LINCOLN, Nebraska — No. 9 Ohio State came away with yet another dominating win, beating up Nebraska 56-14. This was the fourth consecutive game in which Ohio State won by at least 30 points and scored more than 50. Here are some key statistics to take away from the game.
8.8 – J.K. Dobbins’ average yards per carry. True freshman J.K. Dobbins proved once again why Ohio State coaches and fans alike ought to be excited about the future. This was Dobbins’ third straight game with an average of more than 7 yards per carry, and fourth overall on the year. On the very first drive of the game, he had carries of 8, 7 and 52 yards, the latter of which resulted in a touchdown. For the rest of the game, he seemed to be having his way with defenders, making the Cornhuskers miss or fail to stop him on his way to racking up 106 yards on 12 carries.
This game was just the latest in what has been a remarkable true freshman campaign for the running back. Dobbins currently sits at 10th on the list of leading rushers with 669 yards on the ground this year. Heading into the year, Dobbins said he believed he could compete at the collegiate level, but that he expected to find a bit more of a challenge this far into the year.
“I knew I would get a lot of success, but this early is a little shocker,” Dobbins said.
The somewhat surprising thing about this week was that this was the third week in a row where Dobbins had either equal to or less than the total number of carries redshirt sophomore Mike Weber had. Weber has outcarried Dobbins 41-31 over the last three games, despite Dobbins averaging 8.2 yards per carry and Weber averaging just 4.5 yards per carry. It is possible the Buckeyes are just trying to limit the amount of snaps Dobbins sees so he is well rested in his first full season.
15 – Nebraska first downs. The Cornhusker offense’s dreadful start continued for most of the game. Through the first half of the game, Nebraska managed to tally just five first downs, four of those coming on the last two drives of the half. It got to the point where the Nebraska fans gave a standing ovation for the second time their team moved the chains with roughly seven minutes remaining in the half.
The constant pressure applied by Ohio State’s defensive line prevented nearly any running plays from finding any modicum of success while simultaneously pressuring the quarterback into hurried decisions and inaccurate — or short — pass attempts. The Cornhuskers’ offensive line is a young, inexperienced one, and it showed on the field. The Buckeyes should not expect to see many other offensive lines like this one, particularly not in its next matchup when it takes on one of the stronger, more veteran lines in the country in Penn State. But if it can continue to apply ample pressure on opposing lines, the impact the defense can make on the success of an opposing offense is evident.
303 – Passing yards by Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee. For all the success the Buckeyes had against Nebraska, it did not come from the passing defense. Ohio State allowed at least 300 passing yards for the third time this season, and the first time since Week 2 against Oklahoma. Before Saturday, it had gone four games without allowing more than 100 passing yards. But Lee was able to pick apart Ohio State’s secondary for much of the second half, totaling 207 yards on 11 successful passes in 15 attempts. Overall, he finished 23-for-38 with 303 yards and two touchdown passes — both coming in the second half.
Since the bulk of the damage was done in the second half when Ohio State’s starters were leaving or had left the lineup, it is not an area of extreme concern. However, what stood out to Meyer more than anything was the chunk plays allowed by his defense as it allowed Lee to complete six passes for 15-plus yards.
“I look up on the board and saw 300 yards passing, so I’m sure there’s going to be some issues to deal with,” Meyer said. “Too many big hits in the pass game against our defense.”
25 – Average starting field position for Nebraska. In a perfect world, Ohio State should feel comfortable relying on its kickoff specialist. But this season, that has not been the case. Head coach Urban Meyer has often spoken up about his team’s inability to kick the ball down the field, and that trend continued Saturday. Though the Cornhuskers did not return a single kickoff for a touchdown or into Buckeye territory, four times they were able to move out to their own 29-yard line or farther. The game opened up poorly as well, with freshman kicker Blake Haubeil booting the ball down to the six-yard line where it bounced and rolled out of bounds, resulting in a penalty that spotted the ball at the Nebraska 35-yard line.
The end numbers look all right, but watching the game live, it was clear the problems on kickoff linger with the team. It took kicking into the wind for Haubeil to send the kickoffs out for a touchback or far enough back that a kick couldn’t be returned for more damage. In this final tune-up before a critical game against Penn State, a team who uses Heisman Trophy-hopeful Saquon Barkley as its kickoff returner, Ohio State needed to demonstrate improvements on kickoffs to convince many that a meltdown on special teams wouldn’t happen again. Now with no games remaining until the matchup with the Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes can only hope that the wind is blowing in their favor.
0 – Punts from Ohio State. This is one of the only kind of zeros Ohio State can take pride in. The Buckeyes’ offense was incredibly efficient all night long, failing to score touchdowns on only one drive, led by the two backup quarterbacks. As long as quarterback J.T. Barrett was in the game, the Buckeyes marched down the field and put up seven points. So while redshirt freshman punter Drue Chrisman has been a reliable player when he has been called upon, Saturday was not the day for him.
After the game, Barrett said he spoke with Chrisman on the sideline in the 50-degree temperatures and discussed the game.
“I did talk to Drue towards the end of the game,” Barrett said. “He was like, ‘It’s cold out here on the sideline, huh.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I didn’t punt tonight.’ I almost wanted to say I apologize, but I didn’t.”
With a challenging remaining schedule coming up, Ohio State should not count on many more games without a punt. The unit will be called on frequently and Chrisman will be asked to flip the field for the defense. But as long as Ohio State can lean more on the kickoff specialist and less on the punter, the team should be putting up plenty of points and competing in the conference.