Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, was simply not the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ night. It was a nightmare, a blur of an evening in which everything went wrong for the Big Red. From the early tip that led to a pick-six off a Tommy Armstrong, Jr. pass to the offensive juggernaut in scarlet and gray that stomped through Ohio Stadium to the final gun, it was — in a word — ugly.
What made the experience worse was that Armstrong took a nasty spill in which his head ricocheted off the turf as he was falling out of bounds. He was immobilized and taken to a nearby medical facility, but not before giving a thumbs up. The crowd came for football, but it chanted his name, recognizing the grit he displayed.
To the surprise of many, Armstrong returned in sweats and scrubs to talk with his team, to coach his players the best he could. Backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe entered the game following Armstrong’s exit and things went… poorly.
Over the course of the game, the Huskers had trouble making catches. Tackling Buckeyes seemed like an impossible task. Going 5-for-15 on third down is no way to go through a ballgame and expect a win.
For the history buffs among you, the last time Nebraska suffered a defeat of this magnitude was in 2004 when the Huskers traveled to Texas Tech. Mike Leach’s air raid pummeled the Big Red to the tune of 70-10. The Big Red finished that season with five wins and six losses during a year that was very much about cramming a square peg of an offense into the round hole of a team not ready for the transition.
Believe it or not, there is some good news after this beatdown. While Nebraska may not control its own destiny in getting to Indianapolis, it will not face a team the caliber of Ohio State again (unless it makes its way to Indy, which would be a wonderful problem to have).
Minnesota, Maryland and Iowa are all very beatable teams. Assuming the Huskers can go on a 3-0 run down the stretch, that will put them at 10-2 for the regular season.
I won’t lie, this does depend on whether or not Armstrong can play. Fyfe simply is not a quarterback for this system or even the FBS level. Zack Darlington was already identified as an “emergency quarterback,” and the time for pulling Patrick O’Brien’s redshirt is likely well past us.
For those who are stumbling over each other to press the “Fire Mike Riley” button, and there are at least a few, let me stop you. This is a game that couldn’t have been salvaged by Bo Pelini, Bill Callahan or Frank Solich. I dare say that Tom Osborne himself couldn’t have saved the day. This is a team decimated by injury giving its all on a week-by-week basis. The wins are ugly, but they’re wins and that’s what matters.
In the meantime, take the necessary day or two to grieve and process this loss, but Minnesota will be coming to the friendly confines of Lincoln… and you know what that means:
The $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy is up for grabs!