Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Ohio State vs. Nebraska, 10/14/17

Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill (14) is wide open for a third-quarter reception at Memorial Stadium, on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.

ERIC GREGORY, Journal Star

RUNNING GAME (F)

Give Ohio State credit. That front seven is for real. The Buckeyes flexed their muscles on a third-and-1 early in the second quarter, with end Sam Hubbard and safety Damon Webb hammering Devine Ozigbo behind the line. Entering the fourth quarter, NU had just 26 yards rushing on 12 attempts.

PASSING GAME (C)

Tanner Lee was 12-for-23 for 96 yards at halftime. I mention that because the game was decided by that point (Ohio State led 35-0). Once again, the Huskers were plagued by dropped passes, including one on Lee's 57-yard Hail Mary that simply fell through De'Mornay Pierson-El's arms as time expired in the first half. On the bright side, slot receiver JD Spielman's star continues to rise (11 catches for 200 yards), and Lee's third-quarter touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan was a beauty.

AGAINST THE RUN (F)

True freshman J.K. Dobbins broke free around left end on Ohio State's opening possession, sprinting 52 yards to the end zone. He got around the edge without being touched. On the Buckeyes' second possession, sloppy tackling became an issue. Meanwhile, J.T. Barrett's ability to scramble for sizable gains when receivers were well-covered was a thorn in NU's side. Barrett had six carries for 46 yards by halftime.

AGAINST THE PASS (F)

Nebraska was simply awful. How did K.J. Hill keep slipping free — wide-open! — on underneath routes? NU went with redshirt freshman Dicaprio Bootle, normally a corner, at safety to start the game because of injuries to Antonio Reed and Aaron Williams. You have to cut Bootle some slack. He made a big hit on Parris Campbell early in the game, but also grabbed Hill as Hill was sprinting past him for what easily could've become a long touchdown pass. Barrett took advantage of the defense's shoddy play, completing 18 of 21 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Game over.

SPECIAL TEAMS (B)

Caleb Lightbourn's first punt was downed at the 4-yard line as Ohio State return man Hill appeared to struggle with the wind. NU place-kicker Drew Brown made a heck of a tackle of Hill on a kickoff return in the third quarter.

PLAY-CALLING (B)

I can't cite anything Danny Langsdorf called that was a detriment to Nebraska's chances to win. Because of the lackluster manner in which the Huskers played overall, they didn't give themselves much of a chance, anyway.

GAME MANAGEMENT (F)

Nebraska left tackle Nick Gates was called for holding late in the first quarter, essentially squelching a promising drive deep into Ohio State territory. Not to pick on Gates, but his error was a microcosm of the night. NU needed to be locked-in and ready to play a flawless game if it had any hopes of pulling the upset. Instead, the Huskers were in many ways sloppy, finishing with 12 penalties for 104 yards.

OVERALL (F)

A major issue was Nebraska's lack of fire to start the game. Ohio State came to play, NU didn't. There is no excuse for that. Give the Huskers a modicum of credit for fighting to the end — although that should be a given.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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