Urban Meyer was surprised when he watched video of Nebraska last week.
“I wasn't expecting to see what I saw,” the Ohio State coach said. “Very good players, very good scheme and guys that are going to get very good.”
He didn’t expect to be impressed because Nebraska started the season 0-6 under first-year coach Scott Frost before defeating Minnesota and Bethune-Cookman the last two weeks. The Cornhuskers came a lot closer to upsetting Ohio State than almost anyone expected before falling 36-31.
Nebraska led 21-16 at halftime and had the Buckeyes a half-step behind with creative play-calling and the ability of freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez and playmakers JD Spielman and Stanley Morgan Jr.
But missed opportunities proved costly. The Cornhuskers dropped several passes. The biggest was in the third quarter to Spielman, who got behind Shaun Wade for a likely touchdown but couldn’t make the catch.
“A couple of balls that we should've caught would've, might've changed things,” Frost said.
Nebraska also blew a prime scoring chance when it had the ball at the Ohio State 10-yard line in the second quarter. Martinez rolled out and, under pressure, fired the ball as a lateral to Spielman, who couldn’t make the catch. The ball squirted backward and Ohio State recovered at the 26.
But Martinez mostly showed why Ohio State and many others coveted him as a recruit. He directed the Huskers on a beautifully executed touchdown drive to start the game. With Nebraska trailing 30-21, he delivered a perfect deep strike to Morgan while being hit for a 46-yard gain to set up a field goal. He finished 22 of 33 for 266 yards.
“I'm getting tired of talking in superlatives about Adrian and complimenting him,” Frost said. “There's been some freshman mistakes, but not very many for a freshman.”
Nebraska got within five points on a late touchdown but couldn’t get the ball back, leaving Frost and the Cornhuskers to ponder what might have been.
“We had every chance in the world to win that game,” Frost said. “Our guys are upset that they didn't win the football game and coaches are mad that we didn't win the football game, because they came here expecting to win — and that is a big step forward."