The Ohio State defense came into Saturday night’s game with the Nebraska Cornhuskers as one of the top defenses in the nation, at least statistically. There were still doubters out there, of course, citing Ohio State’s schedule as proof that they had not yet been truly tested.
Against Nebraska, however, any test that was put in front of them was passed with ease. So much so that it didn’t ever really look like there was actually a test underway.
Rather than waiting for the problems to come to them, the Buckeyes initiated some difficult questions of their own, and the Huskers never had any answers.
Nebraska came into this game averaging 38 points and 486 yards of total offense per game. They left with seven points to their name, and it was little more than charity tossed to them by the Ohio State coaches.
“Those guys competed today,” co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley said of his Buckeye defense. “I wanted to be really aggressive today. I wanted to get our hands on these guys and I wanted to challenge them from the start. Those guys put it on the line. We didn’t back off, we didn’t bail. We played a lot of press too.”
Ohio State held Nebraska to 231 total yards, including just 47 yards passing. This was a dominating outing defensively for the Buckeyes, unlike last season when the Ohio State defense allowed 450 yards of total offense in a 36-31 win over the Huskers.
This defense continues to grow, and also continues to distance itself from past iterations.
“Forget last year, and that’s my message today too because a lot of people are bringing that up, even in games like this,” Hafley said. “This is a new team, it’s a new attitude. Not knocking last year, but that talk’s over. We had to come into this game and play really well. Fundamentally, schematically. I think they have a really good offense. Scott Frost does a really good job. I was worried about this. The quarterback run game, the different things that they showed us on offense. I didn’t sleep very much this week. I’m just really proud of those guys.”
Pundits pointed to this game and wanted to see what this Buckeye defense could do against elite skill. They ended up doing what they have done to every other opponent this season — they shut them down and answered every doubt wagged their way.
Overall, this performance was a confidence builder for the Buckeyes, and it is not likely to be their last one.
“I hope they continue to build confidence as we go and continue to play well because all everybody keeps saying is, ‘Who have they played? Who have they played?'” Hafley said. “Well, Cincinnati is a pretty good football team. Miami (Ohio) won today against a pretty good team. Indiana played pretty good today, and this team had 700 yards last weekend.
“So these guys do deserve credit. Are we a finished product? No. Do I think we can get way better? I do. I guarantee you when I turn on the tape on the plane I’m going to be frustrated about things, but it’s nice to do that when you win games. That’s what I’m starting to learn here.”