5 Answers: Ohio State at Nebraska

This week we wondered if either team would get anything going through the air, if the Nebraska option would be a factor, how the Ohio State offensive line would bounce back and if someone could contribute some big plays for the Buckeyes against the Cornhuskers.

1. Will either team conjure up any semblance of a passing game?

Nebraska had a passing game. Ohio State had a semblance of one for a period of time.

Cornhusker quarterback Taylor Martinez completed 16 of 22 passes – both season highs – for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Much of his early success came as a result of checkdowns and easy throws against OSU zones, but he caught the Buckeye secondary napping with a 36-yard play action pass to Quincy Enunwa in the third quarter. Enunwa slipped behind OSU safety Christian Bryant and Martinez found him to cut the Buckeyes' lead to seven points late in the third quarter.

Braxton Miller completed 5 of 8 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, but backup Joe Bauserman was completely ineffective when he replaced the injured freshman late in the game. Bauserman missed on 9 of his 10 pass attempts, including multiple throwaways when he could not find a receiver comfortably open. He also underthrew a potential big play that instead turned into an interception that preceded Nebraska's go-ahead score.

"We weren't real comfortable defensively anyway, so we knew we had to stay after them a bit," Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell said of the decision to go deep with Bauserman. "You have to have the ability to take some shots and make plays. Those are all things we will go back and look at and wish we did different. It is a one-on-one matchup and the guy made a good catch."


2. Can Ohio State contain the Nebraska option?

After opening the game with a preference for tosses, power runs and short passes, the Cornhuskers got back into the game and eventually broke through with a big assist from their old friend, the option.

Martinez kicked off the comeback by keeping on a zone read option and racing through the heart of the Ohio State defense for an 18-yard touchdown that made it 27-13 in the third quarter.

The Buckeyes eventually buckled as the Cornhuskers began stretching them horizontally with their running attack, and Martinez finished with 102 yards rushing on 17 carries.

"Taylor played his butt off," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said. "He's one of the leaders on the team, and I'm proud of him. Everyone wants to doubt him. Whatever. You guys can choose to write whatever you want and attack him like the fans will, and now they'll praise him."

Pelini also praised offensive coordinator Tim Beck for how he called the second half.


3. Will the Buckeye offensive line bounce back?

After a nightmarish performance at home against Michigan State last week, the Ohio State offensive line went on the road to control the line of scrimmage for a long stretch of the game.

In his return from a five-game suspension, senior left tackle Mike Adams looked a lot like the All-Big Ten player he was last season.

Facing a talented and active Nebraska front seven, the Buckeyes cleared the way for 243 yards rushing, including 104 by tailback Carlos Hyde and 91 by Miller.


4. How about some constraint plays?

The Ohio State I formation running game continued to be a straight mix of lead zones, draws and power plays, but offensive coordinator Jim Bollman did give Miller some chances to roll out and try to complete some passes and pressure the edge of the defense.

The Buckeyes' first touchdown was actually a bit of double deception. Miller faked a handoff to his running back on what looked like it would be the infamous "Dave" power play but kept it and continued rolling to his right. After drawing the defense's attention to him, Miller stopped and threw back across the field to wide open tight end Jake Stoneburner, who outraced the Nebraska safeties to the goal line.

The throwback was a previously unseen addition to a play action pass Ohio State has run at various times over the years.


5. How about somebody makes a big play?

The Cornhuskers' 34-27 win certainly did not lack for explosive plays.

Ohio State hit the first two with Stoneburner's 32-yard catch and run then Hyde's 63-yard touchdown run on a well-timed cutback, but Nebraska struck back with Martinez's 36-yard pass to Enunwa and a 30-yard touchdown connection between the quarterback and I-back Rex Burkhead, who caught a short pass in the flats, juked an Ohio State defender out of his shoes then raced to the end zone for the game-tying score with 7:35 left in the fourth quarter.

The Buckeye defense helped set up a field goal when safety Orhian Johnson intercepted an errant throw by Martinez, but overall the unit lacked production again.

"When (momentum) shifts the other way you have to make a play or have something good happen," Fickell said. "We just didn't do it."


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