Ohio State blows 21-pt lead in loss to Huskers
A painful loss marked the end of yet another painful week for Ohio State.
Taylor Martinez ran for a touchdown and passed for two others while bringing No. 14 Nebraska back from a 21-point second-half deficit, and the Cornhuskers defeated the Buckeyes 34-27 Saturday night in the first Big Ten game at Memorial Stadium.
Rex Burkhead scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 17-yard run with 5:10 left.
''I've never been a part of anything like that,'' linebacker Andrew Sweat said. ''I don't know what the magical answer is. We just didn't get the job done. It's disheartening to give up that many points and give up a win when it was so close.''
The Buckeyes (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) lost starting quarterback Braxton Miller to a sprained right ankle in the third quarter, and their offense went nowhere with Joe Bauserman.
They had come to Lincoln with the shadow of more NCAA rules violations still hanging over them.
On Friday the NCAA suspended wide receiver DeVier Posey for five more games and three other Buckeyes for one game for taking too much money for a summer job.
Offensive lineman Marcus Hall, defensive lineman Melvin Fellows and last year's leading rusher, Daniel Herron, also missed Saturday's game. They also must repay benefits after receiving pay for summer work not performed for a booster.
An upset looked to be brewing in the first half, and the Buckeyes' momentum continued to roll when Carlos Hyde scored from a yard to give Ohio State a 27-6 lead early in the third quarter.
Then Martinez and Rex Burkhead took over the game for Nebraska.
Martinez ran for 102 yards and 16 of 22 for 191 yards for Nebraska (5-1, 1-1). Burkhead ran 26 times for 119 yards.
Hyde led the Buckeyes with 104 yards rushing.
The biggest deficit Nebraska had overcome previously was 17 points, most recently against Texas A&M in 2002.
Martinez's performance was timely. He lashed out Monday at fans and media who ripped him for throwing three interceptions against Wisconsin last week, and teammates lined up to defend him.
When he threw an interception late in the second quarter, boos cut through the rain at Memorial Stadium.
''He kept fighting,'' Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. ''He led the team, and I was proud of how we played. That's why he's the starting quarterback right now.''
After time ran out, Martinez flipped the ball to the referee and fullback Tyler Legate embraced Martinez and then picked him up and carried him around.
''We've got to get a few stops on defense,'' Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said. ''That's what it comes down to. We've just got to do a better job. I'm sure there are lessons out there. We've got to figure out what they are and grow from them. That's part of football, part of life.''
Miller ran for 91 yards and completed 5 of 8 passes for 95 yards before he got hurt. Bauserman completed only 1 of 10 passes the rest of the way.
Huskers star linebacker Lavonte David stripped the ball from Miller in the middle of third quarter to start the rally.
''That was the turning point of the game,'' Pelini said.
Soon after Martinez went 18 yards for a touchdown. He threw a 36-yard TD pass to Quincy Enunwa to pull the Huskers to 27-20, and he tied it with a 30-yard catch-and-run to Burkhead.
The Buckeyes did a good job containing Martinez in the first half, but the sophomore broke loose for 93 yards on the ground after halftime.
Martinez's passing had been skewered after the Wisconsin game, but he threw a perfect strike to Enunwa to pull the Huskers within a touchdown. Martinez freelanced in the backfield before dumping of to Burkhead, who who dodged a tackler and went 30 yards for the tying touchdown with 7:35 left.
''I had to get around that guy,'' Martinez said. ''I got the ball to Rex, and he did a great job juking that guy.''
The Buckeyes' C.J. Barnett was called for a facemask on Martinez during the Huskers' winning drive, and Burkhead ran for 22 yards before he broke free for the 17-yard go-ahead score.
''There are a lot of things we're going to have to figure out and reflect on,'' Fickell said.