COLUMBUS – The uniforms were a throwback to 1916 but the game looked more like a replay of the first four games of this season when Ohio State’s offense seemed almost unstoppable and its defense looked close to unbreakable.
No. 6 Ohio State (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) routed No. 10 Nebraska (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) 62-3 on Saturday night in Ohio Stadium in the kind of dominating performance that has been missing since OSU rolled over Bowling Green, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Rutgers by an average of 47 points a game to open the season.
The suspicion going into the game was that Nebraska was probably over-rated, maybe a paper tiger.
If the Cornhuskers were a paper tiger, Ohio State was a high-powered paper shredder.
Any doubts Ohio State was a changed team, at least for one night, were dispelled when it turned a big 31-3 halftime lead into an even bigger lead in the second half.
“Wow, I didn’t see that one coming,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “Their only loss was a hard-fought overtime game last week. A to Z, it was a very good performance by our guys.”
OSU’s offense rolled up 590 total yards. Quarterback J.T. Barrett threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns, including a 75-yard hook-up with Curtis Samuel, who rushed for 41 yards and caught 8 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
“J.T. played fantastic and was very sharp. We finally hit some downtown shots to Curtis (Samuel) and Curtis was outstanding. He’s a piece of the puzzle and a giant piece of the puzzle. Now we’re starting to put it all together,” Meyer said.
Meyer liked what he saw from Ohio State’s receivers, something he hasn’t been able to say recently.
“It is a little relief to know that I saw some explosiveness that we have kind of been lacking in some positions. We’ve all been waiting for that to happen and no better time than the month of November to get that thing going,” he said.
“We have not been explosive at receiver this year. Our receivers were running very sharp, very crisp routes against a good secondary. And J.T. was delivering the ball. I thought our receivers played outstanding.”
Two of the Buckeyes’ touchdowns belonged to a defense that held Nebraska to 204 yards and nine first downs.
Cornerback Damon Webb’s 36-yard interception return on the third play of the game produced OSU’s first touchdown of the game and Malik Hooker’s second pick six of the season was the Buckeyes’ next-to-last touchdown.
Ohio State scored on its first play in the third quarter when Barrett hit Samuel around Nebraska’s 45-yard line, he broke a tackle and was gone for 75 yards.
Barrett found Noah Brown for a 6-yard touchdown pass on OSU’s next possession for a 45-3 lead. Tyler Durbin’s second field goal of the night and Hooker’s 48-yard interception return for a touchdown made it 55-3 going into the fourth quarter.
Back-up quarterback Joe Burrow’s 12-yard touchdown run pushed the lead to 62-3 with 7:19 to play.
Ohio State’s big early lead was temporarily overshadowed by a scary injury to Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., who landed on his head as he scrambled for a first down six minutes before halftime.
Armstrong was immobilized on a back board and taken from the stadium in an ambulance. Nebraska team medical personnel later reported he had briefly been knocked out, but was moving all extremities. Then, five minutes into the second half, he walked into the stadium and watched the rest of the game from Nebraska’s sideline.
Nebraska’s 59-point loss was the second-biggest margin of defeat in the program’s history after a 70-10 loss to Texas Tech in 2004.
“That was real bad and we’re all responsible for it. And Ohio State played real well,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. “We were beaten thoroughly in all the phases and it didn’t really remind me of our team.
“I thought we were tight early and the fact of the matter is we couldn’t get them off the field defensively. This game came out of the blue,” he said.
Ohio State jumped out to a 7-0 lead when Webb intercepted Armstrong and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown with 13:26 left in the first quarter. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan tipped the pass and Marshon Lattimore helped jar the ball loose from the intended receiver.
Nebraska’s only score of the first half came on a 20-yard field goal by Drew Brown on its next possession. But from there until the end of the game, it was all OSU when the Buckeyes ran off 55 unanswered points.
Barrett’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin made it 14-3 after one quarter.
The lead grew to 21-3 five plays into the second quarter when Mike Weber ran through a huge hole the left side of the offensive line had created to score on a 23-yard touchdown run.
After a 24-yard field goal by Durbin made it 24-3 with 8:22 left in the first half, Barrett’s 1-yard jump pass to Samuel for a touchdown with three seconds left in the first half put OSU up 31-3.
Ohio State will continue its pursuit of a Big Ten East Division championship next Saturday at Maryland (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten). Kickoff time for that game will be 3:30 p.m.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.