Early in the second quarter, if Ohio State fans weren't pushing the panic button, they were at least fidgeting nervously around it. The Buckeyes had gone the entire first quarter without a first down, the Huskers had just kicked a field goal to take a 17-7 lead, and with the exception of Bradly Roby's 41 yard interception return for a touchdown, the Buckeyes had been completely dominated.
The two squads swapped 3 and outs on their initial drives (Nebraska faced a 3rd and 35 on their first drive). OSU was unable to cross their 25 on their second drive, punting to the Cornhuskers. Nebraska inadvertently started the scoring when "Bad Taylor Martinez" tossed the ball right to Roby for OSU's lone early bright spot.
The Cornhuskers stormed right back on the strength of a 73 yard run by Rex Burkhead. Ameer Abdullah capped the drive with a 1 yard plunge to tie the game at 7. The Cornhuskers then forced another three and out, and rode a big punt return to the OSU 28. . Three Nebraska runs later lead to Abdullah scampering into the end zone for a 3 yard score to take a 14-7 lead.
The Huskers forced another 3 and out, and then stuffed Ben Buchanan's fake punt attempt to set up another deep in Buckeye territory. Nebraska turned to Burkhead early and often, but couldn't finish the drive. They settled for 26 yard field goal, pushing the lead to 17-7, silencing the record crowd in the shoe, and vindicating George O'Leary.
Then suddenly, Miller Time.
On Ohio State's first play from scrimmage, Miller ran for 73 yards before getting pushed out of bounds at the Nebraska 3. Miller went to the sidelines to catch his breath, and Carlos Hyde took care of business, plunging in for a 1 yard score to bring the Buckeyes back to 14-17.
It took two plays for "Bad Taylor" to show his face again, as he tossed another pick to Roby, who returned it to the Husker 8. After a quick Hyde run, Miller found Jeff Heuermann for an 18 TD strike to give the Buckeyes a sudden 21-17 lead, electrifying the Shoe.
The noise level was so overwhelming that Nebraska was flagged for back to back false start penalties to start the drive. "Good Taylor Martinez" was able to shake it off, connecting on a beautifully thrown 74 yard bomb to Kenny Bell to the OSU 4. After a penalty, T-Magic took care of business himself for a 9 yard run with 6:59 left in the first half, giving Nebraska a 24-21 lead, and serving notice that yes, even the Big Ten can play entertaining football sometimes.
The Buckeyes marched right back to take a lead that they would not relinquish. Miller found Philly Brown for 13 yards on the first play, and then Hyde and Miller's rushing took the drive to midfield. Nick Vannett beat the secondary for a 32 yard catch, and another Miller scamper set up a 7 yard Carlos Hyde touchdown run to put the Bucks back up 28-24.
OSU wasted a golden opportunity when Martinez fumbled at the Nebraska 8. The Buckeyes were preoccupied with scooping the ball up and running into the endzone, and Ben Cotton was able to fall on the ball. The Bucks were still able to force a 3 and out, and got the ball back with 1:27 left before halftime. Facing a 4th and 2 and the Nebraska 31, Meyer elected to put the ball in Miller's hands rather than kick the field goal. Miller didn't disappoint, bolting untouched for a 31 yard TD to give OSU a 35-24 lead going into the half. Buckeye fans, convinced that Tressel would have punted TWICE on that drive, were totally unsure what to do with themselves.
Good Martinez showed some flashes early in the 2nd half, quickly getting Nebraska back in the game on the strength of a 28 yard strike to a wide open Kenny Bell, a 20 yarder to Braylon Head, and finally a 3 yard lob to Ben Cotton on 3rd and goal. It was the last time Martinez could consistently make good decisions under pressure all game.
The Bucks called 5 straight runs between Hyde and Miller to get themselves to midfield, and Miller's strikes to Jeff Heuerman and Philly Brown set up another easy Carlos Hyde TD dive from the Nebraska 1. After that first quarter, OSU's line was able to hold their blocks again and again, allowing Hyde to get to the second level of defenders and turning 2 yard gains to 5, 6 yard ones. The Bucks lead 42-31.
Perennial punching bag Storm Klein got a huge 12 yard sack on the first play of the next drive, and John Simon wrapped up an ill-executed QB draw to give Nebraska a 3rd and 25 from their own 6. They weren't able to convert, and Philly Brown took the punt 50 yards to the house, making multiple Huskers miss en route to a 49-31 lead that seemed to break the Husker's spirit.
Martinez rallied Nebraska all the way to OSU's 35 on their next drive, but killed their momentum after chucking up a horrible pass under duress that was easily intercepted by Orhian Johnson. Ffurther damage was averted as Hyde eventually fumbled at the Nebraska 17, ending what had been a particularly promising drive. The Huskers went 3 and out though, and were unable to capitalize.
Carlos Hyde came back with a 6 yard, and then a 23 yard run to get to the Nebraska 33. Rod Smith stepped in to spell Carlos, and proceed to not only hold on to the football, but carry it 33 yards on his first carry for another Buckeye score to push the margin to 56-31. Nebraska would rally back to 56-58 on strong running from Abdullah and a face mask penalty to put the score back to 56-38, but Martinez would fumble on his next drive, and Hyde would add a final garbage time score to give the final margin.
There can be no doubts about Ohio State now, other than their inability to play all four quarters. We saw the potential of OSU's defensive line, who pressured Martinez and helped slow a very potent rushing attack. The Buckeye's offensive line got a great push, opening holes for Hyde and Miller to help each get career rushing days. OSU's wideouts struggled a little to get separation at first, but when you score 63 points against a top 25 team, further offensive quibbling seems rude and pointless. It was an excellent effort and win for the Buckeyes.
OSU would be firmly in the drivers seat for the Big Ten if they, you know, were allowed to win the title this year. Still, it's hard to look at the schedule now and see a game that OSU won't be favored to win.
Bring on the Hoosiers. Let's keep it going.