We knew Fields would dominate Nebraska, but here are 5 other things I liked
Well that first game went about exactly how we thought it would, right? Ohio State shook off the rust, Justin Fields looked spectacular, and the Buckeyes pulled away for a convincing 52-17 win over Nebraska in the first game of the season.
There were few surprises in what was a competitive game for a half, but there were still some positives to take away before the Buckeyes get their first true test against Penn State next week.
We knew Fields would dominate. Here are 5 other things I liked:
1. Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba at wide receiver.
These guys were as good as advertised, dominating the Nebraska secondary.
Wilson was the go-to wideout on several downs (for 7 catches, 129 yards and 1 touchdown) while Olave was his usual impressive self (6 catches, 104 yards). But it was Smith-Njigba who really stole the show in the second half with a jaw-dropping toe-tap touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. In real time it looked as if he was out of bounds, although the precocious talent immediately argued it was a good catch. On replay two things were obvious — it was a good catch and the athleticism from the freshman receiver is second-to-none.
As a group, the receivers performed as advertised, which was an impressive display. It’s the kind of performance they’re going to have to have moving forward. There’s no reason to think they won’t get it consistently.
WHAT A TOE TAP BY @jaxon_smith1 😱
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The @OhioStateFB Freshman WR comes up with a big TD for the Buckeyes! pic.twitter.com/2pnGD86fVR
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 24, 2020
2. DT Haskell Garrett played. And played well.
There was uncertainty whether defensive tackle Garrett would even play against Nebraska, and I think many were shocked he did. Not only did he play, he made a difference in a spot where the Buckeyes desperately need playmakers to step up.
Garrett showed the kind of push and athleticism many expected from him before he suffered a gunshot wound to the face in August. Still, he had the team’s first sack of the season and a tackle for loss Saturday, displaying a preview of what he can provide. The defensive line is in need of help (of course, what team wouldn’t be after having to replace Chase Young and others from last season) and Garrett could provide an inspiration, as well as a constant physical disruption, for this group.
And he performed that well just 8 weeks after being shot. Amazing.
3. OSU’s propensity to take advantage of mistakes.
Whether it was from the Cornhuskers or the referees, when the Buckeyes got a break, they took advantage. Hey, it’s what good teams do.
When the zebras missed Fields’ knee touching the ground and gave him a few more yards on a carry? The Buckeyes QB threw a touchdown on the next play. When one call could have been a face mask on Nebraska or a holding call on Ohio State? It was a face mask, enabling the Buckeyes to continue a drive.
Two turnovers by the Huskers? One stopped a drive and the other became another Ohio State touchdown. It’s a big characteristic of teams that win a lot: Force turnovers and go for the throat when something goes your way.
4. Tacklers on defense, making plays.
While the day started off rough, and Nebraska marched right down the field on its first drive, the defense stepped up in the second half.
Safety Josh Proctor consistently made plays coming up in support, making 3 tackles, including one for loss, while he also recovered a fumble. Linebackers Pete Werner, Baron Browning and Tuf Borland provided steady leadership in the middle and recorded a combined 17 tackles.
In all, the defense settled in and played well against a Nebraska team that may turn out to be a lot better this season than what they showed in this game.
5. The second-team offense got some run.
Jack Miller and Xavier Johnson were able to get in some mop-up action. It’s silly to get excited, but they played well.
One of the interesting things to watch for coming in was the backup quarterback competition between Miller and C.J. Stroud — which many said was neck-and-neck in practice. Miller was able to get in and score his first collegiate touchdown, and Johnson sure looks like a future stud at running back. Plus, it’s just nice to see them get reps in a game in case their numbers ever have to be called in a crucial situation. They came in, marched the ball right down the field and scored — ever though Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day said he regrets that last score.
In all, Nebraska put up a good fight for a half. It was exactly what I expected.
The real season starts next week.