COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was a knockout in which Nebraska kept trying to throw haymakers like a punch-drunk fighter out on his feet.
Repeatedly, Nebraska quarterbacks Tommy Armstrong and Ryker Fyfe threw deep and more often than not into Ohio State coverage. The heaves seemed more like hopes rather than something drawn up in the game plan. The passes usually dropped to the ground — unless they were picked off by a Buckeye.
While there are any number of negatives to point at from Saturday’s mess at The Horseshoe, the repeated deep throws that came up empty certainly stood out on a futile night for the Husker offense.
“Some of it, we got so much press on the outside and they played a lot where they were overloading inside. They were playing five on three inside and then two one-on-ones on the outside,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “You saw some near-misses on the inside throws, which made us go outside against press man, and we did not make very many plays. I thought we had some guys open, I thought the throws for the most part were pretty good, and I don’t think we came up with any of them.”
Nebraska didn't come up with much on the night, failing to score a touchdown for the first time since a 9-6 loss to Texas A&M in 2010.
After Armstrong left the game on a stretcher after banging his head on the turf, Fyfe entered and completed 5 of 18 passes for 52 yards and an interception. Armstrong finished 4-of-15 for 74 yards and a pick. That added up to a 9-of-33 performance through the air one week after Armstrong finished 12-for-31 at Wisconsin.
It was Fyfe’s first extended action since last season’s Halloween game at Purdue, a 55-45 loss that marked the low point of Nebraska’s season.
His return in Saturday’s horror film, through little fault of his own, may well go down as the low point of this year.
"One thing about the backup, they’ve been kind of able to see the games unfold and be in on the conversations a little bit of 'OK, here’s what we’re trying to get out of this play,'" Langsdorf said. "You just try to kind of get him into that flow a little bit. He hasn’t played that much. So you just try to get him loose and to relax and not try to put too much on him."
One of Fyfe's deep throws in the third quarter turned into a twisting, turning, winding 48-yard return for a touchdown by Buckeye safety Malik Hooker that put the capper on a 24-point third quarter
Early in the fourth quarter, Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward dropped another potential interception that likely would have turned into another pick six.
"We get one-on-one coverage we’re going to have to win some matchups, and I don’t think we were as good at that tonight as we’ve been," Langsdorf said. "Part of that problem is the success in the run game. When you have a loaded box and you’re trying to run and you’re outmatched with extra people, you’ve got some one-on-one matchups you have to attack and when it’s not there, it makes for a long night."