Thanks to an off weekend, Ohio State had a couple of weeks to right what went horribly wrong in the 29-point loss to Purdue in Week 8. Based on what went down at Ohio Stadium Saturday afternoon, they probably could’ve used a couple (or a few) more.
Showing they were in for an all-day battle against a team that came in at 2-6, and with boos from the home crowd very audible, the Buckeyes entered the halftime locker room down 21-16 thanks in large part to a pair of turnovers that led to 14 Cornhusker points. A pair of touchdowns late in the third quarter, however, gave OSU a lead it would never relinquish in a 36-31 win that was far from as easy as the last two meetings between the schools (combined score: OSU 117, NU 17).
Trailing by nine with under eight minutes left in the game, an 18-yard field goal brought the ‘Huskers to within six at 30-24. Three minutes later, however, J.K. Dobbins seemingly put the game away with a 42-yard touchdown run that, with a failed two-point conversion, pushed the lead out to 12 with 4:52 remaining in the contest.
On the ensuing possession, a 75-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a 17-yard Adrian Martinez touchdown pass to JD Spielman pulled the feisty Cornhuskers to within five with less than three minutes left in the game. A healthy dose of Dobbins on the final drive bled out the rest of the clock and dashed any hopes the Cornhuskers had entertained in pulling off what would’ve been a huge upset.
All three of NU’s first-half scores came on the ground, which continued a troubling trend for OSU this year. In 14 games last season, the Buckeyes allowed 13 rushing touchdowns; through nine games this season, they’ve allowed 15.
Another area of concern, though, showed some signs of life for the Buckeyes. After struggling in the running game for a good chunk of the season, OSU ran for 229 yards — unbelievably, its most since Week 2 vs. Rutgers — paced by Dobbins’ season-high 163 and aided by Mike Weber‘s 91. The former also accounted for a trio of touchdowns on the ground.
That said, the past two games have exposed the Buckeyes as a team that, as currently composed and presently playing, should not be considered one of the top four teams in the country despite their better-than-it-looks 8-1 record and No. 10 ranking in the initial CFP Top 25. The good news for OSU is that there are loads of talent on the roster — injuries are admittedly hampering the defense — and they have a pair of road games (Michigan State, Maryland) to help get them right before a matchup against hated rival and fifth-ranked Michigan in the Horseshoe the last Saturday of November — a matchup that will very likely decide the East’s representative in the Big Ten championship game..
Based on how both teams are playing at the moment, though, the Wolverines have to feel more confident than ever that they can end their drought in The Game — even if it will be in the not-so-friendly confines of Ohio Stadium.