Military Appreciation, when it comes to sporting events, is always a special day. The mixture of pageantry and reverence to honor individuals who make the decision to serve something greater than themselves is something I look forward to. Whether it’s on the national level, an NFL game or Saturday’s Husker game perhaps, or High School athletics honoring service men and women during a halftime presentation or performance. As someone who comes from a long line of military personnel, it always moves me to honor those who answered the call to defend our nation.
Unintentional transition, but the Nebraska Cornhuskers looked to defend the pride of the program, the state, and themselves against the Ohio State Buckeyes on a cool fall morning with a crowd of 84,426 in attendance.
This team and staff has been facing scrutiny all week. After dropping another winnable game to the Purdue Boilermakers by, you guessed it, one possession. Yes, the Huskers are losing close games, which is an improvement to years past when team’s have visibly quit during the adversity that comes with losing seasons. But it’s the fact that the performance’s have matched the opponents skill level and, regardless of their ranking, has played to that level of competition. Making the close losses against winnable foes all the more baffling and frustrating to the fans of the beloved Big Red.
The Cornhuskers, once again, welcomed a Top 10 opponent to Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Was the result more of the same “close, but not close enough”, “the team has finally given up”, or “the Cornhuskers shock the College Football World and destroy the chances of the Buckeyes to represent the B1G in the College Football Playoff”?
PRE GAME NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS
Deontai Williams continues to be inactive today, recovering from a knee injury suffered several weeks ago. But a fellow Husker Writer noticed something interesting in warm ups.
Sevion Morrison was not in uniform, or anywhere to be found on the field. Will we be hearing about a in season transfer in the post game presser?
Cooper Jewett and Marvin Scott III saw reps behind the rotation of Johnson, Yant, and Stepp.
But, Ohio State was not without it’s share of news as well. Projected early NFL draft prospect WR, Garrett Wilson, was unavailable today. This setback should not slow down the Buckeyes high powered offense much. Chris Olave is a first round talent and Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the next superstar in line, with plenty of young talent waiting in the wings of a already loaded program.
Nebraska wins the toss and differs to the second half. The Blackshirts will be on display to start the game.
On the Nebraska 43 yard line, Coach Ryan Day elects to go for it on 4th and 1. QB C.J. Stroud tries to hit TE Jeremy Ruckert down the seam, but LB Luke Reimer matches him step for step and breaks up the pass. Turnover on Downs. 11:28 remaining in the quarter.
After a nice 25 yard pass play to WR Samari Toure on the first play of the drive, the Huskers stall at the OSU 27 yard line. Chase Contreraz comes on to try a 45 yard field goal.
It goes wide left. No good. OSU takes over at their 27 yard line. 9:17 remaining in the 1st.
After a near pick early in the drive, OLB Jojo Domann finally gets it done.
The super senior from Colorado Springs steps in front of WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba along the sideline and toe taps to secure it at the Nebraska 14 yard line.
The play was reviewed, and confirmed by the officials. 6:45 remaining in the quarter.
A holding call stalls the drive at the Nebraska 22 yard on 4th and 9. William Pryzstup to punt. 40 yards on the punt. Smith-Njigba tries to return the punt but is dropped for a 3 yard loss by Reserve LB John Bullock, a key piece on NU special teams units. 4:28 remaining in the 1st.
3 and out by the Blackshirts!!!
The defense is making their presence felt on the Buckeyes offense early and often.
Jesse Mirco punts the ball 36 yards to WR Oliver Martin. Fair Catch. Huskers begin on their 25 yard line. 3:35 remains.
3 and out with two sacks on the drive. The offense is not doing the D any favors today. Pryzstup punts the ball 58 yards and Smith-Njigba returns it 10 yards to the Buckeye 34 yard line. 1:17 remains in the quarter.
OSU holds the ball to the end of the quarter. Currently at the their 37 yard line with a 3rd and 7.
NEBRASKA: 0 / OHIO STATE: 0
The Blackshirts bow up and force a 26 yard FG by the Buckeyes. Noah Ruggles makes the kick. 11 plays, 57 yards, 4:52 on the drive. 11:25 remaining in the half.
NEBRASKA: 0 / OHIO STATE: 3
Huskers make it to their 36, but no further. Then Pryzstup shanks the punt, making it only net 13 yards, putting the Buckeyes on the Husker 49 yard line. 10:05 in the half.
Buckeyes go the 49 yards in 7 plays, taking 3:24 off the clock. Olave with a 3 yard reception from Stroud. Ruggles kick good. 6:41 remains.
NEBRASKA: 0 / OHIO STATE: 10
Ruggles kick is fair caught by Alante Brown at the 2 yard line.
Huskers drive to the Buckeye 29 and stall. Contreraz on for his 2nd attempt of the day, this one from 39 yards out.
KICK IS GOOD!
A touchdown would have been nice on what was arguably their best looking drive of the day, but it cuts into the Buckeye lead. 8 plays, 54 yards, and 2:49 off the clock. 3:52 remaining in the 2nd quarter.
NEBRASKA: 3 / OHIO STATE: 10
WR Emeka Egbuka returns Brendan Franke’s kick to the 24 yard. 3:46 remains.
