Lincoln – Nebraska went toe-to-toe with No. 6 Ohio State, but four field goals by Noah Ruggles were the difference as the Buckeyes escaped from Memorial Stadium with a 26-17 win on Saturday.
With the victory, Ohio State improved to 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the Big Ten, while Nebraska slipped to 3-7 and 1-6 in the conference with its seventh single-digit setback of the year, including its fourth to a current Associated Press Top 10 team.
Ohio State used a ball-control passing game to total 495 yards on the day, including 36-of-54 passing by C.J. Stroud. However, the Blackshirts got interceptions from JoJo Domann and Myles Farmer to stay within striking distance until the game’s closing moments. Nebraska’s defense held Ohio State to its lowest point total of the season. It was also just the third time in the past four seasons that the Buckeyes were held to just two touchdowns in a game.
In addition to his first quarter interception, Domann notched nine tackles, including a TFL. He also had two breakups and a quarterback hurry. Farmer added seven tackles, while Quinton Newsome and Luke Reimer both led the Blackshirts with 10 tackles.
Ruggles, who went 4-for-4 on field goals on the day, improved to 15-for-15 on the season.
Stroud completed 15 passes to Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who amassed 240 receiving yards, including a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put Ohio State in the driver’s seat in the first half.
The Blackshirts held Ohio State to just 90 rushing yards on the day, while the Huskers managed 113 yards on the ground. Adrian Martinez completed 16-of-31 passes for 248 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown strike to Samori Toure to answer Smith-Njigba’s long touchdown in the second quarter.
Toure added a 53-yard reception late in the third quarter to set up a Martinez one-yard touchdown run that pulled Nebraska within 23-17 at the end of three quarters. Toure finished with four catches for 150 yards on the day.
TreVeyon Henderson led the Buckeyes on the ground with 92 yards on 21 carries. He also had six receptions for 44 yards. Rahmir Johnson led the Huskers with 16 carries for 62 yards. Martinez added 51 yards on 18 carries for Nebraska.
After a scoreless first quarter that was dominated by the defenses, the offenses showed their speed in the second quarter. Ohio State cracked the scoreboard with a 26-yard field goal by Ruggles with 11:25 left in the half. After the Buckeyes forced a quick three-and-out, the OSU offense benefited from a short punt to start at the Nebraska 49. Seven plays later, the Buckeyes went up 10-0 on a three-yard pass from Stroud to Chris Olave with 6:41 left. Olave finished with seven receptions for 61 yards.
Nebraska’s offense found an answer with an eight-play drive of its own that concluded with a 39-yard Chase Contreraz field goal to cut the margin to 10-3 with 3:46 left in the half.
However, that score held for just one play, as Smith-Njigba took a short Stroud pass and turned it into a 75-yard touchdown to give the Buckeyes their biggest lead of the half at 17-3 with 3:34 left.
The Huskers showed they weren’t going away, as two plays later the Big Red found a big answer when Martinez hit Toure at midfield and the Husker receiver outran the Buckeyes to the end zone for a 72-yard touchdown. The long throw and run cut the Buckeye margin to 17-10 with 2:53 remaining before halftime.
The Blackshirts then forced a quick three-and-out by the Buckeyes to take over with 1:37 left. Nebraska’s offense was not able to get untracked, and Ohio State gained an eighth first-half possession with 37 seconds left. The Buckeyes ran six plays against the Blackshirts but ran out of time before they were able to threaten and the teams went to the locker room with OSU leading 17-10 and Nebraska ready to receive the second-half kickoff.
Nebraska could not muster a march to open the second half, and Ohio State started its first possession of the third quarter at its own 48. In a choppy drive that included a pair of negative running plays and an offensive holding penalty, the Buckeyes still pushed the ball to the Nebraska 29, where Ruggles booted a 46-yard field goal to go up 20-10 with just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes continued to silence the Nebraska offense in the third quarter, before getting another short drive of just 35 yards, before Ruggles kicked his third field goal, this time from 35 yards out, to push the margin to 23-10 with 2:05 left.
Again, Nebraska refused to fold. After a pair of strong Husker runs and a defensive holding penalty by Ohio State, Martinez found Toure, who broke a tackle and then fought his way down to the OSU 1-yard line. Martinez sprinted into the end zone on the next play with 22 seconds left in the third quarter to cut the margin to 23-17.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Farmer then provided the Big Red with a huge play, when he intercepted a Stroud pass at the NU 10 and returned it up the Ohio State sideline to the Husker 24. A pair of penalties during and after the return allowed Nebraska to start the ensuing drive at the 29. Nine consecutive rushes and 58 yards later, the Husker drive stalled at the Ohio State 13. The Huskers elected to attempt a field goal instead of trying to convert 4th-and-4 against the Buckeye defense. Contreraz missed his second field goal of the day, this time from 31 yards out, and Ohio State took over with a six-point lead and 9:47 left.
The two teams exchanged stops, before Ohio State was able to put up the only points of the fourth quarter with a Ruggles 46-yard field goal with 1:29 left. Before the field goal, on 1st-and-10 at the Nebraska 34, Stroud dropped back to pass and was sacked by Garrett Nelson, who also forced a fumble that bounced from the midfield logo toward the Husker sideline. However, the Blackshirts were unable to recover, as Ohio State offensive lineman Luke Wypler covered the fumble to save the possession for the Buckeyes.
Nebraska will enjoy a bye weekend before returning to Big Ten road action by battling Wisconsin on Saturday, Nov. 20.