Night games terrify me.
Games under the lights always seem to pack a little extra punch. The crowd is pumped, the students are drunk and the players are excited. Could be I’m just scarred from watching my alma mater lose in person to Texas and in Penn State during night games, but I always feel anything can happen during these big night games. Things can get crazy.
Saturday night’s 90th Homecoming game in Columbus was no exception.
The Buckeyes (6-0), as been their tendency this year, started the game off quite slow and spotted Nebraska (4-2) an early 17-7 lead. Things did not look good. Ohio State’s first three possessions were positively Shumur-esque:
Three plays, 3 yards, PUNT
Three plays, -5 yards, PUNT
Three plays, 0 yards, PUNT
Their fourth possession? Not a three and out! A four and out. In the most un-Tressel of moves, Ohio State attempted a fake punt on 4th-and-7 with the ball on their own 25 yard line. Punter Ben Buchanan made it six yards.
Things improved substantially during the second quarter.
On Ohio State’s first play of the second quarter, trailing 17-7, Braxton Miller did some ridiculous things and ran for 72 yards. Two plays later Carlos Hyde punched it in for the first of his four scores.
Three plays, 75 yards, TD
Ohio State’s first touchdown drive took just 1:10 off the clock. Their next drive was even shorter. After Bradley picked off Martinez for the second time of the night, Miller led Ohio State on a two play, 20 yard drive that ended with a 18-yard TD catch by Jeff Heuerman (time of possession: 1:02).
And they were off to the races. Ohio State went into halftime leading 35-24 and never looked back.
As weird as it is to say about a team that scored six(!) offensive touchdown, I am slightly concerned about Ohio State’s offense. Not that they aren’t capable or that there isn’t talent. But of Ohio State’s six(!) possessions that ended with touchdowns, only two would be what I would call “drives”.
Too often I feel an Ohio State possession goes something like this: nothing-nothing-OMG BRAXTON MILLER IS EFFING AMAZING-nothing-nothing, etc. When the offense stalls or the play breaks down, Miller makes things happen. Miller had plays of 72 yards (run), 18 yards (pass), 18 yards (run), 31 yards (run), 35 yards (pass), and 24 yards (run). Braxton’s big plays are amazing and fun to watch, but it’s not something they should rely on.
Defensively, Ohio State looked solid, if unspectacular. They harassed Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, sacking him four times (John Simon was routinely in his grill) and picking him off thrice. But they gave up some long drives and some big plays of their own (the biggest being the 73 yard run by Husker RB Rex Burkhead).
But these are minor quibbles. Ohio State scored 63 points(!) in Big Ten game(!!). Miller set another record, the defense forced four turnovers and all three units found end zone pay dirt. It was a total team effort and a total team win. Buckeye fans should feel good about this game. I imagine Ohio State will crack the Top 10 this week.
Next week, Ohio State travels to Bloomington, Indiana to face the Hoosiers at (*gulp*) 8pm on Saturday night.