1 play, 75 yards, 12 seconds. Stroud hits Smith-Njigba, and he does the rest up the sideline. XP is good. 3:34 in the half.
NEBRASKA: 3 / OHIO STATE: 17
Martinez answers Stroud’s TD pass with a 72 yarder of his own to Samari Toure.
Contreraz XP is good. 2 plays, 75 yards. 41 seconds.
NEBRASKA: 10 / OHIO STATE: 17
3 AND OUT BLACKSHIRTS!!!
A massive stand by OLB Caleb Tannor and DE Casey Rogers. Mirco punts the ball 51 yards, Martin returns it 2 to the Husker 20. 1:37 remains in the half.
Martinez takes a 9 yard sack on the first play. Timeout OSU. 5 yard reception by Omar Manning. Timeout OSU. 2 yard run by Rahmir Johnson. 4th and 14. Nebraska milks clock to the 38 seconds remaining, then calls timeout. Pryzstup puntst the ball 43 yards to the Buckeyes 41. 32 seconds left.
Buckeyes try to get in field goal range, making it to the Husker 40, but no further as time expires. Huskers to receive the 2nd half kickoff.
NEBRASKA: 10 / OHIO STATE: 17
- The Blackshirts carried the team for most of the half. Only 278 total yards for OSU at the half. Held RB Treyveon Henderson in check for the most part. Currently +1 in the turnover margin and playing with their hair on fire.
- For as well as the D has played, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is torching the secondary with 8 catches for 148 yards and a TD, currently. Stroud is 19 for 30 for 219 with 2 TD’s and an INT. Blackshirts swapped a LB for a CB late in the 2nd. Might stick with that going forward in this game.
- Adrian Martinez is efficient as a passer today (9 for 13, 153 yards and a TD thus far) and serviceable as a runner when needed. He clearly is dealing with something in his lower body though. The 3 sacks have been untimely and he’s held the ball slightly longer than I like. Hopefully the Buckeyes don’t get wise and just drop coverage all the time.
- If the Huskers really want to get the Buckeyes attention. They HAVE TO score on this opening possession. Right now the M.O. of this offense is get the ball to start the 3rd quarter and proceed to go 3 and out. Frost, Lubik, and Co. have to scheme the best 2nd half drive in their lives. The crowd, while engaged, will get restless if this offense comes out flat and the doubt will begin to creep into the 80,000+ faithful's minds.
Fair catch Alante Brown.
Back to back 7 yard sacks. Nebraska punts 49 yards. Smith-Njigba returns 21 yards to their 48 yard line. 12:26 left in the quarter.
Blackshirts get the Buckeyes into 4th and 5 at the Husker 29 yard line. Ruggles onto attempt a 46 yard field goal.
Kick is good. 5 plays, 23 yards, 2:44. 9:42 remains in the 3rd.
NEBRASKA: 10 / OHIO STATE: 20
Drive stalls at the Husker 47. Pryzstup punts 41 yards with a fair catch called at the OSU 12 by Smith-Njigba.
Referees aided the drive with a 15 yard Kick Catch Interference on Alante Brown, which was questionable at best. Moves Buckeyes to their 27 yard line. 7:59 remaining in the quarter.
Blackshirts force a punt of the Buckeyes on their 47 yard line. Mirco punt travels 49 yards and is downed at the Husker 4 yard line. 5:23 remains in the 3rd.
3 and out. and lost 2 yards.
4th and 2 at the OSU 18 yard line. Ruggles to attempt a 35 yarder. Kick is good.
6 plays. 35 yards. 2:21. 2:05 remains in the 3rd quarter.
NEBRASKA: 10 / OHIO STATE: 23
Huskers march 75 yards in 5 plays and 1:43. Aided by a 53 yard catch and run by Toure, 2AM takes it in from the 1 yard line. Contreraz XP good. 22 seconds remain in the 3rd.
NEBRASKA: 17 / OHIO STATE: 23
Fair catch by WR Xavier Johnson on Brendan Franke kick.
OSU takes it to their 43 yard line as time runs out of the 3rd.
NEBRASKA: 17 / OHIO STATE: 23
MYLES FARMER WITH THE INT OF HIS LIFE!!! The Redshirt Freshman from Atlanta, Georgia returns it 14 yards from the Nebraska 10 yard line, but an Illegal block in the back by Cam Taylor-Britt nets only 4 yards on the return to start on the 14 of Nebraska. 14:50 remains in the game.
Huskers drive to the OSU 13. Chase Contreraz from 31 yards out.
Field Goal missed, wide left. 9:47 remains in the 4th quarter.
Blackshirts force a punt on their 36 yard line. Fair catch by Martin at the 10. 6:11 remains in the game.
2AM rushes for 21 on the first play, then three straight incompletions. Pryzstup booms a 56 yard punt, fair caught by Smith-Njigba at the Buckeye 13. 5:17 left in the game.
Garrett Nelson nearly makes the play of the game. The Scottsbluff Native caused an 11 yard strip sack on Stroud that nearly ended up in the hands on the secondary, instead the possession remains with OSU.
