The Buckeyes have been susceptible to big plays through the deep ball, and, coming in against Nebraska, they were without sophomore cornerback Jeffrey Okudah with a groin injury and sophomore safety Isaiah Pryor to an impingement of the shoulder.
Then, in the second quarter, junior safety Jordan Fuller was ejected for a targeting penalty, leaving a depleted secondary with major question marks on who would step up.
This gave sophomore safety Brendon White the opportunity to be the guy. White proved he could be that and more in Ohio State’s 36-31 victory over the Cornhuskers.
“Dream come true actually. After the game, I started tearing up,” White said. “I just couldn’t believe, you know, growing up from Ohio … went to Olentangy Liberty 15 minutes from here and, always went to the games as a high school kid and then, being able to play at your dream school, it’s pretty cool.”
White finished the game with 13 tackles and two for a loss in the game, both of which were team highs. The sophomore had six tackles in his collegiate career before Saturday’s game.
“Brendon White came in and did a hell of a job,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s been working very hard in practice to earn the trust of the coaches to get on the field.”
White made big plays all night for Ohio State, including on the biggest stop of the night.
With Nebraska down 30-21 in the fourth quarter, the ball was at the Buckeyes’ four-yard line. Senior running back Devine Ozigbo carried the ball up the middle on third down, and was stopped by White at the one, forcing Nebraska to kick a field goal, missing an opportunity that ended up costing the Cornhuskers in the long run.
“My time is ready, you know, we all prepare for this. You never know what’s gonna happen in any game,” White said. “You gotta face adversity and we faced it in the right way, in a positive manner and no one got worried and we just did our job and the rest took care of itself.”
White said the success has come from hard work at practice, where he gained confidence and stayed ready for his opportunity to make a difference.
Meyer echoed that belief, and that started away from the defensive end.
“He’s been working very hard in practice to earn the trust of the coaches to get on the field,” Meyer said. “First thing, you gotta earn the trust to get on the special teams. And to see that he started and I kept hearing about it, earning the trust — he’s getting better, he’s getting better, he’s getting better, and then he obviously proved it today.”
White was a big factor in helping Ohio State survive a potential upset against Nebraska, and he may have earned himself a right to start alongside Fuller in the future.
But to go along with a career game from the sophomore, White’s dad, William, who played safety at Ohio State for four years, had a tribute video on the screen at Ohio Stadium for his battle with ALS.
White said that only added to a game he most certainly won’t forget.
“I definitely saw that, definitely didn’t want to tear up but I got emotional about it, and it was pretty cool to see that,” White said. “My dad is one of my idols, so, you know hopefully I made him proud today, and hopefully it can go up from here.”