It was a game that went into the Nebraska record books — and the Ohio State memory banks.
The Cornhuskers mounted the biggest comeback in school history a year ago, finishing with a 24-0 flurry to erase a 21-point, second-half deficit, to beat the Buckeyes 34-27 in the first Big Ten game ever played in Lincoln, Neb.
It’s a new year but Ohio State hasn’t forgotten. Heading into Saturday night’s showdown at Ohio Stadium, a number of the 12th-ranked Buckeyes believe some payback is due to the No. 21 Cornhuskers for what happened then.
“I have heard them talk,” said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who wasn’t around for last year’s wild, up-and-down struggle at Memorial Stadium. “I haven’t brought it up. But I hear them say that ‘We owe this team.”’
It’s clear that the Buckeyes have taken note.
“It’s a looooong flight,” safety Bradley Roby said of the return trip after a road defeat like the one at Nebraska. “I went through it last year. It’s not fun at all. So that’s what we’re trying to send them back with.”
Funny, but at halftime the game appeared to be a high point for the Buckeyes, who were muddling through a transitional season after Jim Tressel was forced out for knowingly playing ineligible players. Several Buckeyes were suspended for the Nebraska game because of NCAA violations and the final sanctions had yet to be handed down.
Assistant Luke Fickell was serving as interim coach, Ohio State had a true freshman quarterback in Braxton Miller playing every down and there was a feeling that the season could go either way.
When the Buckeyes bolted to a 20-6 halftime lead, quieting a crowd of 85,426, it appeared that perhaps the program might be able to weather the storms battering it from outside and within and still have a successful season.
But then Miller went down. He had completed 5 of 8 passes for 95 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jake Stoneburner, and had run for 91 yards on 10 carries. Everything seemed to be clicking until he sprained his right ankle and wasn’t able to return.
“We had a good game plan, things went well, and in the second half I just messed up my ankle,” Miller recalled.
Fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman came on but things had changed. Nebraska’s Blackshirts defense was now much more active, much more inspired. The crowd was back in the game. And Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez, booed late in the first half, regained his footing.
Martinez ran for a touchdown and passed for two others and running back Rex Burkhead exploded to total 119 yards on 26 carries, catching one scoring pass from Martinez and also adding the go-ahead touchdown on a 17-yard run with 5:10 left.
Bauserman went 1 for 10 passing for 13 yards with an interception, meaning he completed as many passes to Nebraska players as he did to Ohio State’s.