Haskins' passing game not up to par

Bill Rabinowitz,Tim May
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. is stopped on a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter. [Brooke LaValley/Dispatch]

Dwayne Haskins Jr. did not have a typical Haskins performance Saturday but didn’t seem to mind too much.

“It wasn’t very sharp,” the sophomore quarterback said of Ohio State’s passing game in its 36-31 victory over Nebraska. “I would probably give it like a 6 as far as a grade would go. But we still won.”

Haskins threw for the fewest yards (252) this season for any game in which he saw significant second-half playing time. He completed just 18 of 32 passes.

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Haskins threw for two touchdowns, though neither was particularly difficult. He connected with a wide-open Johnnie Dixon in the first quarter on a 42-yard play. His second was a shovel pass that Parris Campbell took for 9 yards in the third quarter.

But Haskins was uncharacteristically off target, out of sync with his receivers, or both. On Ohio State’s opening drive of the second half, he forced a pass into tight coverage that was intercepted.

Haskins also had a second-quarter fumble, though that was less his fault. A blitzer came unblocked past tight end Rashod Berry and sacked Haskins, knocking the ball free.

Given the Buckeyes’ emphasis the last two weeks of practice on bringing the run game to life, perhaps the passing got short shrift.

“We worked through it and we can watch on film to see how to get better for next week,” Haskins said.

Defense's day

For a quarter, at least, Ohio State gained a grip on the Nebraska option offense with quarterback Adrian Martinez. That came in the third, after Martinez had marched the Huskers to two lead-taking touchdowns off Ohio State turnovers.

The talk at halftime was of gaining more resolve than in making adjustments, linebacker Malik Harrison said.

“We were just hurting ourselves the first half and that we just needed to get the mistakes right and we’d be good,” he said.

In the third, the Buckeyes were good on defense while the offense regained the lead. After shutting out the Huskers in third, the defense coped with a Nebraska offense trying to rally in the fourth. After giving up a touchdown drive, the Buckeyes forced a field goal on the Huskers’ final drive late in the quarter that turned out to be the difference.

“I think we did pretty good, we still had some tweaks, a lot of mistakes,” said Harrison, who tied safety Brendon White for the team lead in tackles with 13 each. “We’ve just got to get better eliminating the little mistakes.”

Coming clean

There were several times when it appeared the Buckeyes were going to grab the momentum for good, and one of those came midway through the first quarter courtesy of linebacker Keandre Jones.

With OSU trailing 7-0 and Nebraska facing fourth down at its 22-yard line, he came off the edge untouched to block Isaac Armstrong’s punt. Try as Jones did, though, he couldn’t run down the ball before it bounded out of bounds in the end zone for a safety.

Husker tribute

The Ohio State marching band paid tribute to the memory of Tyler Butterfield during its halftime show by spelling out his first name.

Butterfield, 20, was killed Oct. 26 in Lincoln in an automobile accident. Butterfield played the trumpet in Nebraska’s marching band.

Wrapping up

After a disappointing showing in the red zone in a loss two weeks ago at Purdue, the Buckeyes went 3 of 4 against Nebraska. The three conversions were touchdowns, two rushing and one passing. The failure was an interception in the end zone. … Both Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins went over the 2,000-yard rushing mark for their careers on Saturday. They became the first duo of Ohio State running backs to reach that threshold in the same season. … Haskins’ 18 completions allowed him to break J.T. Barrett’s Ohio State record for completions in a season. Barrett had 240 last year. Haskins has 242.

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