Columbus, Ohio – No. 10 Nebraska gave up a pick-six on a tipped ball on the game’s third play from scrimmage, and the Huskers were unable to recover in a 62-3 loss at No. 6 Ohio State on Saturday night.
The Huskers, who lost senior starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. for the rest of the game to injury midway through the second quarter, slipped to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten, while Ohio State improved to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the conference.
Armstrong, who became Nebraska’s career total offense leader with 93 total yards in the first half, hit the side of his head on the field out of bounds after gaining a first down deep in Ohio State territory with just over six minutes left in the first half. According to Nebraska medical personnel, Armstrong briefly lost consciousness. He was stabilized and carted off the field to an ambulance, which took him to a local hospital for further evaluation. Armstrong returned to Ohio Stadium in the second half, running back across the field to the Nebraska sideline where he watched the remainder of the game and participated in postgame handshakes. He did not return to action.
Before his night ended, Armstrong pushed his career total offense mark 10,254 yards, surpassing the previous school record of 10,233 yards set by his predecessor Taylor Martinez.
Armstrong and the Huskers got off to a rough start and it didn’t improve during the evening. On 3rd-and-3 on the game’s opening drive, Armstrong’s pass was deflected and hung in the air for an opportunistic Damon Webb, who snagged it and scampered 36 yards for a touchdown just 1:34 into the game to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead.
Armstrong and Nebraska provided an answer on their next drive, covering 72 yards in 15 plays before stalling inside the Buckeye 5. The highlight of the drive came on another deflected ball, this time a pass that went through the outstretched hand of Husker wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp before being plucked out of the air by teammate Stanley Morgan Jr. The sophomore receiver raced 26 yards on the 3rd-and-9 conversion to put Nebraska into position to score. It was the second of four third-down conversions on the drive, including a 10-yard connection from Armstrong to tight end Cethan Carter to set the Huskers up with 1st-and-Goal from the OSU 2. However, Nebraska was unable to push the ball across and settled for a 20-yard Drew Brown field goal, cutting the Buckeye edge to 7-3.
Nebraska held the ball for nearly all of the game’s first 7:15, but Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett pushed the Buckeye lead to 14-3 on his seven-yard touchdown strike to Terry McLaurin with 3:16 left in the first quarter. The first of Barrett’s four touchdown passes on the night capped a 10-play, 57-yard drive that consumed 4:19 for OSU and sent the Buckeyes to the second quarter with a 14-3 lead.
The Huskers pushed into Ohio State territory on the ensuing drive, highlighted by a leaping 32-yard catch by Jordan Westerkamp. But the Big Red stalled on 3rd-and-5 at the OSU 45. The Buckeyes, who started at their own 17, covered 83 yards in nine plays capped by running back Mike Weber’s 23-yard touchdown run. Weber, who finished with 72 yards on 11 carries on the night, pushed the OSU lead to 21-3 with 12:21 left.
Things got worse for the Huskers on the ensuing kickoff, when Tre Bryant chose to catch a kick that may have landed out of bounds at the 3, he returned it eight yards, but the Huskers were called for an illegal block on the return and were forced to start the drive at their own 5. Caleb Lightbourn successfully punted out of his own end zone, but Ohio State started its drive at the NU 31. The Blackshirts kept the Buckeyes out of the end zone, but Tyler Durbin booted a 28-yard field goal with 8:22 left in the first half to increase the Ohio State margin to 24-3.
Armstrong and the Huskers took the field with 8:14 left in the half from their own 22, knowing they needed to score to stay within striking distance. But the Buckeye defense forced a three-and-out and another Lightbourn punt. However, the Big Red got a reprieve when Lightbourn’s 39-yard punt was fumbled by OSU return man Dontre Wilson. Special teams stalwart Luke McNitt recovered for the Huskers at the OSU 38, and Nebraska appeared to have new life.
Mikale Wilbon blasted up the middle for nine yards on first down, but Devine Ozigbo was knocked for a six-yard loss on the next play. On 3rd-and-7 from the OSU 35, Armstrong took off around the left end, gaining 11 yards for a first down before being hit on the right thigh by Malik Hooker and knocked out of bounds. The hit swept Armstrong off his feet, and he landed hard on his right shoulder, pounding his head to the turf. The play knocked Armstrong out of the game with 6:06 left in the first half.
Senior backup Ryker Fyfe entered in place of Armstrong on 1st-and-10 from the OSU 24. On 2nd-and-11, Fyfe hit Carter for a nine-yard gain to the OSU 16, But a one-yard gain by Ozigbo on 3rd-and-2 and an incomplete pass by a heavily pressured Fyfe on 4th-and-1 ended the Husker threat. The Buckeyes took over and marched 85 yards, scoring on a one-yard touchdown pass from Barrett to Curtis Samuel on the final offensive play of the first half to make it 31-3.
If the final play of the first half didn’t put the game away for the Buckeyes, the first play from scrimmage of the second half did. Barrett connected again with Samuel, this time on a 75-yard touchdown pass to put the game out of reach at 38-3, with 14:48 left. The Buckeyes added 17 more points in the third quarter, including a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown by Hooker. The Buckeyes added a fourth-quarter touchdown to become the first team this season to outscore the Big Red in the final quarter.
For the game, Nebraska managed just 204 yards of total offense, including just 78 rushing and 126 passing. Terrell Newby led the Husker ground game with 13 carries for 54 yards to become the 29th back in Nebraska history to reach 2,000 career yards. Armstrong added 19 yards rushing and 74 yards passing despite going just 4-for-15 through the air. Fyfe completed 5-of-18 passes for 52 yards in place of Armstrong.
Westerkamp led the Nebraska receivers with four receptions for 51 yards, while Morgan added three catches for 56 yards. Carter was the only other Husker to haul in a pass on the night with two catches for 19 yards.
Ohio State accumulated 590 yards, including 352 passing and 238 rushing. Barrett completed 26-of-38 passes for 290 yards, while backup Joe Burrow went 6-for-6 for 62 yards. Demario McCall led all rushers in the game with 73 yards on 16 carries for the Buckeyes, while Barrett added 39 yards on eight totes.
Samuel led the Ohio State recievers with eight receptions for 137 yards, while adding five carries for 41 yards on the ground. In all, 10 Buckeyes brought down at least one reception on the night.
Senior safety Nathan Gerry and senior linebacker Josh Banderas led the Blackshirts with nine tackles each. NU will host Minnesota on Saturday night.