The Nebraska Cornhuskers allowed the Ohio State Buckeyes to rack up 246 yards in the first half of their game. They allowed quarterback Braxton Miller to rush for 79 yards and pass for another 68. They allowed the Buckeyes to put together a 20-6 lead by the end of the second quarter.
And they followed all of that up by letting Ohio State score once more after halftime, making the score 27-6 in what looked poised to be one of the most memorable, embarrassing college football flameouts in recent memory.
But then something amazing happened. The Cornhuskers defense, miraculously enough, decided it was time to make a stand. Behind a particularly awe-inspiring play by linebacker Lavonte David, the Huskers were able to regain control of the ball after yet another three-and-out, and subsequently capitalize on it with an 18-yard Taylor Martinez march to the end zone.
“Lavonte is a man,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said during the postgame interviews. “Lavonte was all over the field, stripped the ball and really got the comeback started by stripping the ball out of the guy’s hands. He always plays that way and it was no different tonight.
“(I) love him. He’s a leader, he’s a character guy, he’s a play-hard guy — he’s everything to us like what Rex (Burkhead) is to the offense.”
The Huskers would pound off 14 more points before catching another break – albeit an unfortunate one. After a particularly tough hit from Nebraska’s Sean Fisher, Ohio State’s Miller collapsed to the turf and had to exit the game. He was replaced by Joe Bauserman.
Bauserman, of course, is nowhere near the flight risk that Miller is and, because of that, the Husker defense stopped having to account for the quarterback scrambling and picking up yardage with his feet. Ultimately, Bauserman would go 1-of-10 for 13 total yards and interception for the duration of the outing.
And despite their hot start, the Buckeyes lost the game 34-27.
“They showed a lot of character tonight,” Pelini said. “They fought back, stuck together, hung in there — we talked about that before the game and it sounds cliché, but when everybody kind of gave up on us and booed us off the field at halftime, we believed and we came back and fought our tails off and look what happened.”
Pelini wasn’t the only one who heard the boos.
“We can’t really worry about the crowd too much,” Nebraska safety Austin Cassidy said after the game. “It’s great when they’re behind us. When they’re not, I understand. We were getting booed today.
“I probably would’ve been booing myself, too, but they were in it and they obviously made a difference in the end.”
So, what will Pelini and the defense take away from this outing?
“I hope tonight’s second half was our jumping-off point,” Pelini said. “(We had) some trial by fire for some guys. They played well and we responded. We’ll see how it carries on from here.
“Hopefully, we’ll keep building the momentum.”
Knowing you don't want to have the 73rd-ranked scoring defense in the nation is a good first step. Can Nebraska actually build on the momentum and change the course of the season around?
Only time will tell.