COMMENTARY | On Saturday, October 6, 12th-ranked Ohio State beat No. 21 Nebraska 63-38. Braxton Miller rushed for 186 yards and threw for 127 more to lead the Buckeyes.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
Ups and downs on defense
The Ohio State defense produced some great plays against the Cornhuskers, but it also gave up 437 yards in total offense. There are two problems holding back the Buckeyes defensively. First, although the team has shown improvement in the last two weeks, tackling is still a problem. Second, the Buckeyes are taking too many stupid penalties. Ohio State was penalized nine times for 76 yards against Nebraska, including multiple personal fouls. That's not what I want to see from the Buckeyes' defense.
Despite all this, I believe that the Ohio State defense was a success on Saturday night. They forced four turnovers and recorded a touchdown on an interception return. Furthermore, the Buckeyes' defense stiffened at one of the most critical moments of the game. With the score 42-31 midway through the third quarter, Nebraska had another chance to cut into the Ohio State lead. The defense held, and the Buckeyes forced the Cornhuskers to punt. Corey Brown returned that punt 76 yards for a touchdown, and the rest is history. The Buckeyes may have put up 63 points in the game, but it was their defense that stepped up at the right time to put the game out of reach.
I think it's safe to say that head coach Urban Meyer is making progress with this team. There's no question that Ohio State didn't look very good in its first four games, but the Buckeyes have really come together in their last two games. More importantly, I think we're starting to see how much heart this team has. Lesser teams would have folded after falling behind 17-7. At that point, it looked like the Buckeyes were about to get run off their own field. But they held it together and produced a 28-point second quarter to take the lead into halftime.
With the rest of the Big Ten mired in a down year, it's becoming clear that Ohio State is the best team in the conference right now. That said, there is plenty of room to grow. The Buckeyes still need to develop their running backs and receivers, and let's not forget how soft the defense has been at times this season. I look forward to seeing how much this team comes together as the year moves forward. I'm beginning to think that the Buckeyes are building something special in Columbus.
Carlos Hyde steps up
The Buckeyes have struggled to find a running back this season, but it appears that they may have found their guy. Carlos Hyde is the prototypical Ohio State power back. He's a big, tough runner with just enough speed to keep opposing defenders honest. The only problem that I have with him is that he's sometimes indecisive with the football. However, he wasn't indecisive at all on Saturday night.
Against the Cornhuskers, Hyde stepped up for the injured Jordan Hall and ran for 140 yards and four touchdowns. The best part of his performance was that he got stronger as the game went on. When the Buckeyes needed someone to grind out the clock in the second half, it was Hyde who carried the offense. If he can learn to do a better job protecting the football, Hyde's going to have a very productive career at Ohio State.
Derek Ciapala has been following Ohio State athletics since childhood. He has been published on Yahoo! Sports, GatewayMMA.com and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or Twitter @dciapala.