2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 6 - Ohio State at Nebraska
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Oct. 8 at Nebraska 34 … Ohio State 27
CFN Analysis: All of a sudden, the Husker offensive line started blocking. Just when the game appeared lost, and the Buckeyes seemed to be in total command, Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead got room to move and they started running more decisively and with more of a purpose. The offense didn't have to throw the ball to get back in the game, the ground game was doing a good enough job of cranking out yards in chunks. Defensively, Lavonte David had his best game of the season with 13 tackles and a game-changing turnover, but he has to do too much thanks to the mediocre play from the defensive front. Jared Crick doesn't look the same in the interior. He doesn't have the same burst off the ball and he's not getting in on enough plays against the run. With two weeks off before Minnesota, he'll get a few weeks to rest up to try to get back to his old, dominant self.
The loss of Braxton Miller didn't cause the defense to go bye-bye. The offense went nowhere with Joe Bauserman, who completed just 1-of-10 passes for 13 yards and a pick, but he didn't get any help from a running game that worked well early with Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall putting up decent yards. The D needed to step up when Miller went down, but instead the line got pushed around and gashed over the last 20 minutes. The linebackers missed too many stops and took too many poor angles, and the line didn't hold up when it needed to close down the middle. On the plus side, Miller looked terrific, running for 91 yards on ten carries and making things happen on the move completing 5-of-8 passes for 95 yards and a score. The Buckeyes need more tune-ups, and they won't get it with Illinois and Wisconsin up next.
(AP) LINCOLN, Neb. -- The fans who criticized Taylor Martinez all week and booed him before halftime were cheering wildly for him by the end of the biggest comeback in Nebraska history.
Martinez ran for a touchdown and passed for two others while bringing No. 14 Nebraska back from a 21-point second-half deficit, and the Cornhuskers defeated Ohio State 34-27 Saturday night in the first Big Ten game at Memorial Stadium.
Rex Burkhead scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 17-yard run with 5:10 left.
"Everyone wants to doubt him," coach Bo Pelini said of his sophomore quarterback. "You can write what you want. You can attack him, the fans. Now you'll praise him."
Ohio State (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) built a 27-6 lead behind freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, who sprained his right ankle in the third quarter and did not return. The Buckeyes' offense went dormant with backup Joe Bauserman.
Miller ran for 91 yards and went 5 of 8 passing for 95 yards before he got hurt. Bauserman completed only one of his 10 passes the rest of the way.
Huskers star linebacker Lavonte David stripped the ball from Miller in the middle of third quarter to start the rally.
"That was the turning point of the game," Pelini said.
And then Martinez took over. He ran 18 yards for a touchdown, threw a 36-yard TD pass to Quincy Enunwa and tied it with a 30-yard catch-and-run to Burkhead after Stanley Jean-Baptiste intercepted Bauserman in his first game at cornerback after moving from receiver.
Martinez ran for 102 yards and was 16 of 22 passing for 191 yards for Nebraska (5-1, 1-1). Burkhead ran 26 times for 119 yards.
Carlos Hyde led the Buckeyes with 104 yards rushing.
The biggest deficit Nebraska had overcome previously was 17 points, most recently against Texas A&M in 2002.
Martinez's performance was timely.
He lashed out Monday at fans and media who ripped him for throwing three interceptions in last week's 48-17 loss at Wisconsin, and teammates lined up to defend him.
When he threw an interception late in the second quarter, boos cut through the rain at Memorial Stadium.
"He kept fighting," Pelini said. "He led the team, and I was proud of how we played. That's why he's the starting quarterback right now."
After time ran out, Martinez flipped the ball to the referee and fullback Tyler Legate embraced Martinez and then picked him up and carried him around.
"He was having fun, that's for sure," center Mike Caputo said. "Taylor was smiling and confident. He kept coming up to the offensive line and saying we're going to win this game when we were down a couple touchdowns. His confidence was really high."
Martinez said he didn't care about the criticism he received during the week and that he didn't know if Saturday's game was his best performance as a collegian.
"If you say so," he said. "You'll write what you want."
