Big-play offense. Improved red-zone execution. Opportunistic special teams.
And, for good measure, a dose of resiliency — especially in the secondary.
Ohio State used a combination of all those components to quell Nebraska Saturday inside the Horseshoe, 36-31.
Continuing our gameday installment, here are the “Moments that Mattered” as the Buckeyes advanced to 8-1, stayed unbeaten after a bye week under Urban Meyer and maintained positioning for a potential Big Ten championship run.
J.K. ISN’T KIDDING AROUND:
Buckeyes tailback J.K. Dobbins turned in one of his most complete performances of the season, punctuated by a pair of crucial second-half touchdown runs. Dobbins bulled in from inside the 5-yard line to give Ohio State a lead that it would not relinquish.
The powerful run, which featured Wyatt Davis lined up on the right flank of the offensive line, was the type of will-imposing moment that this Buckeyes’ offense has too often lacked this season.
Which is why …
PLAYER OF THE GAME:
The sophomore Dobbins might have shined brightest on a day in which the Buckeyes improved in some key areas but also continued to self-inflict too many wounds.
Nonetheless, the La Grange, Texas, native churned through the Cornhuskers for 163 yards and three touchdowns on the ground; for good measure, Dobbins added a reception for a key first down and a gain of 22 yards.
PLAY OF THE GAME:
Nebraska’s abysmal attempt at an surprise onside kick early in the game almost went in this spot. Instead, it goes to the Buckeyes’ blocked punt of Nebraska’s first punt attempt.
As the Cornhuskers’ shield unit focused up the middle, Keandre Jones streaked in from the right side of the Buckeyes’ line and very nearly plucked the ball right off the foot of punter Isaac Armstrong.
Already without Isaiah Pryor entering the contest, and banged up really at all three levels of the defense, Ohio State faced first-half adversity in its secondary when stalwart defender Jordan Fuller was flagged and subsequently ejected for a targeting penalty.
While Fuller definitely made upper-body contact around the helmet, the captain Fuller appeared to be attempting to go low on the would-be receiver, Kurt Rafdal.
Nonetheless, Fuller was tossed merely three minutes into the second quarter. In his stead, however, Brendon White shined as he led the Buckeyes with his first double-digit tackling performance of his career.
In a vastly more balanced effort that saw Ohio State amass 229 rushing yards, Mike Weber established the bona fides for an imperative fourth-quarter score when Weber bounced off a harmless would-be tackler on the right edge and scooted down inside the Nebraska 10-yard line. The 27-yard run was merely his second jaunt of more than 25 yards on the day; Weber also had uncorked a 37-yard second-half run as he tallied 91 yards on a mere nine attempts.
Ohio State clearly was the superior team and showed spurts of efficiency on both sides of the ball. The Ohio State defense, though it yielded 450 yards, forced the Huskers into eight punts and notched six tackles for losses.
However, the Buckeyes’ offense — for all of its improvement on the ground — committed three costly turnovers, two of which occurred in Huskers’ territory and one of which was Dwayne Haskins’ ill-advised floater into the end zone that Nebraska intercepted.