Ohio State football: Buckeyes survive at Nebraska

Noah Ruggles kicked four field goals — including three in the second half — and No. 4 Ohio State survived a challenge at Nebraska 26-17 on Saturday afternoon.

Ruggles’ last field goal, a 46-yarder with 1:29 to go, put the game out of reach on a day the offense piled up yards but again struggled to finish drives.

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“I had been staring those flagpoles down from the beginning of the game from warmup and talking to my guys on the sideline trying to figure out what it was doing,” said Ruggles, who also made four field goals last week in a win over Penn State. “So with that kick I mean, it had been going right to left all day and I played it a little right because that’s what it had been doing, but it was switching up at times too, so you’ve got to just trust it.”

After leading 17-10 at halftime, Ohio State (8-1) had two solid drives on its first three possessions of the third quarter, but the Buckeyes settled for field goals at the end of both.

Nebraska pulled within six points on a 1-yard touchdown run by Taylor Martinez, who set up the score with a 53-yard pass to Samori Toure, and had a chance to take the lead when C.J. Stroud was pressured into a deep throw into double coverage that was intercepted by Nebraska’s Myles Farmer.

The Huskers got the ball at their 14-yard line and immediately went on the move with an effective mix of run plays, including several option keepers by Martinez. They advanced to the Ohio State 13, but Martinez’s first throw of the drive sailed over the head of an open receiver on a third-and-4. Chase Contrarez missed a short field goal that would have made it 23-20.

After the teams traded punts, Ohio State used 3:48 to drive 58 yards to set up Ruggles’ last 3-pointer and finally get some breathing room.

“I think it’s great to see our guys win like this,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “I think I’m very proud of our defense, proud of the special teams. It was really a lot of great performances.”

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After three scoreless possessions, Ohio State finally got on the board with a Ruggles field goal from 26 yards early in the second quarter.

The Buckeyes got the ball back at the Nebraska 49 after a shanked punt and took advantage, using seven plays to drive for their first touchdown of the afternoon, a 3-yard pass from Stroud to Chris Olave in the corner of the end zone.

After Nebraska kicked a field goal, Stroud hit Smith-Njigba on a short pattern, he made a man miss then picked up a block from Olave while streaking down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead with 3:34 left in the half.

This time, Nebraska had a quick answer, too. Martinez found Toure on a post for 74 yards. He got away from Lathan Ransom in man coverage, found free safety Bryson Shaw had vacated the middle of the field and did the rest to make it a one-score game again.

Ultimately, the defense held Nebraska in check most of the afternoon, but the offense had a second straight spotty performance.

That didn’t bother the Buckeyes’ coach.

“When you play nine conference games and one of your other games is Oregon, you have to bring it every weekend, week in and week out, and we have a we have a young team, and we have to learn that it’s every single week you show up,” Day said. “The defense did that today. They played really well, and it’s hard to win in this conference. It’s hard to win on the road. It’s coming off of an emotional game and playing a late game two weeks in a row. Coming in here, 11 a.m. kick, I mean, it was gonna be a challenge. We knew it. Certainly too many penalties on offense, just shooting ourselves in the foot across the board. I thought the drive at the end was huge to go for a field goal to make it a two-score game.”

Stroud completed 36 of 54 passes for 405 yards. He threw two touchdown passes but was intercepted twice. He also had a fumble in the fourth quarter that could have been crucial if it had not been recovered by center Luke Wypler.

Smith-Njigba caught a school-record 15 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown, more than picking up the slack in the absence of the injured Garrett Wilson.

“I just tried to do my part,” the sophomore said. “I got a lot of targets today, and I just tried to make things happen and I felt really good.”

Martinez completed 16 of 31 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown as the Cornhuskers fell to 3-7. Their first six losses were all by eight points or less.


Purdue at Ohio State, TBA

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