For Ohio State, the loss marked a painful end to yet another painful week. On Friday, the NCAA suspended wide receiver DeVier Posey for five more games and three other Buckeyes for one game for taking too much money for a summer job.
Offensive lineman Marcus Hall, defensive lineman Melvin Fellows and last year's leading rusher, Daniel Herron, also missed Saturday's game. They also must repay benefits after receiving pay for summer work not performed for a booster.
"We've got to get a few stops on defense," Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said. "That's what it comes down to. We've just got to do a better job. I'm sure there are lessons out there. We've got to figure out what they are and grow from them. That's part of football, part of life."
An upset looked to be brewing in the first half, and the Buckeyes' momentum continued to roll when Hyde scored from a yard out to give Ohio State a 27-6 lead early in the third quarter.
David, who made 13 tackles, changed the game with his biggest play of the night. As Miller fought for yards up the middle, he stuck his arms in and pulled the ball away from the quarterback.
Martinez scored two plays later, going untouched up the middle on a zone read to pull the Huskers to 27-13.
The Buckeyes did a good job containing Martinez in the first half, but the sophomore broke loose for 93 yards on the ground after halftime.
Martinez's passing and decision-making had been skewered after the loss at Wisconsin, but he threw a perfect strike to Enunwa to pull the Huskers within a touchdown. Martinez freelanced in the backfield before dumping off to Burkhead, who dodged a tackler and went 30 yards for the tying touchdown with 7:35 left.
"I had to get around that guy," Martinez said. "I got the ball to Rex, and he did a great job juking that guy."
C.J. Barnett was called for a facemask on Martinez during the Huskers' winning drive, and Burkhead ran for 22 yards before he broke free for the go-ahead score.
"That was crazy," Burkhead said. "That was an unbelievable win all the way around and it feels good."
The feeling was exactly the opposite in the Ohio State locker room.
"I've never been a part of anything like that," linebacker Andrew Sweat said. "I don't know what the magical answer is. We just didn't get the job done. It's disheartening to give up that many points and give up a win when it was so close."
Ohio State (3-2) at Nebraska (4-1) Oct. 8, 8:00, ABC
Here's The Deal … Can't these two EVER play a meaningful game?
Ohio State and Nebraska are obviously two of the greatest programs in college football history, with legacies and legends that have been part of the very definition of the sport almost since it began. But when it comes to these two superpowers among superpowers playing each other, there's a gaping hole.
You'd think that they'd have met somewhere at some point in some bowl game. Nope.
You'd think that they'd have played some epic national title colossus that ranks among the greatest games in the history of time. They came close at times in the 1990s, but no.
You'd think that they'd have come up with some sort of a regular home-and-home arrangement. Not really.
Separated by a not-that-far-in-college-football-world 800 miles – roughly the distance between Minneapolis and Columbus and shorter than a trip from Lincoln to Austin – it's been a college football travesty that the only two times they've played were in the 1955 and 1956 season openers, and both teams sort of stunk then, too.
The grand design by all the mighty powers-that-be was for this to be the showcase game for the new and supposedly improved Big Ten, at least until the inaugural championship game.
Ohio State got a slap on the wrist for its shenanigans, but remember, this was the game when all the suspended players were supposed to be back, including Terrelle Pryor, while Jim Tressel was never, ever, ever going to be suspended long enough to be out for a prime time matchup of this magnitude.
Nebraska was supposed to pay homage to Husker alum Barry Alvarez by beating his Badgers in the regular season opener, Ohio State was supposed to circle the wagons and outtalent Michigan State, and then these two were going to get it on in a possible Big Ten Championship preview.
Instead, Ohio State replaced Tressel with Adam Sandler look-alike Luke Fickell; Pryor is serving his suspension – for reasons no one is quite sure why – as an Oakland Raider; and two of the key suspended players – running back Dan Herron and receiver DeVier Posey – despite all the drama swirling around the program, took money for no-show jobs and are now suspended indefinitely.
All of that would be fine if THE 2011 Ohio State University Buckeyes weren't so bad at playing college football.
