Ohio State is a good (maybe very good) team.
Nebraska is a decent team.
Only one of those things was evident Saturday night as the fifth-ranked Buckeyes rolled to a 48-7 win.
Why was this game not competitive, particularly with the Cornhuskers playing at home? In short, nearly everything that could go right for Ohio State did.
Here are five examples:
1. Great plays.
Nebraska had a chance to get some momentum early when the Cornhuskers received the opening kickoff.
They picked up a first down, but that was all as Jeffrey Okudah intercepted Adrian Martinez at midfield on a great athletic play in which he dove in front of a receiver to snag a ball that could have been completed. That got Ohio State started.
Toward the end of the first half, Austin Mack made another big-time play when he hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Justin Fields. Dicaprio Bootle was all over Mack, but the Buckeye senior still found a way to come up with the catch, good offense trumping good defense.
And to cap off the scoring, Fields found freshman Garret Wilson on a fade that is essentially indefensible if the throw is in the right place and the receiver gets his feet in bounds. It was, and he did.
2. Bad mistakes
Martinez’s third interception was an overthrow that Jordan Fuller caught diving to the ground at midfield.
Nebraska was down 17-0 at that point so a comeback win might not have been likely, but the miscue helped open the floodgates and turn the game into a laugher as Ohio State took the ball and scored three plays later.
3. Good schemes.
Several times Ohio State seemed to have something drawn up specifically to beat the Nebraska defense.
One of the best examples came on a third-and-10 on the Buckeyes’ second drive of the night. They went trips to the field then ran Fields the other way. He picked up 14 yards with relative ease to give Ohio State a first-and-goal.
Another example came two plays later when Ohio State used tight end Jeremy Ruckert to disrupt Nebraska’s man coverage and free K.J. Hill for an easy 2-yard touchdown catch from Fields. Bootle lost Hill on a quick out trying to avoid Ruckert.
Even when Nebraska showed a wrinkle of its own with a package of I formation plays, Ohio State was eventually able to adjust.
The Huskers gashed them for four first downs before turning the ball over when Martinez was pressured into a bad throw that eventually landed in Okudah’s arms. The next time Nebraska rolled out that old-school look, Ohio State had come up with a 4-4 front to neutralize it.
4. Bad luck.
See Okudah’s second interception.
If that ball had landed safely on the turf, the Huskers likely get at least a field goal and something to feel good about despite falling in a 14-0 hole early.
It probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game, but it might have prevented Ohio State from running away with it so early.
5. Better players.
Sometimes there was just physically nothing Nebraska could do. Ohio State’s players were just too good.
Examples of this would be every time the Buckeyes lined up to run the ball, and every time the Huskers dropped back to pass when Chase Young was on the field.
Ohio State’s first touchdown fits this category as linebacker Mohamed Barry, Nebraska’s 2018 defensive MVP, had Fields in his sights but could not bring down the Ohio State quarterback in the open field on a 15-yard scramble to the end zone.
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