The Buckeye offense under Miller looked much improved in this game. While the Buckeyes focused primarily on the running game, they used smart passing plays, including delayed outlet passes to the flat, and even a screen play, to counter the Nebraska defense. In fact, OSU ran a beautiful screen pass to Jake Stoneburner for their only passing touchdown of the game – a 32 yard scamper that saw Stoneburner get touched only when he reached the endzone. OSU also used a combination of other nice run counters to force the defense to the wrong places and open up huge holes.
Unfortunately, after taking a 27-6 lead in the game, OSU began to face a stiffer Nebraska defense. Either the offense failed to make appropriate adjustments at halftime, or the Cornhusker defense simply made better ones. In fact, it’s possible that OSU went to a more conservative approach that allowed Nebraska to more easily anticipate the OSU offense. Either way, the Bucks began to struggle to move the football. On a scamper play that would have resulted in a first down Braxton Miller, who continues to not protect the football on running plays, fumbled the ball on his own 23. Nebraska went on to score a quick touchdown and the comeback was on.
Things were about to get worse for OSU. On another scamper play on the next drive, Miller came down on his right ankle awkwardly and rolled it to the outside. He needed help coming off the field and seemed to be in incredible pain. While the training staff had taped his ankle, and Miller was even walking around on it, you could tell he was walking gingerly on his right foot. It looked for a while like he might be able to return, but the training staff must have taken away his helmet and refused to let him enter the game.
That is, of course, an obvious assertion considering what happened to the Buckeye offense for the rest of the game. Joe Bauserman came into the game as Miller’s backup and proceeded to go 1/10 for 13 yards and an interception through the rest of the game. The offense was completely ineffective with Bauserman in the game, achieving only one first down and was unable to keep the defense off the field. With Nebraska’s offense moving the ball down the field with impunity, the poor defense quickly wore out and it was only a matter of time.
Give the Cornhuskers a lot of credit for sticking in the game and fighting to the bitter end. Their defense stood tall exactly when it needed to, and their offense managed to get the ball moving against a tough Ohio State defense. I honestly believe that Bauserman’s entrance into the game had a lot to do with the mentality of the team in the later stages of the game, as the team seemed completely demoralized in the time that he was on the field. It’s likely that the team realizes that Miller gives them the best chance to win games right now, and having Bauserman in the game was devastating to the team.
Either way, the Buckeyes threw away a game they very well should have won and now sit at 3-3 on the season. Nebraska is now 5-1 and has earned their first Big Ten conference win.
It’s worth mentioning again that the OSU offense found a way to move the ball early in this game. The offense is there, and are running the plays necessary to get the ball moving with Braxton Miller in the game. Carlos Hyde was particularly effective with 104 yards on 13 carries, including a beautiful 63 yard touchdown scamper. All told, the Buckeyes collected 243 yards on the ground – more yardage than their total gained against Michigan State in all phases. This is something to look forward to, as long as Braxton Miller is healthy to play next week. We’ll keep you updated about the injury here at the BBC when we know more.
The Buckeyes next face the Illinois Fighting Illini in Urbana-Champaign on Saturday, October 15th.