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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Preview: Ohio State at Nebraska
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

Nebraskafootball2- Saturday, October 8, 2011

- Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska

- 8:00 p.m. (ET)

- TV: ABC -

The program is accustomed to’s traditional....but they’re stinging as they come off of a deflating defeat a week ago. They have an athletic young quarterback, but their passing game isn’t getting passing grades.  And the Big Ten schedule they’re up against makes them a longshot to win the conference this year....but enough about the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

There are lots of other parallels between the Buckeyes and their opponents this Saturday night...from their former-Buckeye head coaches, to the seas of scarlet in their stadiums. But they’ll be meeting for the first time in more than half a century in this, the first ever Big Ten home game for the Cornhuskers. And that alone is enough to grab the nation’s attention. The national ABC-TV thing helps too.

Bo Pelini’s Cornhuskers (4-1, 0-1) come into the game ranked 14th in the media poll, and 15th in the coaches’ ranking. Nebraska has lost their only two previous meetings with Ohio State, but that’s in the realm of ancient 1955 and 1956. On the other hand, Pelini is 2-0 in his two previous coaching forays against his alma a graduate assistant with Iowa when they beat OSU in 1991, and as defensive coordinator with LSU in the BCS championship game following the 2007 season. Pelini apologized for his team’s performance against Wisconsin last week, calling it “a joke”, and he’s hoping the 315th consecutive sellout in Lincoln will help get his troops back to playing “Nebraska football”.

Pelini8rBesides Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, what will be unfamiliar to Ohio State (3-2, 0-1) this weekend is playing the role of underdog in a Big Ten game, let alone as a double-digit dog. The line reflects the fact that an awful lot of people think Nebraska is going to stomp a mudhole in the Buckeyes’ back and walk it dry on Saturday night. And those people are not exactly out on a limb.

The setting will be intimidating, the Cornhuskers players will be amped...did I mention first ever Big Ten home?...yeah. They paid their “Welcome to the Big Ten” dues in a big way last week, getting drubbed in Madison by the Badgers, so they’ll be in the mood to make a the conference and to the nation. Meanwhile, it’s not unfair to say the Ohio State program is reeling.

State of the Buckeyes

As Ohio State stares a possible 0-2 Big Ten record in the face, the Buckeyes’ recent track record of not losing more than one conference game for the last six seasons seems ever more remarkable. And it has been seven years since OSU has lost consecutive games, another notable streak that is in serious jeopardy this Saturday.

We heard a lot this offseason about how the Buckeyes were ticked off about the way their coach and their program were portrayed during the scandals, and how they wanted to do their talking on the field this fall. A nationally-televised matchup against one of the teams looking to replace them atop the conference would be a good time and place to start showing it. I imagine the OSU coaches may have used the word “pride” once or twice in practice this week.

After the rock named Bobby DiGeronimo was rolled over a few weeks ago to expose three OSU players taking improper payments for attending a charity event sponsored by the Cleveland-based booster, a few more problems have crawled out from under it. Two of the players the Buckeyes thought would be returning to action this week from their 5-game suspensions had their furloughs extended when additional violations involving DiGeronimo came to light.

Drip, Drip, Drip

DeVier Posey and Dan Herron were reported to have received overpayment for summer jobs they were supposedly working for DiGeronimo. Those two, along with offensive lineman Marcus Hall have been suspended for the Nebraska game while applying for reinstatement by the NCAA for future games. Some of the offending activity is said to have taken place during other words, after the other OSU player scandals were exposed and punished.

It’s just one more in a long list of self-inflicted wounds by Ohio State football players, but it is particularly galling that Posey and Herron were involved. These two are among the talents most missed by the struggling OSU offense, but the oft-repeated claim that the two seniors are important team “leaders” is rendered laughable by this latest example of their lack of judgment and concern for their teammates.

And speaking of laughable....OSU President Gordon Gee was in the news again this week for saying publicly that Ohio State is “the poster child for compliance”. It is true that when the NCAA examined the Ohio State compliance office as part of their thorough investigation of the program, they determined that the school more than meets NCAA standards in that area. But there’s a time for tooting the department’s horn...and this week wasn’t it. Gee continues to function for OSU’s public relations much as Anthony Weiner did for that of Congress.

On the injury front, one wide receiver may be back, and another is lost for the season. Philly Brown may be able to play Saturday after missing time with an ankle injury, but redshirt freshman Verlon Reed has a torn ACL and is out for the season after getting hurt on the last-second onside kick against MSU.

