Game 1 Recap: Ohio State 52 – Nebraska 17
The first game back for the season was not normal by regular standards, but it was for 2020. Ohio State played in front of a crowd of over 1,300 friends and family members, and several thousand cardboard cutouts. There was no marching band, so no Script Ohio, or even Carmen Ohio with the band to sing at the end of the game. What was normal was Ohio State winning its first game of the season, and its 13th straight game against a Big Ten opponent with a double digit margin of victory.
Nebraska received the ball to start the game, and immediately attacked the young defense with a series of runs and QB RPO’s with Adrian Martinez. They even utilized the second string quarterback Luke McCaffrey as a running back, who busted out a 47 yard run, and was tackled at the Ohio State 10 yard line to an eventual Adrian Martinez touchdown, who went untouched. Flashbacks of Trevor Lawrence popped through Buckeyes minds after Nebraska only needed 4 plays to score and take an early 7-0 lead.
The Buckeyes offense took the field with on of the most anticipated units to watch in the country and to see how Justin Fields has improved between year 1 and 2 of his Buckeye career. He was business as usually after going 3 for 3 and Master Teague ran in for a 1 yard touchdown to even up the score. The Buckeye defense held Nebraska to a 3 and out, and Justin Fields connected with Garrett Wilson for a beautiful 42 yard touchdown pass to take the lead 14-7. Wilson had made the move to slot receiver and was able to be one of the top targets for Justin Fields this game.
The two teams exchanged punts, but Nebraska was able to find the end zone again with a Dedrick Mills rushing touchdown to tie up the game. The Buckeyes got a field goal on their next series, and then after forcing another 3 and out, Teague ran it in for his second touchdown of the game, and the Buckeyes took a 24-14 lead going into half. Justin Fields had his only incompletion of the game on this drive, which was caught by Olave in the endzone, but he could not hold possession of it.
The second half was really when the Buckeyes took over. Justin Fields capped off the opening drive of the second half with a spin move into a 17 yard touchdown run. And then on the Nebraska possession, Jonathan Cooper knocked the ball out of Adrian Martinez’s hands, which Sevyn Banks was able to scoop and score. Unlike Daniel Jones for the New York Giants, Banks was able to regain composure after a slight stumble, and finish off the run into the endzone.
Nebraksa would then respond with a field goal, to cut into the lead, 35-17, but those would be the last points they would score for the game. Fields connected with freshman receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba in what will probably be one of the most impressive catches of the season. Smith-Njigba did his best Michael Thomas impression and foot tapped the back of the endzone with his right foot. After the game was well in hand, the starters went off, and freshman Jack Miller came in as the back-up quarterback, and ran for his first touchdown as a Buckeye. Ryan Day apologized in his press conference after the game that he did not mean to run up the score, but the Buckeyes covered the spread, and won 52-17.
Justin Fields finished the day with 20-21 for 276 yards passing and 2 touchdowns, and 54 yards rushing with a touchdown on 15 carries. Trey Sermon had 11 carries for 48 yards, and Master Teague had 12 carries for 41 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Chris Olave went out of the game, but was still able to have 6 catches for 106 yards. Garrett Wilson led all receivers with 7 catches and 129 yards with a touchdown.
The defense, which was a concern going into the game, forced two fumbles, and had 3 sacks. They did give up 370 yards, so they will need to work on that as they prepare for a Penn State team that likes to run the ball due to the lack of depth at receiver.
The game was kept closer than what was expected through the first half, but the second half opened up the lead for the Buckeyes, and altered the momentum of the game. After Justin Fields ran in for his rushing touchdown of the game from their opening drive to start the second half, Nebraska had 7 plays before Adrian Martinez fumbled after a forced fumble by Jonathan Cooper, and Sevyn Banks scooped the ball and dashed the 55 yards for a touchdown to extend the Buckeye lead to 38-14 at that time, and the Cornhuskers were never able to get back into the game or close.
Star of the Game
Justin Fields. His 20-21 passing to go along with 3 total touchdowns and 330 total yards are they reason why Ohio State has a chance to win the National Championship this season, and the key equalizer after losing talent on the offensive side from last years team. He ran 15 times this game, which is high than his average carried per game last year, due to the lack of dominance from the running backs, but it is hard to get to tied to that for it being their first game of the season, and have a long way to go to work on that and correct it.
Ohio State returns to play, and the excuses for any voter who were keeping them off their weekly ballot is done. They went into this game as the 5th ranked team after a few upsets already this season, but with a big win, they jump up to 3rd place in both the coaches poll and AP poll. They currently sit at the top 3 with Clemson and Alabama, and with Penn State getting beat, it will be hard to see which team in their division could slow them down from making it the the Big Ten Championship game. They will need to win all of their games to be considered because of their shortened season, but if their jump in the polls this week is any indication, Ohio State proves it is one of the best 4 teams in the country even if it doesn’t play more that 9 games.
Ohio State (1-0) travels to Happy Valley to face Penn State (0-1) at 7:30pm. College GameDay will be on site for this matchup
Nebraska (0-1) returns home to host Wisconsin (0-1) at 3:30pm for their first home game of the season.
Photo credit: CBSSports.com