We’ve seen this act before. Nebraska on the big stage, playing a big game...and getting humiliated. Some fans (and media types) thought that Mike Riley’s calm demeanor would be the perfect antidote to these prime-time meltdowns. Well, that didn’t happen; this was the second worst loss in the history of Nebraska football, trailing only the 70-10 loss to Texas Tech in 2004.
One difference between this game and that 2004 loss was that Ohio State is a really, really... really good team. In September, they throttled everybody they faced. But in October, the Buckeyes seemed to sputter. The young offensive line didn’t play well, and the Buckeyes offense struggled.
October is over, and November’s Ohio State team looks like a College Football Playoff team. So let’s give the Buckeyes all of the credit for taking the Huskers behind the proverbial woodshed.
As for the Huskers, well, they certainly made life easier for Ohio State. The Buckeyes out-talented the Huskers, outplayed the Huskers and yes, Urban Meyer and Tim Beck outcoached Mike Riley and company. When things like this happen, there isn’t one single point of failure. Pretty much anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
Some people suggest that we shouldn’t grade this game, choosing instead to burn the report card. Well, that’s not my history. In some respects, this report card is kind of easy. You pretty much know what the grade is going to be.
QB: Tommy Armstrong wasn’t having a good night before his trip to the emergency room in the ambulance. Thank goodness he was able to walk back onto the field in the second half. That being said, the game plan that Armstrong and Fyfe were asked to execute was questionable, at it’s most kindest description. In the second half, Nebraska ran the ball 6 times for 38 yards, and completed 4 of 16 passes for 43 yards. If you want to argue that Nebraska couldn’t run the ball, then please explain how throwing the ball was somehow better. This was a lesson I thought Nebraska’s coaches had learned in the offseason; I guess old (bad) habits die hard. Grade: F
I-Back: I almost want to give an incomplete here, but I won’t. Terrell Newby tried to run the ball hard, but running room up the middle was in woeful short supply...especially in tight formations which seemed to only clog the running lanes more. Mikale Wilbon showed a nice burst in relief; he should see more carries. Devine Ozigbo clearly isn’t healthy; three carries for a net loss of seven yards should cause the coaches and training staff to reassess his status. (Especially the idea of pitching him the ball on a sweep.) Grade: D+
Wide Receivers: Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf went all-in on the deep passing game, putting everything on the receivers making plays. It didn’t happen. Stanley Morgan will probably be reliving this nightmare for weeks; hopefully he can shake it off. Grade: F
Offensive Line: I’m going to be a contrarian here and say that the offensive line actually wasn’t horrible. They didn’t play well, mind you...but they weren’t the reason Nebraska lost either. As the game spiraled down the toilet, Mike Cavanaugh and Danny Langsdorf missed an opportunity to get already-redshirted freshmen like Christian Gaylord, Michael Decker and Jalin Barnett some experience. The game was over, and there was no need to risk Nick Gates getting any more injured. Grade: D+
Defensive Line: In the preview, I thought the key matchup for the Huskers was the defensive line generating pressure against Ohio State’s young offensive line. Offensive line struggles in October had led to a bit of a slump for the Buckeyes, and that looked like an opportunity for the Big Red. Except for some occasional holds (that weren’t called) of Freedom Akinmoladun (who had five tackles), that didn’t happen. Grade: F
Linebackers: I thought Michael Rose-Ivey gave some great effort, but more than once, he couldn’t finish the tackle. Josh Banderas tied for the team lead in tackles, but got pulled in the third quarter in favor of Chris Weber, who actually made some plays. Grade: F
Secondary: Nathan Gerry goes on the list as a guy who gave some effort, and Joshua Kalu had two pass breakups. The rest? Just a mess. Grade: F
Unspecial Teams: I can’t really give Luke McNitt credit for falling on Ohio State’s unforced punt muff. But I can point out Tre Bryant fielding a kickoff along the sideline. Let it go out of bounds, and Nebraska gets the ball at the 35. It’s not why Nebraska lost, but little things like might matter in a closer game. Grade: C-
Overall: F This was a bad beatdown. Ohio State played well, and Nebraska dropped a turd in the punchbowl. Dust yourselves off, Huskers, and put this one behind you. There are three games ahead of us that are absolutely winnable. 10-2 is still possible; in fact, it’s actually probable. And that’s a really good record when you consider 2015.
Elsewhere in College Football
Iowa F If misery loves company, we can share a group hug with our neighbors to the east.
Central Florida: B+ The Fighting Frosties are one win away from bowl eligibility. If they don’t get it this week against Cincinnati, it gets tougher against Tulsa and South Florida.
Texas A&M: F No CFP for you!
Louisville: A+ Just go ahead and engrave Lamar Jackson’s name on the Heisman Trophy now.