Ohio State football got back in the win column Saturday.
With surging Michigan leaving no margin for error in the Big Ten East race, Urban Meyer’s team just has to keep winning — whether the Buckeyes play their best game or not.
“Yeah, we did,” Meyer replied when asked if his team improved during a 36-31 win over double-digit underdog Nebraska. “And I get it that that was a two-win team, but that’s a two-win team that people don’t want to play right now. Like I said, on videotape, I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw: very good players, very good scheme and guys are going to get very good.”
GAME STORY: Buckeyes rally from halftime deficit
Regardless of what 2-7 Nebraska’s future might be under first-year coach Scott Frost, the present is of more concern to the Buckeyes and their fans.
“So to answer your question, we’re going to go back to work,” Meyer said. “We’re going to enjoy that win now. We’re going to have a victory meal tomorrow night as a team, go enjoy it and go to work on the next one.”
In terms of yards per play, the win over the Cornhuskers was Ohio State’s best performance on each side of the ball since a win over Tulane on Sept. 22.
Coming before a knockdown, drag-out victory at Penn State, lackluster wins over Indiana and Minnesota and an embarrassing loss at Purdue, that victorious day against the Green Wave feels like it was a long time ago.
The sudden return of a run game that slowly withered down to almost nothing over that stretch of time was certainly heartening to Ohio State fans, but this season there always seems to be something to worry about.
“The passing game wasn’t as sharp today,” Meyer said after watching his team run for 229 yards on 40 carries, a 5.7-yard average.
Meanwhile, Dwayne Haskins completed 18 of 32 passes for 252 yards with two touchdowns and an interception — bad numbers, but pedestrian for a player who entered the game leading the nation in touchdown passes and third in yards.
Ohio State’s sophomore quarterback also lost a fumble.
“We threw a pick and we had a sack-fumble that was just a missed assignment by a tight end,” Meyer said. “Shouldn’t have happened.”
Receiver K.J. Hill also lost a fumble that set up a short Nebraska touchdown drive while running back Mike Weber put the ball on the ground twice but was fortunate not to have the Cornhuskers recover either of them.
“We have to get those fixed,” Meyer said. “It never ends, you’ve just got to prioritize and emphasized and get it fixed.”
Next up is a trip to Michigan State.
Coach Mark Dantoino’s Spartans present almost the exact opposite challenge Nebraska posed.
While Frost’s Huskers brought a top 20 offense and a putrid defense to Columbus, MSU ranks No. 105 in total offense and 22nd in total defense.
The story is much the same in terms of scoring: The Spartans are 110th in points per game (23.4) and 16th in points per game allowed (19.0).
Most notably: Ohio State’s rediscovered running game will not have to wait to be tested.
Michigan State’s defense leads the nation in rushing, yielding just 71.7 yards per game on the ground.
“Michigan State always plays us hard,” Haskins said. “It’s a tough, strong defense. They’re probably looking forward to giving us a run for our money next week after we looked pretty good against them last year. Right now we’re just gonna start planning for them, get ready for all the pressures they give, get ready for that stadium. It’s probably going to be cold outside as it always is, but we’re looking forward to going to get that win.”