About 10 days ago, Ohio State went to Purdue undefeated and favored, but they left bettered and bruised.
A 49-20 loss to the .500 Boilermakers caught everybody’s attention, and the Buckeyes have had to hear about their demise every day since.
While it has fueled the Ohio State players and coaches, it has also fueled their upcoming opponent. The Nebraska players and coaches saw what worked, saw what didn’t, and saw plenty of hope in a 28-point fourth quarter for the Boilers.
“Early on I thought they looked really good,” Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said on Monday. “There for a while it almost looked like they were toying with some teams and got by. If you watch the Purdue game, defensively they really dominated Purdue for a long time minus a few plays and Purdue hit a few plays in the first half and stayed in the game on defense and the dam kind of broke at the end.”
With the Buckeyes having last week off, Frost is expecting the Buckeyes to come out full speed in an attempt to right some wrongs immediately. He knows that his team will need to match Ohio State’s intensity.
“That’ll be valuable, particularly with the circumstances of this game,” he said. “I foresee their team coming out and playing with their hair on fire right at the beginning. We need to be able to withstand that initial surge and play well at the beginning.”
While Frost didn’t say it himself, it seems that a message has been sent to his team. If they can withstand the first quarter, then Ohio State will also be competing against the doubt in their own minds.
“I know they will be prepared in the first quarter to play their best football of the season,” junior linebacker Mohamed Barry said. “How you handle that is you have to be in your alignment assignments. Your execution has to withstand that fire they’re going to bring during that first quarter. If you can do that, then Purdue is going to seep back into their minds. The doubt is going to seep back into their minds. So that first quarter is big for us.”
For a team that has found some disastrous ways to lose games this season, putting all of their Husker eggs in the first quarter basket might not be the best strategy, but it does give you some insight into how they view this Ohio State team at the moment.
“We have to have an excellent first quarter, in my opinion, that’s going to set up the whole game,” Barry said. “So it’s all on the first quarter, I think, because in the bye week the coaches have been cranking them. They’ve been doing Oklahoma drills and all that stuff. They’re going to come out playing with passion and with fire. They’re going to try to play their best game and if we can stop them, if we can play with them in the first quarter, that doubt is going to seep back in and you are going to see that it’s going to be a competitive game.”
Purdue went to Lincoln one month ago and came away with a 42-28 win over Nebraska, so the Huskers know the sting of losing to the Boilermakers. Seeing the Buckeyes suffer that same setback, however, wasn’t exactly expected.
“I think it got a lot of people’s attention,” senior linebacker Luke Gifford said. “But obviously we expect Ohio State’s going to come out on their A-game and we expect them to play their best game yet this season. But yeah it does give you confidence for sure.”
Now in preparation for the Buckeyes, not only does Nebraska have confidence that OSU can be beaten, but they have seen plenty of film showing the myriad ways that offenses have had success against the Ohio State defense.
“We’ve definitely looked at film from the Purdue game as well as several other games, but that’s definitely part of the breakdown for us,” freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez said.
The Buckeyes’ performance against Purdue, as well as what Martinez has seen from his own team, gives him confidence that the Huskers can pull off the upset in Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
“No question,” he said. “I believe in our team, I believe in my teammates and I know we believe in each other. There’s no question in all of our minds that we can compete with Ohio State and beat Ohio State. That’s our goal. I think if you go into a game thinking you can’t win, you’ve already lost.”