LINCOLN — All the build up and all the hype with “College GameDay” coming to Lincoln was on display Saturday.
The Huskers, and their fans, were hoping to be relevant on the national scene for the first time in years.
All this and more was out the window as soon as the game started. No. 5 Ohio State showed it’s as good as we thought and maybe even better. Nebraska showed it still has a long way to go.
In the end, it was another behind the woodshed moment for a Husker program which has found itself in that position way too many times in recent years.
In the end, it was another blowout loss, this time with the Buckeyes coming out ahead 48-7 in a game that maybe wasn’t that close.
It was 38-0 at the half. The closest thing the Huskers got to a stop in the first 30 minutes of play was when they held the Buckeyes to a field goal in the second quarter — and then when the clock ran out on Ohio State to end the first half, but that can’t really be considered a stop.
“I thought we had a puncher’s chance if we came out and played a really good game, but we didn’t,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said.
You can’t point to one thing that went wrong for Nebraska. The Huskers struggled on offense while Ohio State did pretty much whatever it wanted.
The Nebraska defense never could get a handle on the Buckeye offense. J.K. Dobbins went for 177 yards on 24 carries while quarterback Justin Fields — who wasn’t good enough to start at Georgia — just turned in a performance on par with what other Ohio State quarterbacks have done against Nebraska.
Fields rushed for 77 yards on 12 carries and completed 15-of-21 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns.
Ohio State hasn’t been kind to the Huskers. Except for a 34-27 Nebraska win in 2011, the Buckeyes have owned this series, and it hasn’t been close most of the time.
It was Ohio State winning 63-38 in Columbus in 2012. After three off years when the two teams didn’t play, the Buckeyes laid a 62-3 whipping on the Huskers in Columbus in 2016 before winning 56-14 in 2017 in Lincoln.
Last year was competitive with Ohio State coming away with a 36-31 victory in Columbus.
And now back in Lincoln again this year, it was the same old same old.
Many hoped the Huskers could make it competitive this time around. After all, Ohio State had a new coach (Ryan Day) and a new quarterback (Fields). What most of us maybe didn’t realize until Saturday night is this Ohio State team may be one of the best squads the Buckeyes have had for several years.
This team has the look of a national championship contender.
And once again, Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman was nowhere to be found — until early in the fourth quarter. Chrisman’s 59-yard punt with 13:22 left in the game was the Buckeyes’ first punt in Lincoln since 2011.
The die hards hung in there though. They held onto their balloons for a long time, until finally late in the third quarter Dedrick Mills went over from 9 yards out to get the Huskers on the board.
That may have made it 48-7, but it was the first bit of good news for the crowd.
But you know what they say. You can’t spot a team like Ohio State a 48-0 lead and expect to win.
By that time, it was all over. It was just a matter of running out the final quarter of play.
“I’m disappointed,” Frost said. “I knew they were a good team. They’re really good. I’ve been on the field with a lot of good football teams. They just put pressure on you because they’re really good on offense, really good on defense.”
This is the fourth straight year the Huskers have faced Ohio State. The two teams meet again next year in Columbus and back in Lincoln in 2021 before the series takes a couple of years off.
There’s no way to know how the Big Ten sets up its schedule. Just consider on Oct. 26, the Huskers face Indiana for just the second time since Nebraska joined the conference in 2011 and for the first time in Lincoln.
But you just play whoever is on the schedule. Next up is Northwestern Saturday in Lincoln.
Don’t let that 1-3 record for the Wildcats fool you. There’s no reason to think the Huskers won’t have their hands full.
Yes, this game was ugly from the Huskers’ standpoint, but Frost repeated what he’s been saying for the last year.
“The kids know where this is going. The coaches know where this is going,” Frost said.
Now the Huskers need to win the games they can win. Wisconsin looks very good. So does Iowa. Those will be tough games, but both are in Lincoln.
Northwestern, Minnesota, Indiana, Purdue and Maryland are all games Nebraska can certainly win.
So a seven- or eight-win season is still out there for the taking, and while that’s not the jump many would like to see, it would certainly be a step in the right direction.
Bob Hamar is sports editor for The Independent.