COLUMBUS, Ohio – This football season, an inspirational mantra has been heard on repeat around the Ohio State football facilities. It’s in Urban Meyer’s voice, and it speaks simply:
“When I needed you most, you did your very best.”
That statement may never be as true as it was Saturday night at Ohio Stadium. In front of 108,750 fans — the second largest crowd ever at Ohio State — the Buckeyes dismantled Nebraska 62-3 and played their best game since the 59-0 thrashing of Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten championship game.
It was a performance that Urban Meyer said he couldn’t have foreseen.
“I was a mess,” Meyer said postgame, speaking about the stresses of the week leading up to the game. “I really thought this was going to be, get to the month of November, you know, top-10 team coming in here, I didn’t see that one coming. Their only loss was a hard-fought overtime game (at Wisconsin) last week, so just wear and tear. But an A-to-Z good performance by our guys.”
The Buckeyes offense, disjointed throughout October, erupted for 590 yards, including 352 through the air. J.T. Barrett, who has grown noticeably weary of questions about the Ohio State passing game, was smart, efficient and accurate. He completed 26 of 38 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns, but it was the return of the big play to the Buckeyes offense that was the weekend’s most welcome sight. For at least a moment, the weight that has been sinking the mood around the Ohio State football facilities — and perhaps the Buckeyes’ playoff chances — has dissipated.
“It is a little relief to know that right now I saw some explosiveness that we kind of have been lacking in some positions,” Meyer said, speaking primarily of his talented yet quiet wide receivers. “I think relief is probably the correct word. We’ve all been waiting for that to happen.”
What happened, exactly? When Ohio State needed it most, it did its very best. The 59-point win over an AP Top 10 team is not just good, it’s historically good. No Top 10 team has beaten another Top 10 team by that many points in 61 years.
Ohio State's 59-point win over Nebraska is tied for second-largest in a game between top-10 teams in AP poll pic.twitter.com/51HjLcvqcL
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 6, 2016
Sometimes, it just clicks and that’s what happened under a crystal clear Columbus sky on Saturday. Ten different Ohio State receivers caught passes, and seven different Buckeyes found the end zone. The power run game, behind 6.5 yards per carry by Mike Weber, controlled the line of scrimmage. Ohio State’s defense, which had surrendered five scoring drives of more than 70 yards in its previous two games, gave up 145 yards total to the Cornhuskers. Nebraska was averaging just under 430 yards per game prior to arriving in Columbus.
Still, no one saw this coming.
“I didn’t see 62-3, I didn’t see that coming either,” Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley said. “I knew we would play nine units strong, that’s Coach Meyer’s thing. But I didn’t think anybody could have predicted 62-3.”
In a game that was a major step toward proving it belonged in the conversation for the College Football Playoff, Ohio State shined. Was Nebraska overvalued at No. 10? Maybe, but that doesn’t matter. When the eyes of the world were watching, the Buckeyes stood tall. Saturday night showed that when they have it all clicking, they are going to be a problem for anyone in the country.
Of course, they’re also the same team that couldn’t move the ball against for a half against Tulsa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Penn State or Northwestern. With two road trips to struggling Maryland and free-falling Michigan State on tap, the battle with the Cornhuskers had to be a litmus test for the Buckeyes.
To right the ship and know a performance like this is possible as November unfurls is vital. Ohio State needed it most, and it did its very best.
“We knew we had good offensive pieces,” Ed Warinner said after the game. “We had put together good games earlier in the year and it was time to put another one together, and we did tonight. Our players came around.”