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October 7, 2012

Final take: Huskers meltdown in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller finished what he started against Nebraska's defense after he left the field in Lincoln a year ago with an ankle injury.

The Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback torched the Husker defense for 186 yards rushing to go along with 127 yards passing as the Buckeyes routed Nebraska 63-38.

After one quarter of play the Huskers were outgaining Ohio State 137 to 17 in total yardage. The Buckeyes ran 13 plays for 17 yards and failed to get a single first down in the game's opening 18 minutes.

With Nebraska leading 17-7, everything changed in the second quarter when OSU head coach Urban Meyer called Miller's number. On the Buckeyes first play from scrimmage in the second quarter Miller busted off a 72 yard run and Ohio State's offense never looked back.

From that point on OSU racked up 481 yards of offense and scored 56 points on the Blackshirts in 42 minutes. It was a classic road meltdown. The doors blew off. Everything that could've gone wrong did.

"It seems like (the mistakes) just happen in droves when they happen," offensive coordinator Tim Beck said.

Besides the defense's problems with Miller, quarterback Taylor Martinez threw three interceptions. Before tonight he had only thrown three in his previous 12 games. Martinez also had another fumble, which gives him four lost fumbles on the season.

To make matters worse the penalties added up in big numbers. There were back-to-back false starts and drive killing block in the back penalties. Every possible way Nebraska could shoot themselves in the foot they did on Saturday night.

In some ways I felt like Miller put pressure on Nebraska's offense to answer. Once he got hot and NU's defense couldn't slow him down the pressure got to them.

"I just told our football team we killed ourselves," head coach Bo Pelini said. "We've been here before. We've done it before on the road. That's the most disappointing thing. We talk about it and talk about it and talk about it. Believe me I'm frustrated and I'm disappointed. I don't know. I wish I knew. It doesn't happen at home. We practice with crowd noise at home every day. Every day. Every single day."

Going forward NU has to try and pick up the pieces over the off week. The criticism and negativity will once again be out in full force just like it was last year after bad losses to Wisconsin, Michigan and Northwestern.

How Pelini gets this team to respond will ultimately decide the fate for the rest of this season. With Kain Colter and Denard Robinson looming on the schedule the Husker defense has to come up with a better plan to slow down mobile quarterbacks.

"We need that extra week," linebacker coach Ross Els said. "We really do. We need that extra week to go back to square one and make a lot of changes and see if we can do something, because right now defensively we aren't getting anything done."

Said Pelini: "Like I just told the football team, we need to win out. We need to win out.

"That's the only way we can guarantee ourselves to get to Indianapolis."

Indianapolis sure seems like a long ways from now, but in all reality the Huskers should be a favorite in nearly all of their remaining games.


What I saw on Saturday

***Ohio State absolutely dominated Nebraska on special teams. The Buckeyes held NU to an average of 16 yards per kick return on eight attempts. On eight kickoff returns Nebraska only crossed the 25 yard line once.

"They were doing some twisting stuff that caused our return units some problems," Els said. "Then obviously they did a good job on the hold up on our punt team to get that one long punt return."

***Pelini felt confident that running back Rex Burkhead will be fine after reinjuring his knee on Saturday, but there still has to be some concern that he didn't reenter the ball game. Burkhead declined interviews following the game.

***Nothing you can really say about Martinez's three interceptions other than he was just trying to force plays that weren't there. He was pressing.

***I thought as the second half went along Nebraska's defense ends really got taken to school. They were crashing too hard and Miller continually just kept blowing by them on the outside.

***Ameer Abdullah sure had a quiet night running the ball, finishing with just 28 yards on seven carries.

***Stanley Jean-Baptiste appeared to play all of the snaps tonight over Andrew Green at cornerback. Looks like Green lost his reps this week after his poor play the week before against Wisconsin.

***Pelini said he had no problem at all with Meyer scoring that last touchdown late in the game, but you can bet that play will stick in his mind when or if these two teams ever meet again in Indianapolis the next few seasons.

***This game turned in a blink of an eye for Nebraska. Hard to know what the actual moment was. For me it was Miller's 72 yard run.

"I don't know what it was," Beck said when asked what the turning point was on Saturday. "It felt like we were doing pretty good. Both sides of the football in the first quarter it seemed like we were in control of the game."

The final grades

Rushing offense: B

Nebraska racked up 223 yards on 48 carries and had four rushing touchdowns. This was probably one of the strengths for Nebraska on Saturday, but it wasn't enough to overcome their mistakes.

Passing offense: F

Martinez threw three interceptions and fumbled another ball when dropping back for a pass. One of Martinez's interceptions went for a touchdown. It's hard to win a game when you have four turnovers with your passing offense.

Rushing defense: F

Ohio State ran for 371 yards 48 carries and six rushing touchdowns. It was the most rushing yards ever given up by a Bo Pelini defense.

Passing defense: C-

Ohio State rarely threw the ball, but when they did the Buckeyes were efficient and finished with 127 yards. Miller did a good of sucking NU's safeties and linebackers in to find wide open guys in the flats.

Special teams: F

Other than one solid punt return, Ohio State dominated this phase of the game. NU averaged just 16 yards on eight kickoff returns and they only crossed the 25 yard line once. The Buckeyes also ran a punt back for a 76 yard touchdown.

Sean Callahan can be reached at sean@huskeronline.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.



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