Ohio State’s 56-14 win over Nebraska was a major statement that the Buckeyes are legitimate 2017 national title contenders. But for the Cornhuskers and their fans, it was also a three-hour reminder of just how far they are from being at that level.
OSU scored touchdowns on its first eight possessions. The defense dominated the Huskers so thoroughly that the Nebraska tradition of releasing balloons after their first score was instead celebrated by many after the team merely managed a first down.
“Ohio State, when they are rolling and have the running back going, the quarterback going, the run-option stuff going, and the quarterback is going like that, that’s kind of, like I’ve said for a while, the standard,” said Nebraska coach Mike Riley.
The Buckeyes had little trouble doing whatever they wanted against the once-feared Blackshirts defense. J.T. Barrett finished the night 27-for-33 for 325 yards and 5 touchdowns, and added another 48 yards and two scores on the ground.
“They went wild,” said Nebraska linebacker Mohamed Barry. “They know what they want to do. They dictate what they want to do.”
OSU averaged 5.9 yards every time it ran the ball, and 9.1 yards per pass attempt. Riley said that was a reflection of both the Buckeye players and coaching staff.
“They have both the talent and the execution to make it look like that and we had an impossible time, it looked like, getting them off their flow,” he said.
Riley pointed to the Buckeye offensive line as one of the keys to the dominating performance.
“Because of the threat of the run and the fact that they’re pretty darn good blockers too, we couldn’t make (Barrett) uncomfortable throwing the ball. I know what they did running the ball and all that, but that’s a pretty clean pocket he had throwing, so that’s where we would have liked to make him more uncomfortable.”
Nebraska’s offense fared little better than the defense while the outcome of the game was at all in doubt.
Huskers quarterback Tanner Lee was just 12-for-23 for 96 yards in the first half, and Nebraska managed only 20 yards rushing on 10 carries before the break. By that point, it was 35-0 and there was a full half of garbage time still to play. Lee said it was humbling.
“It’s a big-time learning experience. That’s what we want to be,” Lee said. “Before the season, we wanted to be what Ohio State just was.”
Riley agreed, calling the OSU program “a measuring stick.”
“It certainly does paint a picture of where you have to go if you really want to do what everybody wants to do here,” Riley said. “That’s what’s going to have to happen, the competition with that team, those players, that talent.”