Huskers hang with No. 8 Ohio State into fourth quarter but ultimately fall short

Huskers hang with No. 8 Ohio State into fourth quarter but ultimately fall short
Ohio State began to take control with two touchdowns in the third quarter. (BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nebraska’s upset bid fell just short on Saturday, and the Huskers lost in a fight at the Horseshoe, 36-31.

The Huskers entered the game an 18-point underdog but kept the game much closer thanks to three forced turnovers and two rushing touchdowns by true freshman Adrian Martinez.

Martinez finished the game 22 for 33 for 266 passing yards and one touchdown. He added 72 rushing yards and two scores on the ground. Devine Ozigbo ran for 86 yards on 20 carries. Stanley Morgan caught seven passes for 87 yards.

Ohio State quarterback and Heisman contender Dwayne Haskins completed 18 of 32 passes for 252 yards, two touchdowns and was picked off by Lamar Jackson in the third quarter.

Nebraska entered halftime up 21-16, but two touchdowns midway through the third quarter put Ohio State up 30-21. Nebraska hit back with an 18-yard field goal by Barett Pickering to pull within a score, but OSU running back JK Dobbins’ 42-yard touchdown put the Buckeyes up 36-24.

Nebraska countered with a quick, seven-play drive that ended with a JD Spielman touchdown reception with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Down five, Nebraska’s defense couldn’t stop the Buckeyes ground game, and Ohio State ran out the clock.

Nebraska falls to 2-7 on the year. Ohio State escapes its second straight loss.

Nebraska took an early 7-0 lead on an opening-drive touchdown, but the Buckeyes rattled off 16 straight points, scoring through the air, on the ground and on a blocked punt that turned into a safety. Nebraska overcame a few blunders down 16-7, including a fumble by Martinez in the red zone and a whiffed onside kick By Caleb Lightbourn. It was two fumbles forced by NU that kept the Huskers in it.

JoJo Domann, who started at outside linebacker, came unblocked off the edge on second-and-6 and smashed Haskins, knocking the ball loose. Carlos Davis jumped on the fumble, and NU took over midway through the third. On third-and-6 near the red zone, Martinez rolled left and found Mike Williams in the flat to keep the drive alive. On second-and-goal, Martinez kept a zone read and found a crease at the line of scrimmage and rolled into the end zone, closing the gap to 16-14.

On Ohio State’s next drive, Gifford punched the ball out on what would have been a 30-yard pass play and Nebraska took over again. Nebraska milked the clock all the way down to 21 seconds, and on first-and-goal, Martinez again kept a zone read and jumped into the end zone.

Nebraska ran into the locker room up 21-16 to the sound of boos from 104,000 fans.

Ohio State took the opening drive down to the Nebraska 18, but corner Jackson picked Haskins off in the end zone for NU’s third forced turnover, and Nebraska took back over. Martinez had Spielman down the seam but a third-down pass was just a touch too hard, and NU was forced to punt.

Ohio State made Nebraska pay for the mistake and scored on a 3-yard touchdown run by JK Dobbins, which put the Buckeyes up 23-21 with 5:39 left in the third.

Nebraska had the ball at their own 10, and on fourth-and-inches, it looked like Frost was going to go for it. He called a timeout instead, and chose to punt. Ohio State made NU pay again, and scored in three plays to go up two scores just before the end of the third.

Nebraska’s defense gave its offense every chance to score, with three straight three-and-outs. And eventually, the offense caught on. Martinez threw a bomb to Morgan down the sideline for 46 yards, which put the Huskers in the red zone. Ozigbo put the ball at the one on third-and-goal. Pickering knocked in an 18-yard field goal to pull within six points at 30-24.

On Ohio State’s next possession, Dobbins broke through the line for a 42-yard score to put the Buckeyes just out of reach.

Nebraska hosts Illinois at home next weekend.

Ohio State band pays tribute to UNL band member who died in car accident

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State marching band paid tribute at halftime Saturday to Tyler Butterfield, a member of the Nebraska marching band who was killed Oct. 26 in an automobile accident.

Butterfield, a 20-year-old trumpeter from Norfolk, was a passenger in a vehicle that collided with another vehicle near South 10th and Arapahoe Streets in Lincoln.

Members of the 228-piece Buckeye Band formed “Tyler” after completing the finale from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake as a tribute to Butterfield was read over the public address system at Ohio Stadium.

The crowd gave a round of applause to Butterfield, who was a junior accounting major, after the tribute was complete. The band then marched off the field, staying in the Tyler formation, while playing the OSU fight song.

This isn’t the first time Ohio State has made a classy gesture to Nebraska. In 2016, after Husker punter Sam Foltz died in a car accident, the band spelled out “SF27” during its halftime performance. That was one of many ways the Buckeyes honored Foltz’s memory that day.

And they did it again for Butterfield on Saturday.

Husker red spotted in stands

Ohio State fans were encouraged to wear black clothing for the game, but there was still plenty of red in the stands.

Those clad in red weren’t all Nebraska fans — plenty of the Buckeyes faithful also chose to wear their scarlet sweatshirts and jackets.

In NU’s first two trips to Columbus as members of the Big Ten in 2012 and 2016, Husker fans made enough noise that it was easy to spot where they were congregating.

Ohio Stadium also had plenty of rows in upper-level sections in both the north and south end zones that went unoccupied.

Alternate uniforms for OSU

It was the alternate uniform game for Ohio State on Saturday as the Buckeyes took the field in black jerseys with scarlet letters and numbers, and black pants.

The uniforms were similar to the ones Ohio State wore in its 2015 night game against Penn State. The Buckeyes won that game 38-10.

Crowded OSU end zone

It was a big recruiting weekend in Columbus. Recruits, family members and OSU alums were at least four-deep in the end zone area behind the goalposts as they watched the Buckeyes prepare for the game.

Nebraska recruiting weekends don’t take up that much space on the Memorial Stadium field, primarily because there isn’t as much room as at the open end of Ohio State’s famed horseshoe-shaped stadium.

Among those joining the crowd along the east sideline was former OSU linebacker Joshua Perry, who was a 4th round pick of the then-San Diego Chargers in the 2016 NFL draft. Perry retired earlier this year because of concussions.

The 24-year-old Perry, who also suited up for Indianapolis and Seattle during his brief career, announced his retirement in late July after being diagnosed with his sixth documented concussion.

Warmup delay

There was a slight delay for the Huskers to get to their locker room after their buses arrived and tried to park.

The reason for the delay? Ohio State players were walking in front of the buses as they headed to their quarters to begin game-day preparations.

Usually the Huskers take the field for pregame warmups 45-50 minutes prior to kickoff. On Saturday, it was closer to the 40-minute mark before the majority of the Nebraska’s players came out from the southwest tunnel.

When the receivers were going through some of their pregame running and route drills, Stanley Morgan braved the 41-degree temperature and went shirtless for the first several minutes before putting on a warmup shirt.

Short exchange

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Scott Frost had one of the shortest pregame greetings in recent memory.

The two head coaches shook hands and exchanged pleasantries and parted ways in less than 20 seconds. That’s quite a contrast to the eight- to 10-minute chats Frost has had this season with other coaches.

Ron Brown, Nebraska’s director of player personnel and former assistant coach, had a longer chat with Meyer. Brown came over, introduced himself to Meyer and the two talked for around 90 seconds.

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