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October 6, 2012
Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham
COLUMBUS, Ohio - On a night when pyrotechnics were part of the halftime activities, the Ohio State and Nebraska offenses provided their own impressive fireworks show.
But the Buckeyes had lots more firepower in their arsenal.
With quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde lighting the fuse, No. 12 Ohio State recovered from a slow start and burned No. 21 Nebraska with plenty of big plays in a 63-38 victory Saturday night before an Ohio Stadium-record crowd of 106,102 on homecoming.
The win left the Buckeyes with a 6-0 record and as the only unbeaten team in the Big Ten.
The 63 points were the most scored by Ohio State in a Big Ten game since they routed Minnesota 69-18 in 1983. The Buckeyes and Cornhuskers combined for 101 points, the most in a conference game since an 83-21 win over Iowa in 1950.
On a night for offense, Miller was the brightest light, setting a school mark for quarterbacks with 186 yards rushing on 16 carries. He ran for a touchdown and also completed 7 of 14 passes for 127 yards and a TD.
Hyde complemented Miller's nifty running with his power and gave the Buckeyes two 100-yard rushers. Hyde finished with career bests of 140 yards on 28 carries and four touchdowns. Reserve running back Rod Smith added to the ground assault with a 33-yard run with 10:27 left in the game.
Hyde scored the final touchdown with a 16-yard run with 48 seconds remaining. Ohio State's dominant rushing attack torched Nebraska for 371 yards, recovering after rushing for just 10 yards in the first quarter. The Buckeyes rolled up 498 total yards to Nebraska's 437.
"I don't believe this is what his offense is capable of. I believe it could be better," said Miller, who's likely to gain more notice from Heisman Trophy voters after another big game boosted his season rushing total to 763 yards. "We made a couple of minor mistakes out there. We've got a lot more to do." Miller joked after the game that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer couldn't remember how many points the Buckeyes had scored. Meyer looked down sheepishly when asked about that. He preferred to heap praise on the offensive line. "Our offensive line eventually took over that game," Meyer said. "We have two good runners right now. We have a quarterback that's kind of ridiculous running the ball and Carlos Hyde is a guy that's starting to learn a lot of respect other than that darned fumble. He's running it hard.
"You can see what we are. We're kind of a pound-you offense right. I don't mind that."
Any suspense about the outcome effectively ended early in the second half. After Nebraska (4-2) closed to 35-31 on quarterback Taylor Martinez's 3-yard touchdown pass to Ben Cotton early in the third quarter, the Buckeyes hammered the Cornhuskers with three touchdowns to open a 56-31 bulge.
Hyde culminated a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown dive. Ohio State's Corey Brown followed with a 76-yard punt return for a score, Smith added the icing with his TD run early in the fourth quarter and Hyde put the cherry on top in the final minute.
Senior John Simon led the Ohio State defense with five tackles for loss, including two sacks. Linebacker Ryan Shazier paced the Buckeyes with 11 tackles, including two for losses. And they helped the Buckeyes hold Martinez to 40 yards rushing and 214 passing yards with three interceptions.
"We saw a lot of opportunities to make big plays because he's a really good quarterback, but he loves to run the ball," Shazier said. "His feet is his main weapon and his arm the secondary weapon, and we took advantage of it today."
Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead gained 73 of his 119 yards rushing on one carry and missed much of the second half with a leg injury.
Nebraska looked like it would take control of the game early in the second quarter after opening a 17-7 lead on Brett Maher's 26-yard field goal. At that point, the Cornhuskers had outgained the Buckeyes 148 to 17 in total yards.
Miller and turnovers shifted the momentum. Miller countered with a 72-yard run that led to a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Hyde, making it 17-14. Miller's scamper equaled the Buckeyes' longest play from scrimmage this season.
After Bradley Roby's second interception of the half - he returned the first 41 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter -- for the Buckeyes, Miller found tight end Jeff Heuerman for an 18-yard scoring pass, the sophomore's first career touchdown, and the Buckeyes were back on top 21-17.
Nebraska came right back to seize the lead again at 24-21 when Martinez tight-roped the sideline for a 9-yard touchdown run.
Ohio State finished the half with a flurry. Miller led longest drive of the first half, a 10-play, 75-yard march that resulted in Hyde's 7-yard, go-ahead touchdown run around right end.
Ohio State's defense stopped Nebraska with 1:27 left in the half and Miller took off on a 31-yard run on fourth down to boost the lead to 35-24 at the half.
"What changed after the first quarter was not getting off blocks, not making tackles and just not playing well enough," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, a former Ohio State player. "We overall just did not play good enough. Ohio State deserved that football game." The crowd noise appeared to have some effect on the Nebraska offense. In addition to Martinez's three interceptions, the Cornhuskers lost a fumble and were whistled for nine penalties for 75 yards. "We practice with crowd noise at home; we are used to this kind of atmosphere," Pelini said. "I really do not know what happened to us tonight, but it is something we are going to talk about."
The first quarter couldn't have been much uglier for the Ohio State offense. Meyer called it train wreck. The Buckeyes gained a mere 17 yards and failed to complete a pass. Six yards came on a fake-punt run near the end of the quarter by Ben Buchanan that was stopped a yard short of a first down on a failed early gamble by coach Urban Meyer.
"I didn't feel like we were blocking them and they were kind of defeating us at the line of scrimmage," Meyer said. "But that changed. I don't really know what changed."
NOTES: Reserve quarterback Cardale Jones, whose tweet Friday regarding the merits of college football players having to take classes, was suspended for the game because of his comments. The suspension wasn't injured related. ? Ohio State improved to 8-3 in night games in Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes had lost three in a row at night before their win last year over Wisconsin. ? Nebraska played in Ohio Stadium for the first time since 1956 and only the third time in history. The Buckeyes had won the previous two meetings. ? Urban Meyer and Bo Pelini met for the first time as head coaches. Both have degrees from Ohio State and were with the program in 1987 - Meyer as a grad assistant and Pelini as a freshman safety. ? Members of Ohio State's Final Four team received their Final Four rings during a ceremony after the first quarter. ? The attendance at Saturday night's game broke the previous record of 106,033 for the 2009 game against Southern California.