As much as Nebraska would like to erase last season’s 62-3 debacle at Ohio State, those memories still stick with the Huskers like a bad nightmare.
It was a game where essentially anything that could have gone wrong for the Huskers did, as they fell behind right off the bat and had no answers to prevent by far the worst loss of the Riley era.
As NU prepares for its rematch with the No. 9 Buckeyes this week, the team is walking the fine line of reviewing how things got so ugly last year while also not dwelling too much on that very ugly night in Columbus, Ohio.
“There wasn’t a lot there that’s going to be real exciting where we say this is a good thing,” Riley said of watching film of last year’s OSU loss. “But we look at it, we look at it because they’ll look at it.”
Dredging up memories of last season’s game has been just as tough on the players.
“The score,” junior running back Mikale Wilbon said when asked what he remembered from the game. “It was terrible. The offense pretty much didn’t get anything going – running, passing. So that was definitely bad for us.”
One of the biggest differences between that 2016 team and this season is Lee, who didn’t travel to Ohio State a year ago because he was sitting out as a transfer. He definitely watched the game on TV, though, and even he was left with a sour taste in his mouth over the blowout loss.
“It was tough to watch,” Lee said. “I didn’t get to travel but I watched it here. So, no real takeaways from that. I mean, obviously, they will have the same talented team as they do, as they seem to have every year. They will be quick, athletic, and strong up front. So that will be a good challenge again for us this week.”
As forgettable as the defeat was, junior nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg said there was one big positive he took away not from that game itself, but in how Nebraska responded the following week with an important home win over Minnesota.
“The biggest lesson I learned probably for me, just kind of making sure you stay motivated and keep your head up,” Stoltenberg said. “If I remember correctly, we played Minnesota the week after and we came out with a win. After we loss that game, some guys said enough is enough. We need to buckle down and prepare harder.”
- Robin Washut
Ozigbo ready for whatever role coaches give him vs. OSU
Nebraska’s running back room got a little more crowded again this week, as Wilbon got back to action after missing time with an ankle injury and sophomore Tre Bryant returned to practice for the first time since re-injuring his knee against Oregon.
Wilbon, who was a last-minute scratch from the lineup just before kickoff vs. Wisconsin, is fully expected to get back to work against Ohio State on Saturday night.
Bryant’s status is still a bit unclear, as while he’s been able to get some reps in this week he hasn’t fully practiced yet this week.
This, of course, leaves some fairly big questions for junior Devine Ozgibo, who has emerged as NU’s most productive running back the past three weeks. Despite the uncertainty, Ozigbo is preparing for whatever workload his coaches give him against the Buckeyes.
“The reps were a little different, I don’t know how to describe it really,” Ozigbo said. “We don’t know what that is going to translate too. The coaches haven’t really explained what’s going on there. We just come in here and practice every day.”
Ozigbo carried the ball on 23 of Nebraska’s 26 rushing attempts for a career-high 109 yards in the loss to Wisconsin, including taking every running back attempt.
The performance marked his third-straight 100-yard game, and Ozigbo said wherever he ends up in NU’s backfield rotation this week, he feels he’s earned the right to continue to be a factor going forward.
“I felt like I hopefully proved a case to everybody that should take notice. Hopefully they take notice,” Ozigbo said. “I’m just going to keep working and keep having games like that when I get a chance.”
- Robin Washut
Lindsey's blocking capitalizes adjustment to Big Ten
Tyjon Lindsey's biggest challenge coming into college was adjusting to the physicality of Big Ten football, but a block on Wisconsin senior defensive back Derrick Tindal on Saturday night showed just how far he's come in that regard.
During Stanley Morgan's 80-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, the 5-foot-9 160-pound Lindsey chased down the 5-11, 189 Tindal and dominated him for the next 15-18 yards before pancaking him.
NU receivers coach Keith Williams and the other Husker wideouts definitely took notice.
“They were all excited,” Williams said. “He’s a young guy, he’s been thrust into this role and he didn’t play much as a senior. Tyjon even deciding to try and make that block, he could have ran him off or shoved him. He took it upon himself to make the block and impact the play.”