Meanwhile, Nebraska, who hasn't won a game of true significance since a 20-10 classic over Oklahoma in 2001, made the curious decision to leave its defense back in the Big 12, and has chosen to ignore the concept of the forward pass over the first month of the season.
The Huskers won their first four games by double digits, but they were shaky, while Ohio State should've lost to Toledo, didn't show up against Miami, and were miserable against Michigan State. It's a bit of a stretch to suggest that the loser this week is in trouble for a decent bowl bid, but this is probably an elimination game in the Big Ten title chase.
But it's still Ohio State vs. Nebraska. At least in theory, and at least in a historical matchup sense, it still matters.
Why Ohio State Might Win: Nebraska can't throw. Ohio State might be sputtering, and it might undermanned, and it might be struggling, but the run defense is more than fine, allowing just 612 yards to far with Miami's Lamar Miller doing the most damage on one 52-yard run early in the mid-September win. Michigan State and Toledo couldn't run the ball a lick, and Toledo didn't even try.
Nebraska's offensive like is okay, but it didn't create any major holes for Taylor Martinez or Rex Burkhead last week, and when they did get a little room to move, the Badger linebacking corps swallowed everything up. The Huskers' longest run was just 12 yards, and with no passing game to pick up the slack, it became a blowout in a hurry.
This isn't a vintage Ohio State defense, but considering it's not getting any support from the offense, it's doing fine. There's the normal array of NFL prospects and five-star recruits along the OSU front seven, and while it's not getting into the backfield, it doesn't have to in this game. If Nebraska couldn't throw on the depleted UW secondary, it's not going to have any more success against a far better Buckeye secondary that's been one of the team's strong spots so far.
Why Nebraska Might Win: Nebraska can't throw the ball, but Ohio State really can't do anything down the field.
All the focus and attention is on a quarterback situation with not-ready-yet freshman Braxton Miller and it's-just-not-working veteran Joe Bauserman, but they don't have anyone to throw to. The loss of Posey is a killer, while last week's leading receiver with four catches for 43 yards, Verlon Reed, tore his ACL on an onside kick attempt. All Nebraska has to do is put two guys on tight end Jake Stoneburner, and the Buckeye passing game is kaput.
The Husker running game might have problems against good teams, but at least it works at times. Michigan State loaded up on the run and allowed 35 yards on 39 carries, with 110 net yards offset by nine sacks allowed by an embarrassing day from the offensive line. Nebraska hasn't generated much of a pass rush so far, and didn't do much to scare Russell Wilson last week, but after the total and complete domination by the Spartans in Columbus, Jared Crick and the Husker line have to be drooling. However, OSU gets a huge piece of the puzzle back in …
What To Watch Out For: Mike Adams. OSU isn't getting all its suspended players back, but Adams, an NFL starting-caliber tackle, should be a huge help at just the right time. At 6-8 and 308 pounds he has excellent size and a tough frame to get around, but he has to be an even more consistent pass protector and has to do more to bury his man on a regular basis. The big key over the second half of this year is his health after suffering shoulder and knee injuries earlier in his career, but he's rested and ready to go for Nebraska.
Taylor Martinez has to be better. He wasn't awful running the ball against Wisconsin, with 61 yards and a score on 20 carries, but his three interceptions were disastrous with a pick to start the second half all but ending the game. He's barely hitting half of his passes and only has four touchdown passes to go along with five picks, and while he has rushed for 482 yards and five scores, 301 of the yards and five of the touchdowns came against Chattanooga and Fresno State.
What Will Happen: First one to ten wins? Ohio State's offense was expecting a shot in the arm this week with the expectation of Posey and Herron coming back, and now the balloon is popped and it's Braxton Miller or bust – at least until he falls flat. Nebraska's offense isn't going to blow up, but Martinez won't make the mistakes he made last week, the defense
will be dominant, and Brett Maher will hit just enough bombs to give the Huskers their first Big Ten win.
CFN Prediction: Nebraska 19 … Ohio State 13
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Nebraska -11 O/U: 44
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