Next beast up: With Ohio State coming in, Blackshirts have to find quick solutions
LINCOLN — Wisconsin’s offense in the fourth quarter did whatever it pleased.
To close out the 38-17 win Saturday, the Badgers ran 28 times in 30 plays, and Nebraska had no answer. Those 30 plays turned into 21 straight points to seal the deal.
When the beating was over, the Blackshirts gave up 353 rushing yards, 466 total yards and 10 yards per carry to true freshman Jonathan Taylor.
And No. 9 Ohio State rolls into town Saturday with an even better offense, the best in the Big Ten.
Which means a quick week of work to try to turn around a defense that was rolled over again by a Big Ten foe on a big stage.
“The mindset needs to be resistant to disappointment and lack of confidence or anything like that,” NU defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said Saturday. “Your psyche is resistant to a disappointment that would prevent getting better. So I would expect everyone would show up with that mindset to improve and get better.”
After its 62-14 win over Maryland this weekend, Ohio State now ranks No. 4 in the country in total offense. The Buckeyes are first in the Big Ten in points per game, pass offense, passing efficiency and first downs. They have the conference’s deadliest weapon, quarterback J.T. Barrett. He leads the Big Ten in total offense.
The Buckeyes run for 246 yards per game and are tied with Oregon for most total touchdowns scored (36). They’ve scored more than 50 points in their last three games.
Barrett accounts for 304 yards per game. He’s thrown 16 touchdowns and one interception this season and is completing 64 percent of his passes.
“It all ties in together,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer told the media after the Buckeyes’ win over Maryland. “I see our offensive line getting better, I think we still have a long way to go in that area, and I think our receivers are making plays for him. I think our quarterback and receivers are working well together.”
In Ohio State’s 62-3 thrashing of the Huskers last year, Barrett threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns.
In the backfield, true freshman J.K. Dobbins won the starting spot and is second in the Big Ten in rushing yards with 111 per game. His 7.6 yards per carry average is the fourth highest among the top 10 rushers in college football, and third in the Big Ten. He’s run for 90 or more yards in three of his last four games, including a 172-yard day against Army.
Meanwhile, Nebraska’s defense has struggled to keep the points down, which has been the main preaching point by Diaco. The Huskers are 12th in scoring defense out of the 14 Big Ten teams. They rank seventh in total defense, ninth in run defense and eighth in pass defense.
The Blackshirts have been in transition since January, when coach Mike Riley fired longtime friend Mark Banker and replaced him with Diaco. The switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 was, in part, a change that Riley thought could give the Huskers a better shot against teams like Wisconsin and Ohio State.
But Saturday proved Nebraska is still a long way from competing at that level, especially with the rotation of injured players into the lineup. Cornerback Chris Jones saw his first action Saturday. Safety Joshua Kalu returned, as did linebacker Marcus Newby.
“It’s been taxing,” Diaco said. “You see new players come back and try to assimilate into the work and really did a beautiful job trying to prepare themselves to get themselves ready, as hard as they could.”
When you’re playing an opponent like that, Diaco said, everything needs to be on point. The coaching, and playing.
He was talking about Wisconsin, but he might as well have been talking about the Buckeyes, too.