LINCOLN — Even the most loyal, die-hard Nebraska football fan probably didn’t expect the Huskers to win Saturday night.
Ohio State came into the game underrated at Nos. 8/9 after losing to Oklahoma early in the season. The Buckeyes won’t be underrated much longer.
These guys play big boy college football. The Huskers, well, don’t.
Ohio State came into Memorial Stadium and took the Huskers behind the woodshed for a solid beating. It was 35-0 at the half. The only thing in doubt was the final score.
In the end, the Buckeyes headed back to Columbus with a 56-14 victory that left no doubt where they are in the college football world. It also left no doubt where the Huskers are either.
They’re a .500 team at best this season.
The good news is they won’t play another team as good as the Buckeyes this season.
At least the Huskers get a bye week now. No team ever needed one more.
All in all, it was a frustrating night for the Huskers, their coaches and the fans, many who appeared to have left by the time the third quarter started. This isn’t what anyone wants, but this is where we’re at.
The balloons some fans released after Nebraska's second first down of the game — which came well into the second quarter — were without a doubt loaded with sarcasm. Maybe those were the fans who were gone by the half.
A few plays later, Tanner Lee hit JD Spielman for a 38-yard gain to the Ohio State 45. Spielman just about took it the distance, but was tripped up on a shoestring tackle by Ohio State’s Jordan Fuller.
That was the only highlight for the Huskers in the opening half. The Buckeyes had five possessions in the first 30 minutes of the game and scored five touchdowns.
That streak finally stopped late in the game when Ohio State failed on a fourth-and-11 play from the Nebraska 20. The fans who were left gave the defense a nice round of applause.
The Huskers did have some highlights in the third quarter. Like the 77-yard scoring pass from Lee to Spielman with 11:05 left in the quarter.
There were a few balloons left, but you have to think some of those fans wished they still had theirs.
And there was a nifty 17-yard scoring catch by Stanley Morgan Jr. That about covers it.
As for the defense, we watched the Huskers hold Northern Illinois to 213 total yards, Rutgers to 194 and Illinois to 199 and wondered how good this defense might be.
We found out a little bit last week when Wisconsin dominated the Huskers in the second half. We learned more this week.
The Huskers might be pretty good against the bad teams, but they’re not ready for the Ohio States of the college football world.
Ohio State rolled up 279 yards rushing and 354 passing for 633 total yards. Quarterback J.T. Barrett, who was getting some criticism early in the season, completed 27-of-33 passes for 325 yards.
“They have both the talent and the execution to make it look like that and we had an impossible time, it looked like, getting them off the field, and we didn’t,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said.
“...We really just had a hard time keeping up with what they were doing with the totality of their offense.”
Riley did see some good things Saturday night. Unfortunately for him, they were pretty much all from the Ohio State performance.
“It certainly paints a picture of where you have to go if you really want to do what everybody wants to do here,” Riley said.
Riley is certainly feeling the heat. Somehow he needs to find a way to squeeze out three more victories in the final five games and qualify for a bowl.
Purdue, Northwestern and Minnesota are certainly winnable games. Iowa is a maybe.
Penn State? Forget about it.
“We can kind of use it as a reboot going into these last five,” Riley said of the bye week. “I know not everybody wants to hear that right now, but that’s where I’m at.”
How long will he be here? That’s hard to say with a new athletic director expected to be named this week. It wouldn’t be surprising if the new guy wants to clean house and start over.
But one clue may have popped up on my smartphone at 9:56 p.m., just minutes after the game got over.
“Light traffic in your area.”
Minutes after the Husker game is over there is light traffic in your area? That is not a good sign for the Husker football program.
Bob Hamar is sports editor for The Independent.