Trip to Nebraska next for Ohio State team looking for its first test

After blitzing three nonconference opponents and trouncing Indiana in what amounted to a soft opening to the Big Ten football season, Ohio State football is ready to step up in competition.

Or so Ryan Day hopes.

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“Yeah, I think maybe midway through the season we’ll have a better idea,” the coach of the sixth-ranked Buckeyes replied when asked how good his 4-0 team might be. “I do think that we’re playing with a lot of passion and playing hard and tough. It’s clear to see, but again, like you said, we go on the road next week that’s a big test. I think I’ll have a better idea next week.”

That “big test” will be Saturday at Nebraska, a popular preseason upset pick for people trying to find losses on Ohio State’s schedule.

Second-year coach Scott Frost's Cornhuskers ended last season 4-8, but all of their wins came in the second half of the season. They also had a near-miss at Ohio State to begin November, a 36-31 victory for the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium.

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Nebraska entered this season among the favorites in a wide-open Big Ten West, but a 34-31 loss at Colorado in Week 2 took some wind out of the Huskers' sails.

In Week 4, Nebraska rallied from 14 down to win 42-38 at Illinois, and Ohio State expects to have its hands full in front of what promises to be a raucous crowd for a night game in Lincoln.

“I think we’re all really excited,” said Ohio State offensive lineman Josh Myers. “We haven’t watched any film on Nebraska, but from what I’ve seen they’re a real solid, good football team, and Lincoln is crazy. I’m really excited. First big road game. First night game start. I’m super excited.”

As the Buckeyes’ center, he anticipates taking on a fundamental role in helping quarterback Justin Fields keep the offense together and everyone on the same page.

“Absolutely,” the Miamisburg High School grad said. “It’s gonna be a loud environment and communication is gonna be something we’re gonna have to be really good at. We understand that going into this game so definitely (I have) some extra responsibility.”

Quarterback Adrian Martinez leads a Nebraska offense that will be coming off a historic performance against the Fighting Illini.

Their 690 total yards are the most they have amassed in a Big Ten game, and they went over 300 yards rushing and passing in the same game for just the second time in school history.

However, four turnovers played a pivotal role in Illinois taking control of the game and maintaining a lead into the fourth quarter, and the Nebraska defense has so far been nothing to write home about.

“I haven’t watched them a bunch on film,” Day said. “Trying to stick to the mantra of winning this game and focusing on this game, but Scott does a really good job and their defensive staff is really good.

“They have a really good quarterback, and that’s a hard place to play. It’s a real place to go on the road and try to win, so that’s a big challenge for us.”

In its final nonconference tuneup, Ohio State blitzed Miami 76-5, but there were a few teachable moments for Day and his staff.

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The RedHawks only finished with 130 total yards, but 113 came in the first quarter as they kept the Buckeyes off-balance with some quick-hitting passes and misdirection plays.

One that produced a couple of nice gains on the ground looked like an option play with the quarterback pitching to a back in the open field, but Day said it was not.

“It’s another type of play that we’ll have to work on,” Day said. “They hit us I think three different times on that, (but) I thought we had a good week of practice. I thought the coaches did a great job preparing them, and I’m really proud the way the guys came out and played.

“To come out like that after three (games) and a week of a lot of people telling us how great we were, to come out and dominate like that is pretty impressive. So, a job well done, but it’s what have you done for me lately, and we need to go to Lincoln get a big win next week.”


Ohio State at Nebraska, 7:30 p.m., ABC, 1410

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