OSU drives to Nebraska 29 yard line and attempts a 46 yard field goal. Ruggles makes the field goal.
9 plays, 58 yards, 3:48 off the clock. 1:29 remaining.
NEBRASKA: 17 / OHIO STATE: 26
Alante Brown returns Ruggles kick to the 27 yard line. 1:25 left in the game.
On 3rd and 3 from the 43, Martinez has his pass batted around in the air and intercepted by LB Steele Chambers at the 45 yard line. 56 seconds remain.
2 kneel downs by Stroud. Ballgame.
FINAL: OHIO STATE: 26 / NEBRASKA: 17
WALK ON WHO STOOD OUT
I’m going to spotlight reserve OLB John Bullock. The Creighton Prep product made a key tackle on an otherwise unstoppable playmaker today in Jaxon Smith-Njigba. 1 tackle, but it was a big one.
PLAYERS ON FIRE
Samori Toure stole the show on offense. 2 50+ catch and runs, one resulting in a TD. He finished with 4 catches for 150 yards and the TD. After being criticized on his 2nd quarter drop in the end zone, the grad transfer bounces back and reaffirms his place and decision to be a playmaker against elite teams in the conference and the country. Looking forward to seeing him on Sundays next season.
Jojo Domann for the 2nd week in a row. This kid is without a doubt, the heartbeat of this defense. 9 total tackles, 6 solo. 1 of them a TFL. 2 pass break ups. A toe drag interception on the sideline. I would have liked to hear from him in the post game presser, but considering the emotional roller coaster this game presented and another bowl opportunity missed, he has the right to process this in his own way. But, it’s because of guys like Jojo. And Stille. And CTB. And Deontai and Marquel. These guys are why I believe Coach Frost returns next year, and why he will eventually right this ship.
- Coach Frost disclosed Adrian has had a Broken Jaw and a High Ankle Sprain he's been dealing with the past several weeks. Explains the lack of mobility until late in the game today. Adrian confirmed that one of them was, and is, enough to sideline him for the rest of the year. Broken jaw for sure. Just confirms how much of a warrior he is and how much he loves this program and his teammates. I will go to bat for 2AM any day. I hope he comes back, but I am not a good enough reader of the mind or body language to tell you that I am certain on that fact. He's been through so much here, does he have one more season left in him?
- Garrett Nelson took his turn to come up to the podium, still in uniform, as Jojo did the previous week, and wear his emotion on his sleeve. #44 looks to be the heir apparent to the heartbeat of this Blackshirt unit after Domann leaves later this year. He was visibly pained and emotional when speaking about his disappoint that the Seniors who returned, particularly Jojo, would once again be unable to experience a post season bowl bid.
- Myles Farmer also came out, still in uniform, to speak. I wonder if this is a collective decision by the unit. I’m into it, shows you that they are literally owning the game, win or loss, by coming in as if you gave everything you had and they are not ready to get out of that uniform.
Well, to answer my own question from the pre game comments I made we see it was once again, “close, but not close enough”. This team had opportunities to at the very least tie the game at 23 at one point, but specialists still seem to be struggling. The offense was anemic in the first and final quarter. They moved it in the 4th quarter, but missed opportunities again cost this team a potential victory.
I feel bad for this entire team. Staff, coaches, players, everyone. I believe Coach Frost when he says they are close. That he loves this team, this University, this state. I believe him. I used to work as a car salesman and I can tell you that his conviction is truthful and his hurt that these players have yet to find the success that seemed so accessible in Frost’s playing days, is genuine.
I know some people want him gone, specific coaches on his staff gone maybe more specifically. Anything to get us out of this horrible nightmare that has been a near constant for 20 plus years. Nebraska is still a big time program, with a rabid fan base and resources to build a high quality football. So it stands to reason that YES, AD Trev Alberts could give Frost and his staff the boot at seasons end, regardless of the outcome of Wisconsin and Iowa after the bye week.
But it is my opinion, Alberts won’t. Staff decisions might come from the head coach himself, realizing he needs to make a change. Maybe they won’t at all. I’m not going to complain or gripe if they are or are not.
Because the simple fact of the matter is, Husker Nation, we’ve been a broken program for a long time. The fan base is so sure that we can recreate the historical run we achieved and the world will welcome us back on top with open arms.
They won’t, by the way.
They like to see us down. Angry and bitter at the lack of instant success. They want us to continue firing and hiring coaches. Hoping for the quick fix, the adrenaline boost, the fleeting high that addicts chase trying to achieve after that first taste. Because they know we so long to go back to that time.
It think it’s time to look at ourselves in the mirror, as fans, and ask ourselves if we think these struggles will ultimately lead to success. If we trust that Scott Frost and his staff, whether current or new hires, and his process of rebuilding the culture and grit of Nebraska Football is something worth still believing in. Or could someone else come in and do it better, faster, and with less heartache?
The quick fix might not always be the best one (see Bo Pelini tenure at Nebraska for reference).
Rest up during the bye week, Husker faithful.
I still believe we can bring a couple trophies home to Lincoln before we close the book on the 2021 Nebraska Cornhusker Football Season.