Ohio State went to Nebraska expecting its first real test of the 2019 season.
Coach Ryan Day’s biggest challenge ended up being deciding when to take out his starters Saturday night.
Here are seven things to know about the fifth-ranked Buckeyes’ 48-7 win over the Cornhuskers:
1. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields had another strong game.
The Buckeye sophomore completed 15 of 21 passes for 212 yards and threw three touchdown passes. He scored the first touchdown of the night on a 15-yard scramble and finished with 72 yards on the ground despite being sacked three times.
“I think we’re very confident right now,” Fields told reporters after the game. "We came into Lincoln, the crowd was amazing here, they have amazing fans. We had to play against a big crowd and they were loud, at the beginning at least. I think we handled it well, we just came out and jumped on them early and didn’t let up. So I think we did a good job.”
Fields is No. 5 in the nation in passing efficiency and trails only Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in points accounted for. Fields has 138 while the Crimson Tide junior has 150.
Some eyebrows were raised when Fields was still in the game in the fourth quarter and took a couple of big hits.
“They’re a great team,” Day said. “They’re no-huddle and they can strike at any time, it’s a good offense. I just wasn’t sure at that time where the game was going. They came down and scored, (defensive end Chase Young) was out of the game. That was a tough decision to make but we decided, maybe one more drive to keep those guys in there and be smart. You look back and sometimes you can second guess yourself, but that was the decision we made at the time.”
2. Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez had one of his worst games.
The Cornhusker sophomore completed only 8 of 17 passes for 47 yards and ran for 81 yards on 15 attempts. He threw three interceptions before he had completed more than two passes to teammates.
Substituting on defense cost Ohio State the shutout late in the third quarter.
Dedrick Mills got the Huskers on the board with a 9-yard touchdown run with 2:07 on the clock.
That capped a 75-yard drive that nearly matched the team’s yardage total for the game to that point, and it was a drive that was mostly thanks to Martinez scrambling 56 yards on a broken play.
Nearly half of Martinez’s 128 yards came on that one play, Nebraska’s only “explosive play” (20 yards or more) of the night.
3. Ohio State’s rushing attack was dominant again.
J.K. Dobbins ran for 177 yards on 24 carries and Master Teague added 77 yards on 12 carries and scored two touchdowns as the Buckeyes piled up 368 yards on the ground.
“Our O-line is great,” Fields said, crediting offensive line coach Greg Studrawa for his work with a group that had to replace four starters in the offseason and had reserve Josh Alabi in place of Branden Bowen at right tackle Saturday night. “It definitely wasn’t surprising to see. I just think the running backs, J.K. and Master and Marcus (Crowley) at the end did a great job running the ball down their throats and just being physical with them. It really wasn’t surprising to see for me at least.”
The Buckeyes have run for at least 200 yards in every game this season and gone over 300 yards in both of their Big Ten games. They lead the conference and rank seventh nationally averaging 281.6 yards per game on the ground.
Dobbins is third in the nation averaging 130.8 yards per game.
4. Day said the Buckeyes were wary of Nebraska.
So far Ohio State’s first-year head coach, who replaced Urban Meyer and remade the defensive staff in January, has seemed to be as worried about his team’s lack of facing adversity as much as anything the Buckeyes have done wrong so far this season.
Knowing it would be a night game in front of a passionate crowd, he thought this might be their first real test of the season, but it did not work out that way.
“This was a major challenge for us, so I’m proud of that, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” Day said. "This doesn’t mean anything if we don’t keep going.”
5. Scott Frost thought his team had a puncher’s chance.
The former Nebraska quarterback took over a rebuilding project last season from Mike Riley and seems to have his alma mater headed in the right direction, but he and the oddsmakers both knew the Huskers faced an uphill challenge against the Buckeyes on Saturday night.
Whatever chance the 17-point underdogs had to pull an upset evaporated in a torrent of turnovers in the first half. Martinez’s first and third interceptions both gave the Buckeyes possession at midfield and were turned into touchdowns. His second (on a tipped pass) stopped Nebraska’s best drive of the first half at the Ohio State 26 when his team was clinging to life down 14-0.
“You can’t do that against a good team,” Frost said. “We’re all disappointed. I thought we had a puncher’s chance if we came out and played a really good game — and we didn’t and so that’s the result.”
6. Ohio State improved to 7-1 in the all-time series against Nebraska.
The Buckeyes have won five in a row against the Huskers by an average score of 53-18.6.
Since blowing a 27-6 lead and losing 34-27 in Lincoln in 2011, Ohio State has outscored Nebraska 265-93, and the only close game in that time is a 36-31 decision last season in Columbus.
“I give a ton of credit to them and their coaching staff because they’re a lot better than they were a year ago,” Frost said.
7. Next up is Michigan State.
Like the Cornhuskers prior to facing Ohio State, the Spartans have one loss on the season
Coach Mark Dantonio’s team presents an entirely different sort of challenge from the offensive-minded Huskers, though.
The Spartans have the No. 7 defense in the country in terms of total yards (253.8 per game), and they rank fourth in rushing defense (55.8) and 14th in scoring defense (15.0 points per game).
The 48th meeting between Ohio State and Michigan State is set for another 7:30 kickoff Saturday night at Ohio Stadium.
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