LINCOLN, Nebraska — After a rousing, sarcastic cheer, Nebraska fans began releasing red balloons adorned with the Cornhuskers’ white block ‘N’ en masse with about seven minutes remaining in the second quarter of Saturday night’s game against Ohio State.
The balloons are usually released after Nebraska’s first touchdown, but fans were mocking their team instead — by sending them into the sky after the team picked up just its second first down of the game. By that time, the Buckeyes had picked up 18 first downs and scored four touchdowns en route to a 56-14 victory Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Following four consecutive blowouts in which Ohio State won by a combined score of 210-42, the Buckeyes thought they might finally be matched up against a worthy challenger. That proved to be false. The first eight times Ohio State’s first-team offense marched onto the field, it scored touchdowns. The Buckeyes dominated the total yardage (633-385), time of possession (35:15-24:45) and picked up 41 first downs, compared to Nebraska’s 15.
“They went wild,” Nebraska sophomore linebacker Mohamed Barry said. “They know what they want to do. They dictate what they want to do. They played well.”
Quarterback J.T. Barrett continued his post-Oklahoma upswing as he efficiently completed 27-of-33 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 48 yards on 10 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown with 5:39 remaining in the second quarter.
“Receivers and quarterbacks are playing at a very high level,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “J.T.’s efficiency tonight was elite and the guys are making plays for him and protecting him.”
Barrett spread the ball around as 10 players caught passes from the starter. Redshirt sophomore H-back K.J. Hill led the team with seven catches for 80 yards and caught two touchdowns. Tight ends Marcus Baugh and Rashod Berry each found the end zone as they caught 18- and 16-yard touchdown passes, respectively.
Running back J.K. Dobbins did not waste much time before breaking the longest rush of the game, as the 5-foot-10, 208-pound freshman raced 52 yards for the game’s opening score with 10:47 remaining in the first quarter. Picking up his seventh start of the season, Dobbins took 12 carries for 106 yards and added 42 receiving yards on four catches. He led the team in rushing, but redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber took 18 carries for 82 yards.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins replaced Barrett with 10:27 remaining in the fourth quarter and completed all three passes for 25 yards. Redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow replaced Haskins on the same drive and finished the game with one completion on three attempts for four yards.
While the Cornhuskers could not stop the Buckeyes, they found challenging the Buckeyes’ defense an equally daunting task.
The Cornhusker fans who did not release the balloons in the second quarter got their opportunity when quarterback Tanner Lee found wideout J.D. Spielman for a 77-yard touchdown down the sideline with 11:15 remaining in the third quarter.
With pressure from the Buckeyes’ defensive line in his face early and often, Lee completed 23-of-38 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns. Lee managed to avoid being sacked, but was drilled multiple times, including once by redshirt freshman linebacker Tuf Borland early in the first quarter.
“There were some errors, [I looked] up at the boar and saw 300 passing yards, so I’m sure there will be some issues to deal with, but it’s still 300 yards passing,” Meyer said. “I thought our run defense was outstanding, but too many big hits in the passing against our defense.”
Ohio State remained stout against the run. Nebraska rushed 16 times for 44 yards, and running back Devine Ozigbo, who entered the contest averaging 4.9 yards per carry, took nine carries just 24 yards.
Early in the first quarter, redshirt junior H-back Parris Campbell caught a pass for a loss of a yard and was drilled by redshirt freshman defensive back Dicaprio Bootle. The speedy H-back was helped off the field and did not return to the game. Senior defensive end Jalyn Holmes also suffered an injury and was helped off the field to the locker room.
After Barrett’s first rushing touchdown, redshirt junior kicker Sean Nuernberger drilled his 142nd career extra point, the most consecutive point after attempts in Big Ten history.
Traveling back to Lincoln, Nebraska, for the first time since losing 34-27 to the Cornhuskers in 2011, Ohio State collected its first win in Nebraska, evening the all-time series between the two teams at a win apiece. This victory was Ohio State’s 500th Big Ten win.
Ohio State is off next Saturday with a bye, but returns to action against No. 3 Penn State for a likely top-10 matchup against the Nittany Lions at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 28.