Ohio State vs. Nebraska, 10/14/17

A diving Ohio State cornerback Jordan Fuller (4) gets just enough of Nebraska wide receiver JD Spielman (10) to bring him down in the second quarter Saturday at Memorial Stadium. 

FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star

At least one person was not surprised to see a new face hold the Nebraska school record for single-game receiving yards.

That would be Tanner Lee, JD Spielman's quarterback.

"Doesn't surprise me," said Lee, when asked about the record. "He's a hard-working guy. You see it week in and week out how valuable he is to us and this offense. He continues to show up on big downs and continues to make plays and make guys miss."

Spielman knocked Matt Davison down a peg in the record books, racking up a school-record 200 receiving yards on a career-high 11 catches, the highlight coming on a 77-yard touchdown catch and run in the third quarter of Saturday's 56-14 loss to Ohio State at Memorial Stadium.

Davison had 167 receiving yards against Texas A&M in 1998.

Spielman caught four passes for 66 yards in the first half, and then seven for 146 in the second half. The redshirt freshman got dumped hard on a late-game tackle and left the game, but he appeared OK afterward as he shook hands with the Buckeyes.

With Ohio State playing strong man coverage on the outside, the Huskers attacked the inside of the Buckeye defense. 

"He was outstanding," NU offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. "We had thought about trying to attack their nickel. They've got good corners, so they are very good on the outside edges, (and) have us the ability to attack in the inner part of the defense."

Lee targeted Spielman at least 14 times, and the two seem to be building a good connection on the field.

"The amount of man we were seeing and his ability to get open in the slot there is something I have a lot of faith in, a lot of confidence in," Lee said. "So I do look to his way a lot in those situations, because he continues to get open and continues to make tough catches."

Entering Saturday, there had only been nine players with 200-yard receiving games in FBS this year, and none by freshman.

Riley insists he’s not concerned about job: After the game, Riley was asked about his job security and if he thought he would be in charge long enough to see the growth he’s looking for.

“I personally don’t think about that,” he said. “I know that’s probably a topic, but that’s kind of natural. That decision won’t be made by me.”

The third-year head coach is now 18-15 here, 11-10 in Big Ten play and 2-5 against teams ranked in the top 25. The Huskers over the past two weeks have lost to Wisconsin and OSU, two of the league’s best teams, by a combined 59 points, falling to 0-5 against those schools.

“I’m doing this as if we’re going to keep building and building and building, both in the football and in the recruitment of players for this program,” Riley said.

Safety revamp didn’t pay off: Riley said the staff knew early in the week that junior safeties Aaron Williams (neck) and Antonio Reed (knee) were unlikely to play against the explosive Buckeyes.

Instead of inserting redshirt freshman Marquel Dismuke — he played 18 snaps last week against Wisconsin as injuries mounted — or senior Kieron Williams, the Blackshirts instead started redshirt freshman Dicaprio Bootle, normally a corner, at safety next to senior Joshua Kalu.

Bootle, like all of the Huskers secondary, struggled, committing two pass interference penalties on what would have been big plays and then getting beat by Terry McLaurin for a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

“In this game, with what we were going to have to do with the interior stuff, tracing the quarterback, zone-read stuff … we thought putting the guy that was a little more used to playing man-to-man coverage … would be better than putting a pure free safety-type player in there,” Riley said.

After the opening onslaught, NU tried Dismuke in Bootle’s place, but wound up playing Dismuke and Kieron Williams both when Kalu reinjured his hamstring in the second half.

“We try and preach the ‘next man in’ philosophy — that’s what our culture is,” senior linebacker Chris Weber said when asked about missing Reed and Antonio Williams. “Whoever is in there needs to be ready to go and we trust what they can do.”

Brown makes up for his mistake: Senior Husker kicker Drew Brown made a clean tackle on kick OSU returner K.J. Hill at the 34-yard line in the third quarter Saturday night, ran back to his own sideline and, when a teammate tried to congratulate him, staved it off and threw his helmet to the ground.

A rush of adrenaline after a rare tackle at full speed? Hardly.

“I’m sure a lot of people saw me react poorly,” Brown said. “I was more upset with the kickoff than anything. I put my coverage guys on the field in a bad spot just by kicking the ball to the wrong place.”

Hill returned the ball up the left sideline and looked primed to break an even bigger return, but Brown came up and swiped his legs out from under him.

“I really just did my job, I wasn’t trying to do anything spectacular,” Brown said. “I had to save that play because, if not, they probably could have broken that for a touchdown. … I had to make up for the misplaced kick.”

Eventually, though, he allowed for some of the congrats from his teammates.

“They were excited for me,” he said. “There wasn’t a whole lot else to cheer for and they were all excited.”

Diaco warns against worry: Call it vulnerability, call it fragility, call it what you will.

Whatever the mindset of Nebraska’s defense after six straight quarters of dominance from its opponents, NU defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said, coaches and players must avoid the worry that comes with a deeply bruised ego.

"I don’t think that’s a fair word. It definitely needs attention. Culture and mentality and mindset after a couple weeks like we’ve had definitely needs care. To say it doesn’t need care wouldn’t be true," Diaco said. "And it’ll need care and attention, that piece. Not just playing the plays. But I wouldn’t say worried. That just creates another level, another layer of unnecessary preparation."

This and that: OSU has not punted against NU in either of the past two games. … The Buckeyes have outscored the Huskers by 101 points the past two games. … The programs are now tied all-time with 892 wins. … NU committed a season-high 12 penalties for 104 yards. ... Junior linebacker Dedrick Young had a career-high 14 tackles, bettering his previous high of 11 tackles against Illinois in 2015 and Purdue in 2016. ... Two other players had career high in tackles -- Mohamed Barry (eight stops) and Sedrick King (seven stops).

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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