LINCOLN — World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel shares his immediate thoughts following the Huskers' 48-7 loss to Ohio State.
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1. What did we learn Saturday night? Ohio State is better than a year ago and it’s not close. First-year coach Ryan Day and new quarterback Justin Fields are in sync as play-caller and play-maker. Day is pushing all the right buttons. He started a new right tackle Saturday and his changes on the defensive staff are paying off. How did Nebraska almost beat this team last year in C-Bus? The Buckeyes were struggling on defense, star quarterback Dwayne Haskins took a big hit against NU and Adrian Martinez was playing better. In any case, Ohio State is a top-shelf team, deserving of a No. 1 or No. 2 ranking, along with Auburn or ’Bama. Certainly better than Clemson at this point. We could look back and say Nebraska lost to the national champs and it wouldn’t be a surprise.
2. That said, what a disappointing finish to a big weekend. The Nebraska crowd at “College GameDay” on Saturday morning was an all-timer, in number and noise levels. The buzz around town and all weekend was terrific. It felt like Nebraska football was on the way back, and then the game started and the bottom fell out. Nebraska never quit, but the Huskers’ effort and execution weren’t nearly good enough to stay in this one. I won’t say the game ruined the weekend, because there were a lot of positive images for NU, but it definitely took the edge off the good vibes. Fortunately, there are two months of the season left and there’s no one left the size of Ohio State. Maybe Wisconsin. But ...
3. Unless Nebraska gets better play out of Martinez, the last two months will be tough sledding. Martinez isn’t nearly the quarterback he was a year ago, in terms of decision-making and accuracy. He looked like he turned a corner last week at Illinois, but this moment was too big for the sophomore. Two of his three interceptions were passes that sailed high. It was to the point that you wondered whether Scott Frost should put in Noah Vedral, just to let Martinez sit and watch and gather himself. Martinez rallied late, with a long run to set up the only touchdown, and then hitting some passes on a late drive that fizzled out in the red zone. He’s got to put this one behind him and get back to playing at a higher level, or it might be a long season.