Urban Meyer and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff were confident in their team, even though fans were clamoring following an unconvincing 24-20 win over Northwestern. Although the team had the backing of the play-callers, there was an overall mystery to how the team would perform.
In short, the Buckeyes did not disappoint.
“I didn’t see that one coming,” Meyer said.
There should be few questions surrounding the offense of No. 6 OSU following the team’s 62-3 thumping of No. 10 Nebraska. The defense was equally impressive, setting a single-season record for defensive touchdowns during the game. Although the Buckeyes finally showed life as a dominating team for the first time in weeks, the game was far from all roses.
Nebraska senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. suffered a scary injury during the second quarter of Saturday’s game. After being chased to the sideline by redshirt sophomore Malik Hooker, Armstrong took an awkward fall and struck his head sharply on the ground. A cart was taken out for the Nebraska quarterback while he was strapped to a backboard, but the team released a statement later saying the move was precautionary.
Ohio Stadium chanted his name as he was carted off. Later in the game, Armstrong returned in street clothes to his team’s sideline, with “Tommy” chants filling the stadium.
In the first half, the Buckeyes moved the ball with ease as redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett picked up two touchdowns. The second of his scores, which he tossed to junior H-back Curtis Samuel, was on an Urban Meyer classic: the “jump pass,” a maneuver made famous by former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.
A healthy dose of both redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber and Samuel quickly wore down the Cornhuskers “Blackshirts,” the nickname for Nebraska’s defensive unit. Weber rumbled for 44 yard on eight carries, while Samuel sprinted ahead for 41 yards on five carries.
“We had a rough game a couple weeks ago,” junior tackle Jamarco Jones said. “That’s not who we are. We just got back to the basics in practice. Coach Stud (offensive line coach Greg Studrawa) got on us, we fixed some things and we were able to execute pretty well tonight.”
The defense for OSU was solid as can be in the opening frame, as well as throughout the game. The Buckeyes allowed just 123 first-half yards, while also keeping Nebraska from the end zone. It was the same story in the second, as the lack of Armstrong at quarterback stalled any chance of starting a run. Senior Ryker Fyfe went just 5-for-18 with 52 yards in his time at quarterback.
During halftime, the OSU band honored Sam Foltz, a punter for Nebraska who lost his life in a tragic car accident earlier this year. The band formed a number 27 in the middle of the field with the initials “SF” above it. Block “O” also did its own honor for the late punter, as the students held up colored cards that formed an image of a punter with the number 27 on his jersey.
In the second half, it became apparent OSU was not done with the romp just yet. On the very first play from scrimmage, Barrett threw a strike to Samuel for 75 yards and a Buckeye touchdown. An offense that looked scared of testing opponents’ cornerbacks and safeties had no problems with hoisting the deep ball throughout the night.
“I know he misfired on a couple, too, but J.T. played fantastic and he was very sharp,” Meyer said. “(He spread the ball, (and) spread the entire — we finally hit some downtown shots, too. To Curtis, and Curtis was outstanding.”
Samuel was a sparkplug for OSU all night, providing most of the team’s offense with 178 total yards and two receiving touchdowns. After fading away against Penn State and being given the ball just 10 times, the junior has become the centerpiece for the Buckeyes with 27 touches in the last two games.
The defense for OSU was just as good in the second frame as it was in the first, giving Fyfe almost no time to find receivers and smothering senior running back Terrell Newby. The chunk plays that seemed to plague the team against the Nittany Lions and Northwestern last week were nowhere to be seen.
The secondary for OSU played especially well, limiting the combination of Armstrong and Fyfe to just 126 passing yards, and kept the entire Nebraska offensive roster out of the end zone for all 60 minutes. Long passes, which had been a bit of a thorn in the side of the defense in the last few weeks, were easily covered by the secondary.
Junior cornerback Damon Webb and redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker picked up interceptions returned for touchdowns. The first one by Webb set a single-season defensive touchdowns record for the Buckeyes, which now stands at six with three games in the regular season left.
“A defensive score gives momentum to the offense and that’s what we try to do every time,” redshirt cornerback Marshon Lattimore said.
With only a handful of games left and a loss on Saturday by No. 4 Texas A&M, the convincing win by the Buckeyes could very well thrust the team into the College Football Playoff discussion with such a dominating and complete performance.
OSU will be traveling to Maryland to face the Terrapins next Saturday. Kickoff will be at either noon or 3:30 p.m.