With all the hype from recruiting experts, media, and fans, it would be hard for Lindsey to live up to those lofty expectations. Even more so when you remember that Lindsey’s senior high school season was cut short due to a torn meniscus in his right knee.
“I think he’s coming along,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “I feel like he’s a rookie and there’s going to be some growing pains there. He’s not taking reps in everything we are doing, but I do feel like with freshman that have played, he’s doing a pretty good job.”
Langsdorf mentioned former Oregon State standouts Brandin Cooks, Markus Wheaton, and James Rodgers as players similar to Lindsay who took some time to get used to the speed of the game and coverage changes.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver JD Spielman praised Lindsey’s ability to learn the offense so quickly, because, "it isn’t an easy offense to learn."
“For a young guy to come in and be able to learn a playbook as fast as possible, I got to give him a lot of credit to him,” Spielman said. “Like I tell him, big things are coming for him.”
Williams has been impressed with Lindsey's patience during his first collegiate season.
“A lot of times guys get here, they want to make the jump, and they don’t necessarily want to be out there 100 plays if they’re not ready for all the situations and all the circumstances,” Williams said.
The big plays and his speed will be showcased in time. For now, it seems that Lindsey has taken a big step to overcome one of his biggest hurdles.
“The next step for him is to just keep getting better and continue to come to work every day with the approach that he’s been coming with thus far and just keep going in that direction," Williams said.
- David Eickholt
Blackshirts face another talented freshman back
Looking at the schedule before the 2017 season, the Nebraska football team knew a two-game stretch against Wisconsin and Ohio State could be the toughest the Huskers would face all year.
What they didn’t know, however, was just how dangerous the unproven commodities – two true freshman running backs – would be.
Seven days after Badgers freshman Jonathan Taylor gashed the Blackshirts for 349 rushing yards, the unit will face another electrifying newcomer in Buckeyes star J.K. Dobbins.
Ohio State’s rushing leader has burst out for 669 yards on a team-leading 7.6 yards per carry, and Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco knows his group will have its hands full for the second straight week.
“He has elite start-stop speed,” Diaco said. “He is a jump-cut runner who can accelerate and get to full speed quickly.
“Some runners have building speed, some make people miss with quick cuts and some run people over. He can do that, but he has great start-stop speed and contact balance.”
Diaco emphasized that like Taylor, Dobbins has a strong lower body and runs with determination.
A year ago, Ohio State all-purpose back Curtis Samuel amassed 178 yards from scrimmage in a 62-3 beatdown of Nebraska. Head coach Mike Riley, while saying he won’t watch the film from last year’s game, is obviously wary of what Ohio State and athletes like Dobbins can do to stretch the field Saturday night.
“When they’re good, they’re good,” Riley said. “Coupled with some of the stuff they obviously do with their quarterback, it makes it one more step that you have to defend, but (Dobbins) is a real good player.”
Facing Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer isn’t new to Diaco, either. The former Cincinnati and Notre Dame defensive coordinator said going against one of the pioneers of the spread offense will never be an easy task.
“You have to defend 53 1/3,” Diaco said. “They create a lot of space, get the ball quickly to those players in space, and then those players do their thing.”
- Matt Reynoldson
***Wide receiver Stanley Morgan was one of nine players added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List released on Wednesday morning. The award is given to the nation’s top receiver. Morgan leads the Big Ten in receiving yards (510), receiving yards per game (102.0), touchdowns (five) and 100-yard games (three) while ranking third in both receptions (30) and receptions per game (5.0).
***Nebraska will face top-10 opponents in consecutive weeks at Memorial Stadium for the first time in school history. Wisconsin was No. 9 before last week's game and Ohio State is ranked No.9 in this week's poll.
***Nebraska has produced five 100-yard rushing efforts through six games in 2017, including three straight by Ozigbo. Nebraska had four 100-yard individual rushing games in 2017.
***Nebraska and Ohio State rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in all-time wins in NCAA history. The schools have combined for 1,783 all-time wins, including 892 by Nebraska and 891 by Ohio State.