Miller returns, Williams won't for Buckeyes
Ohio State had a first down at its own 23 and a 27-6 lead with 7:54 left in the third quarter in Nebraska's Big Ten home debut on Saturday night.
Then everything spiraled out of control.
The 34-27 loss marked the biggest comeback victory ever for Nebraska - and one of the biggest collapses in the Buckeyes' 122 seasons.
''I've not been a part of something like that - a little bit of an unbelievable snowball effect,'' interim coach Luke Fickell said on Tuesday.
It won't be easy to pick up the pieces.
Not only do the Buckeyes (3-3) travel to play No. 16 Illinois (6-0) on Saturday, but before that they'll be dealing with several personnel issues.
First, starting quarterback Braxton Miller should be back from an ankle injury. He sparkled in the first half in Lincoln, Neb., but his fumble helped fuel the Cornhuskers' comeback. After he was helped to the sideline, he was replaced by Joe Bauserman.
Bauserman couldn't get anything going. He was just 1 for 10 for 13 yards with an interception filling in for the freshman. His performance led Ohio State to increase the number of snaps in practice this week for third-stringer Kenny Guiton, who has been running scout team plays for the past few weeks.
''Kenny has stayed involved a lot and showed the team and everybody how important it is to him,'' Fickell said. ''He'll get probably more and more opportunities in the weeks to come.''
Fickell also disclosed that defensive end Nathan Williams, considered the team's top pass-rusher coming into the season, will likely be lost for the rest of the year. Williams was injured in the season opener against Akron and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. But now it appears he must go additional microfracture surgery which will likely end the senior's college career.
Also, Ohio State gets back last year's top rusher, Daniel Herron. He sat out the first five games (along with three teammates) for his role in accepting cash and discounted or free tattoos in a scandal that rocked the program. The mess included a lengthy NCAA investigation, the forced resignation of 10-year coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor giving up his senior year to jump to the NFL.
Herron was then suspended by the NCAA for Saturday's game for getting paid too much for a summer job offered by a Cleveland-area booster.
He will probably be blended into the running attack after playing some time on special teams, Fickell said.
All of those changes come at a time when the Buckeyes are still reeling from back-to-back losses.
No wonder even Ohio State's fickle fans have been extremely critical of the play-calling, Bauserman, the defense, shoddy tackling, Fickell and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman, in no particular order. The players are well aware of the fans' displeasure.
''That's what's been frustrating the past couple of weeks - people doubting us,'' tight end Reid Fragel said after the loss at Nebraska. ''We knew as a family and as a team what we can do and what we were capable of. Unfortunately tonight isn't how we want to represent our team.''
Fickell and Bollman, in particular, have been roasted by Ohio State fans for the play-calling. Most of the play calls are funneled through Bollman. But Fickell also has final say.
After Miller was injured, Bauserman was presented with 11 passing plays in his 18 snaps - most of the time while trying to preserve a lead.
Fickell was asked if he could make changes in who calls the plays. He was adamant that he has control over who does what on his staff.
He cracked, ''Who else would I have to check with? My wife?''
That was one of the few times Fickell could laugh on an otherwise dreary day for the Buckeyes.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap .