LINCOLN, Neb. — If not for the big, red, ‘N’ at midfield, Ohio State might have convinced the viewing public that it had so much fun playing Rutgers the first time, it decided to go back.
The gulf between the No. 9 Buckeyes and the once-proud Cornhuskers was not fully realized until Saturday at Memorial Stadium, though nothing about the 56-14 final score was even the slightest bit misleading. Ohio State completely decimated Nebraska from the outset, as measured by any metric, statistical or anecdotal.
“Coming to Nebraska and playing the way those guys played with that crowd and that environment, I thought that was outstanding,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said.
The Buckeyes (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) scored touchdowns the first eight times they touched the ball. They led 28-0 fewer than four minutes into the second quarter, set a school record by passing the 500-yard barrier for the fifth consecutive week, and went into halftime with more first downs (22) than Nebraska had rushing yards (20).
But nothing solidified just how bad it was quite like the painful self-realization by one of college football’s great fanbases. The Nebraska fans hold red balloons to be released after the Cornhuskers score for the first time, yet the balloons served as a comment more than a celebration on Saturday.
With the Buckeyes leading by four touchdowns and any hopes of an upset completely squelched, the Cornhuskers (3-4, 2-2) wriggled for their second first down of the game halfway through the second quarter – which drew a Bronx cheer, and legions of red balloons into the Lincoln night.
The sellout crowd was at half capacity by the third quarter, and it was hard to blame those who departed early.
“With a tradition-rich program like this, it was loud that first third down,” OSU receiver Terry McLaurin said. “That’s our job as an offense, to control what we can control. We scored every time we touched it, for the most part, and that’s what you got to do in a tough road environment.”
Ohio State stopped Nebraska on the game’s first possession, then put together a 96-yard touchdown drive on its first try. The Buckeyes scored on the back of running back J.K. Dobbins, who rushed three times for 67 yards on the drive, including a 52-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.
Following another three-and-out, the Buckeyes scored again. Quarterback J.T. Barrett kept the drive going with an 18-yard scramble on third-and-7, then scored with a 6-yard scramble four plays later to take a 14-point lead.
Time and again, the process repeated itself. Before halftime, receivers K.J. Hill and McLaurin caught touchdown passes from Barrett, who also scored again on the ground to send the Buckeyes into the break ahead 35-0.
Asked if he anticipated the ease with which OSU dominated, Barrett was honest.
“Not really,” Barrett said. “There are some guys on their defense that could play at Ohio State, so it’s not like they didn’t have good guys. The competition is there. The main thing is we marched the ball down the field.”
There was no respite in the second half, either. Meyer elected to keep his offensive starters in the game, and Barrett threw a 16-yard touchdown to tight end Rashod Berry on OSU’s first touch of the third quarter.
Nebraska spoiled the shutout with Tanner Lee’s 77-yard touchdown pass to JD Spielman, though Ohio State didn’t let up, which included going for (and converting) a pair of fourth downs despite being miles ahead. Barrett threw his fourth and fifth touchdowns to tight end Marcus Baugh and Hill, respectively, before the Buckeyes mercifully pulled the starters in the fourth quarter.
Meyer said after the game that he wanted to be sure Ohio State had the game in hand before it made any changes.
“They scored a couple touchdowns on us and you just wanted to be sure it was over,” he said.
Ohio State finished with 633 yards of total offense and a whopping 41 first downs. Eleven different Buckeyes caught a pass, and six players scored a touchdown.
By night’s end, the result was Nebraska’s worst home result in 72 years, as Ohio State’s 56 points was the most scored in Lincoln by a visitor since Minnesota won 61-7 here in 1945.
“All right, well, there’s not a lot of anything happy [or] good to say about that one,” Huskers coach Mike Riley said after the game. “That was a really disappointing loss, for sure.”
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