A grade card on Ohio State’s 62-3 win over Nebraska on Saturday night, a game in which the biggest explosions came from the offense and defense, not the pre-game fireworks.
All those worries after lackluster performances against Northwestern, Penn State and Indiana? They’re gone, or at least they were for one game, when OSU scored 62 points and rolled up 590 yards of total offense against Nebraska.
The improvement was most apparent in the passing game, where quarterback J.T. Barrett was 26 of 38 for 290 yards and four touchdowns. Both the completions and attempts were career highs for Ohio State’s junior quarterback. The deep pass, which had been absent from the Buckeyes’ arsenal for the last few games, made an appearance when Barrett connected with Curtis Samuel for a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second half.
Samuel played a big role in the offensive explosion with 8 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns and 41 yards rushing on 5 carries. K.J. Hill led the wide receivers with five catches.
Freshman running back Demario McCall made a bid for more playing time with a team-leading 73 yards rushing on 16 carries. He got some extra work when Mike Weber left the game with a shoulder injury, but Meyer said the injury wasn’t serious.
Nebraska got four first downs in the first quarter and only five more the rest of the game. But the big story for Ohio State’s defense was two interceptions for touchdowns.
Damon Webb returned his first career interception 36 yards for OSU’s first touchdown on the third play of the game and Nebraska never recovered. Malik Hooker became only the second Buckeye ever to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a season when he picked off a pass and returned it 48 yards for a score in the third quarter.
Ohio State did not have a quarterback sack but its defensive line dominated the Cornhuskers’ offensive line. Nebraska had only 78 yards rushing.
The Buckeyes did not have to deal with Nebraska starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. for the last 2 1/2 quarters after he suffered a concussion in a scary fall as he was tackled while scrambling for a first down. But they already led 24-3 when Armstrong was forced out of the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Tyler Durbin continued his amazing run through his first season as Ohio State’s kicker when he kicked two short field goals, making him 13 of 14 this season. Punter Cameron Johnston was not called on to punt when Ohio State scored on 10 straight drives before running out the clock in the final six minutes of the game.
Return man Dontre Wilson might be in danger of losing that job after losing a fumble on a punt return. OSU coach Urban Meyer said he will study the kick return situation this week.
Ohio State looked like a team that could dominate two overmatched opponents (Maryland and Michigan State) the next two weeks and then take a swing at Michigan for a trip to the Big Ten championship game. To do that, OSU will need more games like it played against Nebraska.