Urban Meyer’s favorite part of Ohio State’s 36-31 win over Nebraska was not surprising.
“The biggest thing to get that darned bad taste out of your mouth from a couple weeks ago and go win the game,” Meyer said. “It was a close game against a team that was hitting stride now.”
GAME STORY: Buckeyes rally from halftime deficit
Meyer and the Buckeyes had to wait an extra week to put a 49-20 loss at Purdue behind them.
What they got out of game No. 9 was far from perfect, but it was still something to build on.
Here are five things to know:
1. Ohio State rediscovered its running game.
The hottest topic of the week off was what happened to the vaunted rush attack of the Buckeyes?
They answered those questions, at least for one week, by torching a subpar Nebraska run defense for 229 yards on 40 attempts, an average of 5.7 yards.
“I thought the backs worked on pad level,” Meyer said. “And even when there was a free player — which is going to be when you learn more of a pro-style offense like we are, you’re going to have a free player at times — they have to run over those guys and drop their pads. And I thought they did a good job with that.”
J.K. Dobbins led the way with 163 yards on 23 carries while Mike Weber added 91 yards on nine. Dobbins found the end zone three times and also picked up two first downs on the final drive, allowing Ohio State to run out the clock.
2. Concentrating on running the ball helped.
Ohio State made the ground game more of a priority by cutting back on run-pass options that give Haskins the ability to pull the ball and throw. The offensive line responded by opening some big holes for Dobbins and Weber.
The Buckeyes more more use of heavier personnel, too, using their two-tight end sets more and unveiling a goal line offense with backup offensive guard lining up and tight end and two tight ends flanking Haskins with Dobbins lined up behind him.
That diamond formation paved the way for a Dobbins touchdown run in the third quarter.
“I think we pounded the ball in there pretty good,” Meyer said. “We worked ad nauseam at that. The amount of time that we spent at that was over the top, and I felt the line of scrimmage change. And it’s difficult to run against that bear defense that Nebraska runs.”
3. Special teams provided a big boost.
After falling behind early 7-0, Ohio State got its first points from a blocked punt by Keandre Jones. It rolled into the end zone out of bounds for a safety.
Meanwhile, Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman had another strong day, averaging 47.8 yards on four punts. He landed two inside the 20 and boomed a 59-yarder.
He averaged 14 more yards per punt than his Nebraska counterpart, and Ohio State enjoyed a 20.0-yard advantage in average net yards per punt.
4. Dwayne Haskins had an off day.
The sophomore quarterback has been magnificent most of the season, but he struggled with accuracy Saturday against Nebraska.
A 71.1-percent passer entering the game, Haskins completed 18 of 32 for 252 yards. He threw a pair of touchdown passes but also lost a fumble and threw an interception in the end zone that cost Ohio State a chance at points.
“It wasn’t very sharp,” Haskins said. “I would probably give it like a six as far as a grade would go. But the good thing about it is we still won. The running game got better. We can always improve. We haven’t played our best game yet, and when we get really dynamic on both sides of the running and passing, we’ll be scary.”
On the bright side, he broke J.T. Barrett’s single-season record for completions (240), finishing the day with 242.
5. Turnovers played a big role.
Haskins fumbled with Ohio State looking to add to a 16-7 lead in the second quarter. Instead, the Cornhuskers got the ball and drove for a touchdown to draw within two.
K.J. Hill’s fumble on the next possession gave Nebraska the ball in Ohio State territory, and the visitors cashed in with another touchdown drive that gave them a 23-21 halftime lead.
“I’m very upset with the turnovers,” Meyer said. “That would have been a different game. I thought special teams was awesome. We blocked a punt. Our punter did a great job. He had four kicks, averaged almost 50 yards per kick. Kickoff return wasn’t great.”
On the flip side, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez’s day was marred by a bad decision to throw a backwards pass in the red zone that turned into a fumble Ohio State recovered, ending a scoring threat.