As the final seconds ticked off in Columbus, my first thought about the Huskers 36-31 loss to Ohio State was that it was a “moral victory”.
But the more I thought about it, I’m not sure that’s quite accurate. There’s a natural aversion to claiming any sort of “moral victory”. Even when you’ve lost 13 of the last 15 games against division 1-A competition. It’s scoreboard: a loss is still a loss.
But as I thought about it more, I realized that it wasn’t a moral victory, it was simply yet more progress. It’s still a loss, but you can feel a little better about a one touchdown loss in Columbus when the tire tracks from woodshed beatings in Minneapolis and a suburb of Coralville are still healing.
You know what else is progress? The fact that the players and team expected to come away with a win against Ohio State. They certainly aren’t looking at it as a moral victory; in fact, they’re disappointed. It’s not just the loss; with the seventh loss, Nebraska is out of bowl consideration barring a repeat of the 5-7 exception clause that put the Huskers in the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl.
Most fans probably moved on from bowl eligibility after the Northwestern loss. I think I did too, though as the Huskers kept holding serve against the Buckeyes, the thought came back to my mind.
Now, the big thing for me is to finish strong...and that means, finishing with three victories. A 5-7 record isn’t completely out of line in my opinion, and that’s a clear sign of progress from last season’s 4-8.
It isn’t what we wanted. It certainly isn’t what we’ll accept in future seasons. But it’s how Nebraska moves forward. So here’s this week’s report card; as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: Nebraska isn’t in this game without Adrian Martinez, who outplayed Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins on the day. Completing 66% of his passes and running for 72 yards against a playoff contender is a really good day. But as well as he played, there are a few plays he could have played better on. Two passes were just outside the fingertips of receivers, and then there was that freshman mistake of lateralling to JD Spielman. So I’m giving Martinez an A-.
I-Back: Love the heart that Devine Ozigbo is playing with. He never broke a long run that counted, but he was a consistent four to six yard gain all afternoon. Ohio State is strong against the run, so I’m going to give him credit for a solid performance. Maurice Washington wasn’t terribly effective and played sparingly after getting dinged up. Grade: B
WR: One of my concerns for the future is finding a receiver who will replace Stanley Morgan in 2019 in making some big catches. Well, hello Mike Williams who’s leaping catch for a first down kept NU’s second touchdown drive alive in the second quarter. Morgan didn’t exactly disappoint with his 46 yard reception, for what it’s worth. And Ohio State’s linebackers aren’t exactly going to enjoy watching Austin Allen’s 41 yard catch this week. Grade: B+
Offensive Line: Rushed for 222 yards against Ohio State? Only one sack allowed? No penalties? OK then. Grade: B+
Defensive Line: Quiet game as Ohio State’s ground game got untracked. Grade: C
Linebackers: Dedrick Young led in tackles, but Mohammed Barry made some plays.
But the cappers for me are the forced fumbles by Luke Gifford and JoJo Domann on back to back second quarter drives, resulting in Nebraska’s halftime lead. Grade: A-
Secondary: It was easy to bag on Lamar Jackson the last couple of seasons, but after getting benched against Purdue, Jackson has upped his game. Huge interception for the junior. Antonio Reed made a big splash, as did Aaron Williams. Tre Neal didn’t have a very good game, though. Grade: B
Special Teams: Prior to this season, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kicker slip and fall without being touched by the defense. Now Caleb Lightbourn has done it twice.
(In case you forgot the first time.) Speaking of punting, well, Nebraska forgot how to block for a punt this week.
Horrid day for #Nebraska special team so far! First the missed kick on the kickoff (Yes! You read that correct. MISSED the ball) and now the blocked punt for a safety #NEBvsOSU #Sad pic.twitter.com/FZxYZS5QtI— Davey Hudson (@Davey_Hudson) November 3, 2018
But at least they realized that you can fair catch a kickoff and get the ball at the 25 instead of getting a short return out to the 13. Grade: F
Overall: B Better this week, but simply not good enough against the Buckeyes. That’s why I’m feeling MUCH better about Nebraska being 2-7 than I was last season as the season spiraled to 4-8.
How would you grade the Huskers against Ohio State?
This poll is closed
A - Almost pulled off the HUGE upset.
B - Better, but not good enough against the Buckeyes.
C - Considering this isn’t a great Ohio State team, this was merely OK.
D - Didn’t win. Bottom line.
Elsewhere in College Football
LSU: F To my fellow prognosticators who actually thought we should put the ‘Bama/LSU game in the prediction thread, I have only one thing to say:
One of the funniest movies ever. Brilliant.— Seventies Films (@70sFilm) January 31, 2018
“I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal-food-trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.”
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)#70sFilm pic.twitter.com/NbNALK911a
Illinois: A Where did THIS come from?