N is for November, when special college football seasons are determined. Or Not. N is also for Nebraska, which had Nation Knees Knocking. And that alliterative trick sums up Ohio State’s less-than-perfect day: The end result sounds right, but something’s wrong. Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis. — Ray Stein

Offense (3)

Perhaps the only positive takeaway for Buckeyes fans was the sight of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber running free in the secondary, especially in the second half. But let’s make sure it wasn’t a mirage against an iffy defense. The red-zone attack looked better, too, though those three turnovers made for quite a stink.

 

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Defense (2)

Injuries have taken a toll, certainly, and a weak targeting call was another unwelcome slap for a defense in full scramble mode. The Buckeyes had their moments, such as when they forced punts on six second-half possessions, but then they let Nebraska waltz downfield for a late TD to get close. Shaky group.

Special teams (4)

There were more hits than misses — not counting the Huskers’ bizarre whiff on an attempted onside kick. Keandre Jones’ blocked punt produced a safety, and Drue Chrisman was both lucky and good with a pair of punts that pinned Nebraska. The not-so-hot included a K.J. Hill muff and some questionable decisions on kick returns.

Coaching (2)

The first order of business, obviously, was to get back to winning football. OSU did that. But is it possible that the nasty taste from the Purdue loss is still on the tongue? The Buckeyes were about as sharp as American cheese for long stretches and almost delivered a how-not-to lesson in how to finish a game. Dig deeper.

Fun (2)

Ohio State executed its annual break from tradition by showing up in dark uniforms that were neither scarlet nor gray except for accents and imagination. Actually, the black uniforms were appropriate for a late- (or never-) arriving crowd that often acted as if they were attending a funeral. Who leaves in a five-point game?

Opponent (3)

Rookie coach Scott Frost is taking his lumps (while his former team keeps winning — salt in the wound) but the Huskers look to have some solid corn dogs in the pipeline. QB Adrian Martinez has spunk, if not always a passing touch, and could be a keeper. Big Red followers will rue the chances the team missed on this day.

Officiating (2)

Most of us likely can agree that the targeting call, no matter how well-intentioned, is not enforced with any consistency. So why isn’t there any clarity as the bad calls stack up week after week? Speaking of poor calls, the same official doubled down on ridiculous pass-interference calls — one against each team — in the first half.

rstein@dispatch.com