yards, both passes to tight ends: a 15-yarder to Stoll and a 26-yarder to Austin Allen. Dedrick Mills finished the drive with a three yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14 apiece.

Then the wheels came off for the visitors.

The Buckeyes drove 71-yards on 11 plays on their next possession but could only net a field goal. A delay of game penalty followed by a no gain run and two sacks forced the Huskers to punt late in first half.

A face mask penalty on the punt on Nebraska set up Ohio State in plus territory. The Buckeyes scored again and took a 24-14 lead into half.

At halftime, Nebraska outgained Ohio State on the ground 109-90, but the Buckeyes dominated through the air with 187 yards passing. The Huskers were also already up to 50 yards on five penalties.

Fields began the second half by marching his team eight plays for a score to extend the lead to 31-14.

Nebraska looked to answer as disaster struck near midfield when Martinez lost the ball and Sevyn Banks picked it up and returned it for 55-yards to pad the Ohio State lead to 38-14.

Connor Culp among seven players making their first career starts for the Huskers, hit the final points for Nebraska with a 22-yard field goal. The Huskers final three full drives of the game included two punts and a fumble by McCaffrey.

Ohio State added two more scores in the fourth quarter to defeat Nebraska 52-17.

The ground game was there for Nebraska, totaling 217 yards while adding 160 through the air. Ohio State lived up to the offensive hype, rushing for 222 yards and passing for 248.

Two targeting calls in the second half aided the Buckeye passing offense in decimating Nebraska’s secondary. Both calls were confirmed, ejecting Cam Taylor-Britt and Deontai Williams. Both Taylor-Britt and Williams will miss the first half against Wisconsin next week.

FOX Sports’ Joel Klatt was not in agreement with the targeting calls, saying of the penalty on Williams, “hey college football, what do you want him to do?”

Another discrepancy was in penalties. Nebraska finished with eight for 90 yards. Ohio State finished with just three for 14 yards.

Martinez got the start at quarterback, going 12-for-15 through the air for 105 yards. He added 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground. McCaffrey saw limited snaps at quarterback, going 4-for-5 for 55 yards, but added 91 yards on the ground and even reeled in a catch for five yards.

Mills finished with 37 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.

Defensively, Nebraska’s front seven had a mostly successful day defending the run. The unit had six tackles for loss, including three sacks: two by Will Honas and one by Caleb Tannor.

With the loss, Nebraska falls to 9-16 under Scott Frost. The Huskers take on Wisconsin next week in the home opener.


Game Notes

  • Today marked the first time Nebraska has played a game before a crowd of less than 10,000 fans since a crowd of 6,166 fans for the 1962 Gotham Bowl game against Miami at Yankee Stadium (Dec. 15, 1962).
  • Players making their first career starts at Nebraska today included OT Bryce Benhart, WR Levi Falck, DL Ty Robinson, ILB Will Honas, OLB Garrett Nelson, PK Connor Culp, and P William Pryzstup.  Falck (South Dakota), Culp (LSU), and Pryzstup (Michigan State) had previously started in their collegiate careers before transferring to Nebraska.
  • Tight end Austin Allen had a 26-yard reception in the first half.  Four of Allen’s 11 career catches have covered at least 20 yards, and two of the longest three catches of Allen’s career have occurred at Ohio State (41 yards in 2018).
  • Dicaprio Bootle broke up a pass in the second half for his 22nd career breakup, tying him for 10th place in career breakups at Nebraska.
  • Quarterback Adrian Martinez accounted for 182 yards of total offense against Ohio State.  With his output today, Martinez pushed his career total offense mark to 6,010 yards. He became the fourth Husker with better than 6,000 career total offense yards, joining Tommy Armstrong Jr., Taylor Martinez and Eric Crouch.
  • Martinez completed 12 passes in today’s game, moving him past Joe Ganz (381, 2006-08) into fourth place on Nebraska’s career completions chart. Martinez now has 385 career completions.
  • Nebraska averaged 6.0 yards per rush against Ohio State. The Huskers topped 5.5 yard per attempt just twice in 2019.
  • Luke McCaffrey finished with a career-high 87 yards rushing, topping his previous best of 83 at Maryland last season.
  • Will Honas was credited for 2.0 sacks today, the first multi-sack performance of his career. He also tied his personal best with 2.0 tackles for loss (also at Illinois, 2019).
  • Collin Miller finished with seven tackles, including a career-high 1.5 tackles for loss.
  • Saturday’s game was just the eighth all-time meeting between programs with 900 all-time victories.
  • Nebraska’s loss ended a streak of four straight victories in season-opening games against ranked teams. The last such victory was a 17-7 win over Oklahoma State in 2003.

Feature Image by Joshua A. Bickel/Pool via Ohio State Athletics