No. 5 Ohio State is off and running in its pursuit of another Big Ten championship and a second-straight College Football Playoff appearance, pulling away late in a 52-17 win against Nebraska. Though Ohio State led after every quarter, it only led 24-14 at halftime but outscored Nebraska 28-3 in the second half for the dominant victory.
The Cornhuskers showed up confident in their ability to run the ball with dual-threat quarterbacks Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey leading the way in Scott Frost’s scheme. Nebraska marched 75 yards in four plays for a game-opening touchdown drive that took less than 2 minutes. Nebraska stayed committed to that ground game, but Ohio State tightened up over the course of four quarters, allowing just one touchdown the rest of the way and securing the win with a couple of second-half fumble recoveries.
The primary storyline coming from the win is a fantastic 2020 debut from Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. A late addition to the Heisman Trophy race, Fields was flawless. He completed 20-of-21 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns with the only incompletion being a would-be touchdown that was dropped in the end zone. He connected with Garrett Wilson (seven catches, 129 yards, one touchdown) and Chris Olave (six catches, 104 yards) the most, but the best highlight of the day was a toe-tapping touchdown from freshman Jaxon Smith Njigba.
Fields was also two yards shy of being the team’s leading rusher with 54 yards on a team-high 15 attempts, which is going to be another talking point for the Buckeyes coming out of the win. While Ohio State’s coaches have stressed the importance of not relying on Fields in the rushing attack, he’s just too good with his legs to not be a factor. Even if the calls are few for designed runs, he can pick up first downs when plays break down and extend the play with his legs with his eyes downfield and connect with receivers on the move. So far the effort to replace JK Dobbins’ contributions at running back has been by committee with Master Teague, Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon and redshirt freshman Steele Chambers combining for 128 yards on 27 attempts.
But again, this is a loaded criticism because having a quarterback who can not only deliver every pass on a dime but break free for touchdowns with his legs is not a bad thing. Would Ohio State prefer more production from its running backs? I’m sure. But no one’s complaining about the all-everything talent under center in Columbus, Ohio.
Three more things to note about the game:
1. Nebraska’s defense looks much better
The Cornhuskers gave it all they had, particularly up front, and deserve some of the credit in making Ohio State’s ground game look a little out of sync here in the opener. Nebraska’s defense has been a weakness for some time, and its performance might be more than just heightened effort facing a top-notch opponent. If Nebraska can get penetration and be solid against the run, then it will be a nice compliment to the ground-heavy offensive attack and make the Huskers more of a threat in the Big Ten West.
2. The Martinez-McCaffrey duo will cause headaches
When Scott Frost debuted this two-quarterback attack, with both playing an active role in the run game, he sent every future opponent a warning shot. There’s limited time prepare for opponents and adjust, and now defenses will have a ton to think about when No. 2 and No. 7 are on the field at the same time.
3. Educate Chris Olave on carbon dioxide
According to the FOX broadcast, one of the reasons Olave switched his jersey number to No. 2 in the offseason was so he could be “CO2.” Why? Again, according to the broadcast, Olave said he wanted to be CO2 because “he’s ready to explode.” While we agree that he is one of the best wide receivers in the country and set for a breakout season, it’s important to note that carbon dioxide isn’t combustible or flammable.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way updating this story with the latest from the Ohio State vs. Nebraska game. Keep it locked here for takeaways from the game.