Senior defensive end Nathan Williams end will not play against Nebraska, and I’m hearing talk this week that he too might not return at all this year after undergoing an arthroscopic knee procedure four weeks ago. His backup Solomon Thomas is eligible to return this week from his Tatgate suspension, but it was revealed recently that Thomas suffered a broken bone in his leg this past summer, and might not be completely ready to go yet.

Key Personnel - Nebraska

TaylorMartinez4rQuarterback Taylor Martinez was the guy taking most of the heat for the Cornhuskers lopsided loss to Wisconsin last week, but his overall productivity on offense is still pretty impressive. He has already rushed for 482 yards, with 8 rushing TD’s, and is 54 of 107 passing, for 823 yards, with 4 TDs and 5 interceptions. Three of those picks came against the Badgers, and had the effect of turning a fairly close game into a blowout. I’d expect the coaches to rein in the passing game somewhat against the Bucks.

Rex Burkhead has inherited the role of feature running back in Lincoln, and the 5’11”, 210 lb. junior has made the most of his opportunity so far with 516 yards and 8 TD’s through five games, a 6.4 yard average. Freshman Jamal Turner (13 rec., 223 yds) has given the Huskers a true home run threat at wide receiver, and he teams with sophomore Quincy Enunwa and redshirt freshman Kenny Bell to give them a young but talented receiving corps. Tight end Kyler Reed has gotten off to a bit of a slow start (5 rec, 137 yds) but he’s a superior athlete who provides Martinez with another good downfield target.

On defense, three Cornhuskers made most of the preseason All-American teams, but so far in 2011, the presence of defensive tackle Jared Crick, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard hasn’t translated to the overall defensive dominance that was predicted of them. Nebraska has given up 27.2 points per game against opponents that include Fresno State, UT Chattanooga and Wyoming, and they rank 11th in the Big Ten in total defense coming into this game.

Crick and Dennard have missed games with injuries during the early portion of the season, but that doesn’t fully account for the Huskers’ lack of a consistent pass rush, or the fact that they have created just seven turnovers in five games.

The Huskers have found another excellent kicker in Brett Maher after graduating Alex Henery to the NFL. Maher handles punting duties as well as placekicking, and he’s averaging an outstanding 47.9 yards per kick while hitting 9 of 11 field goals, with a long of 50 yards.

Idle Speculation

To say the deck is stacked against Ohio State this weekend is to understate the case. I have not done the requisite research, but still feel confident in saying this program has never in its history gone into a game as a double-digit underdog against an opponent coming off a game they lost by 31 points. Such is the state of affairs in Columbus for a team trying to recover and rebound from a humiliating loss of their own.

The “national perception” of a team or a program doesn’t win or lose football games, but the piling on of yet more player violations this past week assures that on this national telecast, it will be the Buckeyes portrayed as the guys in the black hats. The important thing is the way that Ohio State coaches and players respond to the challenge.

If the Buckeyes are going to make something out of this season besides the Luke Fickell Death Watch, they need to start by winning one of these tough October matchups. (Longtime OSU media figure and former PD writer Bruce Hooley says that the hiring of Urban Meyer is such a no-brainer that not even Ohio State can screw it up)

In this game, (and in every subsequent game on the OSU schedule), the defense will gear up to stop the run and force the Buckeyes to prove they can throw the ball effectively. OSU coaches have said this week that they have been working on ways to combat this approach, so we’ll see how that works...but color me skeptical.

I do expect to see the Buckeyes run the ball fairly well. This Nebraska defense has shown itself to be vulnerable, and the Bucks have managed decent performances on the ground against other teams with similar game plans. What will probably prove much more difficult is slowing down the Nebraska running game.

The Huskers average almost 250 yards per game rushing from their spread option attack, with Martinez and Burkhead getting approximately an equal number of carries. Their struggles with the forward pass will have them focused more than ever on getting the ground game working early, and it will take a fundamentally sound game from the entire OSU defense to keep that from happening.

Even if the Buckeye defense succeeds early in slowing the Huskers ground attack, the offense will have to sustain some possessions (and hopefully score some points) in order to keep the defense from wearing down as the game goes along. And that may be too tall an order for this struggling OSU offensive unit.

I’m not foreseeing a blowout on the order predicted by some folks, but I do believe the Cornhuskers will have their first Big Ten win when it’s over. Two good defenses and two questionable offenses should keep the score down, a must if the Buckeyes are to have a sporting chance.

I know there’s some pride in these Buckeyes and their coaches, and that some of that will be evident this Saturday in their performance. But I don’t think it will be enough to win the day.

I’ve got it 23-10 Nebraska.



OSU Athletics Communications - Game Notes (pdf)

2011 Ohio State Roster

2011 Nebraska Roster


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