Rapid Reaction: Ohio State's Fields launches Heisman candidacy in style
Justin Fields was efficient with his arm and his feet on Saturday, leading Ohio State to a 52-17 victory over Nebraska at Ohio Stadium in the long-awaited season opener.
The junior quarterback’s performance launched his Heisman Trophy candidacy in fine style. More important, it started OSU’s 8-game Big Ten schedule off on the right foot.
Fields was 20-of-21 for 276 yards and two touchdowns, including a 5-yard score to Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the fourth quarter. The freshman receiver made a terrific, athletic play to get his right foot barely inbounds before going out of the end zone.
21+ and present in OH. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER.CLAIM NOW!
BONUS BETSBET NOW!
Fields also ran 15 times for 54 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown in the first possession of the second quarter. He darted outside and evaded a defender with a perfectly timed spin move on the way to the end zone. That gave OSU a 31-14 lead.
On the ensuing Nebraska drive, OSU (1-0) forced Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez to fumble. Buckeyes cornerback Sevyn Banks picked up the ball and ran it back 55 yards for a touchdown and a 38-14 lead.
Sports Betting in Big Ten Country
Ohio sports betting apps are officially launching on January 1, 2023.
Pre-registration is now available at FanDuel Ohio for an extra $100 bonus. Go pre-register now.
21+ and present in OH. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER.
Nebraska’s attempt to keep a flicker of hope alive was foiled later when Martinez overthrew his receiver on third down deep in OSU territory, leading the Cornhuskers to kick a field goal and get within 38-17.
The day got worse for the Nebraska defense when defensive backs Cam Taylor-Britt and Deontai Williams were ejected in the second half for targeting, meaning that they’ll also miss the first half of next week’s game against visiting Wisconsin.
OSU went for it on 4-and-1 from its own 33 in the second quarter, with Fields converting on a simple sneak. Later in the drive Nebraska stuffed OSU on third down and the Buckeyes settled for Blake Haubeil’s 34-yard field goal and a 17-14 lead.
Fields started the game by completing his first 11 pass attempts, a career best, while the Buckeyes struggled to establish a consistent running game early. In fact, Fields was also the top rusher for OSU in the first half, with 10 carries for 46 yards. Sophomore running back Master Teague scored on two short runs in the first half, including a 6-yarder with 1:10 left in the half to give the Buckeyes a 24-14 lead.
It will be interesting to see if Teague or Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon get the bulk of the work in the OSU backfield as the season goes on. Saturday, Teague had 12 carries for 41 yards and the 2 TDS; Sermon carried 11 times for 48 yards.
Nebraska (0-1) had its second impressive touchdown drive of the first half in the second quarter. The Cornhuskers drove 78 yards in 11 plays, capped by a 3-yard TD run by Dedrick Mills. Martinez was 3-for-4 passing on that possession and ran twice for 11 yards.
The Cornhuskers lost tight end Jack Stoll in the second quarter after he took a hit on his left knee while making a reception.
Chris Olave, wearing No. 2 instead of his No. 17 last season, was knocked out of the game in the third quarter, taking a hard hit on a reception. Olave fumbled on the play and Nebraska recovered.
Things did not start auspiciously for the Buckeyes defense. Martinez hit Stoll on first down for a 9-yard pass, then the junior quarterback ran to covert the first down. Backup quarterback Luke McCaffrey then lined up at running back and ran 47 yards, setting up Martinez’s 10-yard TD run as the Cornhuskers took the lead just 1:51 into the game.
OSU responded by converting a 4th-and-5 play for a 14-yard gain on a pass form Fields to Garrett Wilson, setting up Teague’s 1-yard touchdown run.
The Buckeyes had one thing that all coaches look for in an opener and usually don’t get: Discipline. OSU had just one penalty for 5 yards through three quarters.