Saturday night's contest between Ohio State and Nebraska not only featured two of the most storied programs in the country, but also marked Nebraska's first home game as a member of the Big Ten.
In what is one of the most impressive comebacks in Nebraska history, the Huskers came back from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Buckeyes, 34-27. After a disastrous first half, I was inclined to say there was no winner from this game.
The second half proved wrong as momentum swung in Nebraska's favor following an incredible defensive play from one of Nebraska's best players. Here are the winners and losers from Nebraska's first win as a member of the Big Ten...
Lavonte David was key in the Huskers come-from-behind win over Ohio State
Lavonte David, LB
After going three-and-out twice to start the second half, Nebraska found themselves down 21 points and with the Cornhuskers' spirit deflated, linebacker Lavonte David made the play of the game as he stripped the ball from Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and shifted momentum to Nebraska for the rest of the game.
Known for having incredible instincts and a non-stop motor, David has made big plays throughout his career at Nebraska and this may have been the biggest one yet.
Taylor Martinez, QB
Martinez started off the game 10/10 passing, but was checking down a lot and in slippery conditions, one cannot expect receivers to make the turn upfield as quickly.
His next two throws after his hot start were horrendous as he threw behind Kenny Bell and then tried to make a play to the end zone, throwing into triple coverage to Jamal Turner. After that, Nebraska fans everywhere were holding their breath and expecting the Martinez of old to appear.
The second half was one of the best performances that we have seen from the sophomore as he accumulated 196 all-purpose yards and 3 TDs (2 pass, 1 rush).
What made Martinez's performance so impressive was the week leading up to the game as he was getting burned by media & fans. For many players, that would kill their confidence. Martinez did his best to tune the critics out and his teammates may have helped as his offensive line and coach were the most vocal about the quarterback's ability.
Rex Burkhead, RB
The junior RB was bottled up by the Ohio State defense in the first half as he gained just seven yards on 11 carries. The second half was a different story as Burkhead rushed for 119 yards and hauled in a 30-yard touchdown reception via Taylor Martinez.
If you're Burkhead, you have to love the 15 carries you got in the second half. Out of Nebraska's 23 fourth quarter plays, Burkhead carried the ball 12 times and found himself on the receiving end of a Martinez TD. If you're a Husker fan and wanted to see Burkhead get the ball more (whether rushing or receiving), you got your wish as he had over 30 touches.
Tim Beck, Offensive Coordinator - Nebraska
Last weekend against Wisconsin, Tim Beck didn't play to Taylor Martinez's strengths in the first half and aired it out 17 times. That led to the Nebraska collapse as he threw two interceptions. Beck came out in the third quarter, decided to throw on Nebraska's first play and Martinez threw an interception and the game was all but over.
Last night's game showed the adjustments Beck made after halftime. The Huskers got back to the diamond formation and QB options. As the Huskers were gaining yards on the ground, the Buckeye defense had to keep their eyes in the backfield. This led to the Quincy Enunwa TD reception as the Ohio State safety had his eyes trained on the line of scrimmage and Enunwa ran right by him. Martinez was able to loft the ball right into the hands of his open receiver.
From then on, Beck was able to call almost anything he wanted on the Ohio State defense.
Brett Maher (K, P)
During Nebraska's disastrous first half, Maher was one of the lone bright spots as he connected on two field goals and pinned Ohio State inside their own 20 yard line twice.
Braxton Miller (right) had the Ohio State offense reeling until he went down with an ankle injury.
Braxton Miller, QB
The true freshman was quickly pushed into the limelight, reminiscent of Terrelle Pryor during his freshman season. Last night marked the first Big Ten road start for Braxton Miller and he responded brilliantly.
In rainy conditions, Miller showcased his running and throwing ability. As the defense held the Huskers in check in the first half, Miller led the Buckeyes to a 20-6 lead that included 67 passing yards, 79 rushing yards, and a beautiful bubble screen to Jake Stoneburner for a touchdown.
Miller continually silenced the crowd in the first half and hit the Huskers right in their mouth. In one instance, after a Taylor Martinez interception with 0:15 seconds left in the first half, Miller scampered for 30 yards and set up a field goal as time expired.
Miller went down in the middle portion of the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury and the Buckeye offense went dormant in his absence as Nebraska scored 28 unanswered points en route to an incredible comeback.
Carlos Hyde, RB
On his second carry of the game, Hyde took the ball for 63 yards and scored. His other 12 carries got him just 41 yards, but aside from Braxton Miller, Hyde was the only other bright spot on this Ohio State team as he never allowed his body to fall backwards.
Drew Basil (K) and Ben Buchanan (P)
One of the few bright spots during the night for Ohio State were Basil and Buchanan. In unfavorable conditions, Buchanan pinned Nebraska inside their own 20 yard line twice. Basil connected on both of his field goals, one from 41 yards away in the first and another from 35 yards out in the second.
Defense & Carl Pelini
The first almost three-and-a-half quarters for the defense was an absolute disaster. The tackling was horrendous as Nebraska players were arm tackling and slipping off Ohio State ball carriers (i.e. Braxton Miller).
Carl Pelini can be blamed as well, to an extent. Michigan State got to Ohio State quarterbacks often last weekend and accumulated nine sacks. It was the opposite game last night as Pelini kept his defense back and gave Braxton Miller time to make his reads and take off if he wanted to.
It wasn't until Miller went down with an ankle injury when Nebraska started to blitz and get more pressure on Bauserman, leading to overthrows and an interception.
The Ohio State defense became victim to play fakes and options.
The second half was a complete collapse by the Ohio State defense. As Nebraska started doing more and more quarterback options and traps, the defense looked lost. They were not following the ball and were getting burned as Nebraska ran for 170 yards and averaged nearly six yards per carry.
Martinez used his QB options to watch which way the defense was leaning and was able to pull it down for positive yardage. Rex Burkhead was a workhorse as well as he gashed the OSU defense between the tackles and on the edge. When Ohio State did key on the run, Martinez burned them through the air.
Joe Bauserman, QB
The 25-year old Bauserman was thought to be the best quarterback on the Ohio State roster coming into 2011, but he didn't look like he belonged on a Division I field last night.
As he came in to relieve the injured Braxton Miller, the Ohio State offense screeched to halt as Bauserman completed just one of ten passes, including an interception. What was most disappointing about Bauserman's performance were how far off his throws were from the receiver. He didn't under throw them, he overthrew them at a disturbing rate.