Game replay: Ohio State 36, Nebraska 31
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Four keys from Nebraska’s 36-31 loss to Ohio State on Saturday, including a peculiar play, a questionable call and more.
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Caleb Lightbourn’s near-whiff of a kickoff that appeared to be an onside kick went viral almost minutes after it happened. Though Ohio State didn’t score any points off Lightbourn’s gaffe, it set a special teams tone that Nebraska didn’t shake. The Huskers’ special teams are such a liability that they could cost them more games this season. The other peculiar play was more costly. On a first-and-goal at Ohio State’s 10, Adrian Martinez got caught between running it and passing the ball to JD Spielman. Martinez zipped it backward to Spielman, who fumbled the pass. OSU recovered, killing a terrific scoring chance.
A pass interference call on Dicaprio Bootle, which came during an OSU touchdown drive, wasn’t so much questionable as wrong. An isolated replay inside Ohio Stadium revealed Bootle did virtually nothing on the play. Was it a makeup for an offensive pass interference penalty two plays before? Perhaps. That wasn’t a great call, either, but it was better than the flag on Bootle. Another moment may have haunted NU more when coach Scott Frost elected not to go for a fourth-and-inches at his own 14. In not doing so, he chose instead to try to draw Ohio State offsides. When it didn’t work, he called timeout. It was a timeout Nebraska could have used at game’s end to stop the clock on OSU’s final drive.
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins wasn’t merely human — he was off. Though he completed 18 of 32 passes, he threw high of his intended targets and made his open receivers work for several of those catches. His pocket presence and awareness was sketchy, too. He coughed up the ball when Husker safety JoJo Domann, coming on a blitz, smacked him good. Haskins had no sense of it.
Nebraska’s defense took a big step Saturday. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander needed a big game — for himself and his guys. He got one. The Blackshirts forced three turnovers, stopped OSU on downs and forced four punts to boot. With NU’s fast-paced offense, the Huskers’ defense won’t rest much and will be put in tough spots. On Saturday, the pieces fell into place. OSU scored on just five of its 15 drives.