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Nebraska-Ohio State: Tracking the offense, defense

November 5, 2018 GMT

Tracking the offense

The game plan

Ohio State got a heavy dose of a running Adrian Martinez on NU’s opening touchdown drive. And while the Huskers rarely had time to throw deep, they found a rhythm working the edges with short passes before holes opened for Devine Ozigbo late in the first half. Big Red utilized — and is more comfortable with — more of its playbook after flat road efforts at Michigan and Wisconsin.

The adjustments

Five straight punts to open the second half ultimately sank Nebraska, with three consecutive drives quashed by critical drops. After that, the Huskers settled for a field goal despite moving inside the OSU 5-yard line. Ohio State did a better job gumming up the run game, too (18 NU carries for 73 second-half yards).

Nebraska star

Adrian Martinez: He carried the load with his legs early and kept Nebraska close late with his arm, finishing 22 of 33 passing for 266 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 72 yards and two more scores. Outside of an ill-advised lateral pass that went for a fumble, he didn’t look like an 18-year-old freshman. And the late punts were more about receiver drops than his misfires.

Stat of the game

Six: Consecutive times the Huskers have reached 450 yards of total offense — they hit that number exactly Saturday — tying a school record for the longest streak in school history. They also accomplished the feat in 1972, 1982, 1994 and 1995.

Final word

The expectation of a shootout largely materialized, though the scoreless third quarter will surely haunt Nebraska as it studies film this week. Martinez continues to flash his considerable potential and might have willed Big Red to a stirring upset if not for a few mistakes on the receivers’ end of the passing game. The unit took another step forward Saturday and is unquestionably the strength of the team. It’s hard to see Nebraska losing when it cuts out some lingering errors.

Tracking the defense

The game plan

A fourth-and-2 stop set the tone early. Nebraska was frequently in position to halt the run and benefited from some uncharacteristic miscues between Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins and his receivers. Not only did the Blackshirts respond to a Husker second-quarter fumble by forcing a rare OSU punt, but a pair of fumbles on strips by JoJo Domann and Luke Gifford evidenced the ongoing culture shift while flipping the momentum at intermission.

The adjustments

A Lamar Jackson interception and two more punts highlighted the second half, but three OSU touchdown drives — two were 80 yards or longer — were a reminder that the Blackshirts haven’t fully arrived. Shoddy tackling reared its head at times, too, particularly in the run game as Ohio State rushers rolled up 176 yards in the third and fourth quarters to clinch victory.

Nebraska star

JoJo Domann: The sophomore defensive back/linebacker continues to make plays when given a chance. His strip sack sparked the Huskers early, and he harassed Haskins a few other times, too. Now fully healthy, he tied for second on the team with seven total tackles in Columbus and mixed in a pass breakup.

Stat of the game

Three: Takeaways by the Huskers, marking the second straight week that’s happened. Two forced fumbles and an interception kept Nebraska close.

Final word

Mixed emotions for the Blackshirts after this one. The improvement was obvious after the 62- and 56-point humiliations the past two years, when OSU didn’t punt once. But the defense also couldn’t stop the Buckeyes on their final two possessions when one more big play could have paved the way to an upset. But three takeaways, one penalty and fewer blown assignments have this unit trending upward.