For the last three weeks, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been on a desperate search for the Buckeye squad that went down to Norman, Oklahoma, and blasted the Sooners on their home field.
If you saw the smile on Meyer’s face after J.T. Barrett’s jump pass for a touchdown to Curtis Samuel that gave the Buckeyes a 31-3 lead over No. 10 Nebraska late in the first half, it’s safe to say he may have found it.
No. 6 Ohio State looked like a College Football Playoff team with a devastating 62-3 win over an overmatched Cornhusker squad. With their Nov. 26 showdown against No. 3 Michigan looming on the horizon, the Buckeyes are starting to find their mojo.
During Meyer’s tenure in Columbus, the Buckeyes are 16-1 in November. On Saturday, Ohio State resembled that record and changed the tenor of a season that had been sputtering along in October.
With Texas A&M’s loss to Mississippi State, Ohio State certainly made a convincing case to be in the fourth spot for this week’s College Football Playoff poll. That would mean leapfrogging No. 5 Washington, which turned in an impressive road win over California.
The argument Ohio State partisans can point to is that Saturday’s win was the largest over a opponent ranked in the AP Top 10 in school history. Ohio State scored every time it touched the football on both offense and defense.
If you include the two interception returns for touchdowns, the Buckeyes scored on their first 10 possessions and effectively ended the competitive portion of the game by halftime.
Granted, Nebraska played most of the game without quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., who left the game with an apparent concussion late in the second quarter, but the way this contest played out, it’s unlikely Armstrong’s presence would have made that much of a difference. Ohio State was clicking on all cylinders.
Ohio State compiled 590 yards of offense. There was no inconsistency in the passing game for Barrett this week. He completed 26-of-38 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns. He also gained 39 yards rushing.
What will make the Buckeyes’ offense even more dangerous down the home stretch of the season is if the staff keeps getting the ball into the hands of H-back Curtis Samuel. Every time he touches the ball, Samuel is a threat to score, whether he runs it or catches it.
Samuel harassed the Nebraska defense as a wide receiver and a running back. He caught eight passes for 137 yards and scored two touchdowns. He also gained 41 yards on five carries. In all, he accounted for 178 yards of offense for the Buckeyes.
If Ohio State can keep figuring out ways to get the ball to Samuel, it will be tough to beat.
“We played a good game today, everything was clicking,” Samuel said. “We didn’t really do anything different; it’s about execution. In previous weeks, we didn’t execute at the highest level whereas today we did.”
Defensively, the Buckeyes held the Cornhuskers to just 204 yards and forced two turnovers. Ohio State held Nebraska to just nine first downs for the game. It was arguably one of the best efforts of the season for a young defense.
The Buckeyes set the tone early by providing the game’s first score on a pick six. Outside of the drive for a field goal, Nebraska’s potent offense couldn’t generate much of anything against the Ohio State defense.
The challenge for OSU is to come up with this effort against a hungry Michigan squad which will come into Columbus with a huge chip on its shoulder.
Staying sharp the next two weeks will serve that goal.
November 26 is getting closer, but Ohio State showed against Nebraska that the present moment is the only moment the Buckeyes can shape. When they remain in the now, they’re extremely tough to handle.