Gameday+ | Keys to the Ohio State-Nebraska game
Establish the run
This has become a common refrain, but it remains true. Ohio State cannot have lasting success without balance provided by the run game. The Buckeyes have had the off week to fix its running woes, and the work needs to translate into success. J.K. Dobbins is averaging only 4.3 yards per carry, almost 3 yards per carry less than he did as a freshman a year ago. Blocking is a big part of it, as is the lack of a running threat from Dwayne Haskins Jr. But Dobbins and Mike Weber have been unable to shed tackles just beyond the line of scrimmage when they have had some room.
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Against Purdue, Ohio State allowed the Boilermakers to extend three drives because of penalties. Only 10 FBS teams have had more penalty yardage than the 75.9 the Buckeyes have averaged. (Nebraska, with 81.8, is one of them.) Some penalties are forgivable. Many of the ones the Buckeyes have committed aren’t, revealing a lack of concentration, poor fundamentals or lack of awareness of game situations.
Adrian Martinez has taken his lumps as a freshman quarterback, but he is a talented player whose confidence is growing. Martinez is a dual-threat quarterback, though his running has been curtailed some by a leg injury sustained early in the season. The David Blough-Rondale Moore combination was devastating to the Buckeyes in Purdue’s win, and the Buckeyes can’t allow Martinez to develop that kind of rhythm with JD Spielman.
Deliver in the red zone
The Buckeyes passing game has been adept at scoring long touchdowns and on moving the ball from the 20 to the 20. Punching the ball in from the red zone has been a recurring issue, however. The Buckeyes didn’t score a touchdown in four such situations against Purdue (excluding a trip to the 19 on the game’s final play). Ohio State ranks 115th in red-zone scoring nationally. Opponents don’t have to cover as much space in the red zone, which compresses throwing windows. The Buckeyes have to do a better job of mixing it up, and the run game has to be a bigger component.