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With Ohio State, Riley sees an opponent hitting on all cylinders

October 11, 2017 GMT

LINCOLN — Mike Riley wasn’t ready to talk about Ohio State just yet a week ago, saying all of the Huskers’ focus was on Wisconsin to start a difficult two-game stretch.

Riley moved ahead to the Buckeyes on Monday, and talked of a big task on Saturday night with Ohio State “hitting on all cylinders” since a loss to Oklahoma.

“They’re playing at a high level since that one loss,” Riley said. “They’re versatile and productive offensively in almost every category, near the top in everything. Same thing defensively. So it’s a major, major challenge for us.”

Ohio State (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) is ranked No. 8 and No. 9 in this week’s national polls. Senior quarterback J.T. Barrett also is leading the Big Ten in total offense, accounting for 304.0 yards per game with his run-pass threat.

“The guy’s had a lot of experience playing football, and I think it shows more and more all the time,” Riley said. “I think the comfort level he has is high.”

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Barrett led the charge last year as Ohio State thumped Nebraska 62-3 in Columbus. Barrett threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns as the Buckeyes rolled.

As hard as it is to watch, Riley said Nebraska has or would review some of that film.

“We look at it. We look at it because they’ll look at it,” Riley said. “Now, we’re different a little bit offensively and defensively, so that part of it may not be as helpful as it once would have been.”

In reviewing the 38-17 loss to Wisconsin, Riley said the differential in run production pretty much told the story from Saturday night. The Badgers’ success included freshman Jonathan Taylor running for 249 yards, including an important TD just before halftime.

Still in the game at the half, Nebraska wasn’t able to match strides with the unbeaten Badgers over the final two quarters as the offense fizzled.

“Our second-half production was obviously telltale in the game and how it finished,” Riley said.

Some other Riley news and thoughts from Monday:

>> Riley said Nebraska has to be more consistent in its own run game, but added: “I will say, on our side, Devine (Ozigbo) ran hard.”

>> In injury news, Antonio Reed hurt a knee against Wisconsin and Riley called him “questionable, leaning to doubtful” for the Ohio State game. Riley said I-back Mikale Wilbon has gotten better and would do some practice work Monday.

>> Although I-back Tre Bryant also is showing progress after missing four straight games with knee trouble, Riley said NU could look at the possibility of a medical redshirt for the sophomore if he isn’t ready before long.

>> Safety Joshua Kalu, cornerback Chris Jones and outside linebacker Marcus Newby all made it through their return games without incident, Riley said, “and hopefully we’re better for that.” Riley said Jones, coming off knee surgery over the summer, still isn’t ready for full-time duty, however.

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>> Regarding the Huskers’ run defense vs. Wisconsin, Riley also mentioned consistency: “The magnitude of not being in a gap, or being in position on the wrong side of the head of somebody (against Wisconsin), can be magnified into plays. And it was magnified in big plays.” Riley said sometimes when teams are struggling in run defense players can tend to overcompensate, and “it’s got to be team across the board.”

>> Riley said linebacker Dedrick Young played maybe his best game of the season. He also again took note of outside linebacker Luke Gifford, and how the junior has “really found a home in this defense.”

>> Riley complimented quarterback Tanner Lee for making some good throws and hanging in the pocket. “We didn’t get any sacks, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t harassed or hit.”

>> The crowd and atmosphere from Saturday night, when Nebraska honored its 1997 national championship team, is “kind of the identity of Nebraska, and the whole country sees it.”