Lincoln, Neb. - Darkness had long since fallen, and the rain was falling steadily in Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. A hush had also fallen over the more than 85,000 strong after visiting Ohio State went up 27-6 early in the third quarter.
Then Lavonte David made arguably the biggest play of the season for the Huskers. On what appeared to be another first-down carry for Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller, David stripped the ball and recovered a fumble that set up the Huskers' struggling offense with a short field at the OSU 23.
Two plays later, Taylor Martinez and the Big Red offense were struggling no more, as the sophomore quarterback sprinted 18 yards untouched for a touchdown to cut Ohio State's lead to 27-13 and give the NCAA-record 315th consecutive sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium reason for hope.
Within an hour, hope had turned to euphoria as Nebraska rolled to the biggest comeback in school history with a 34-27 victory over Ohio State for the Huskers' first-ever Big Ten Conference victory. NU's Homecoming win moved the 14th-ranked Huskers to 5-1 on the season, including 1-1 in the Big Ten. Ohio State slipped to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the conference.
David, who led the Huskers with 13 tackles, played one of the hero roles for Nebraska, while the sophomore quarterback Martinez and junior I-back Rex Burkhead played heroic roles on offense.
Martinez and Burkhead joined forces for the 69th dual-100-yard rushing effort in school history, despite the NU offense struggling to just 37 rushing yards in the first half. Burkhead, who finished with 119 yards and a score on a career-high 26 carries, rushed for 96 yards in the fourth quarter alone. Martinez finished with 102 yards and a score on just 17 carries, including 93 yards on 12 carries after halftime.
Martinez also completed a season-high 16 passes on 22 attempts for 191 yards and two touchdowns to finish the night with 293 total yards. Burkhead added a career-high five catches for 59 yards and a score.
On the Blackshirts' defensive series following David's forced fumble, linebacker Sean Fisher made a big play by taking on a Buckeye blocker to stop Miller. The hit also sent Miller, who had rushed 10 times for 91 yards including several key third-down conversions on scrambling runs, to the sideline with an injury.
With Miller on the sideline, Joe Bauserman and the Buckeye offense stalled. The Huskers got another defensive stop, and Martinez pulled the Big Red within a touchdown by finding Quincy Enunwa on a 36-yard scoring strike to cut the OSU lead to 27-20 with 1:44 left in the third quarter.
The Blackshirts continued to stifle Bauserman and the Buckeyes, and the Huskers tied the score on Burkhead's career-long 30-yard touchdown reception from Martinez with 7:44 to play.
Converted wide receiver Stanley Jean-Baptiste then made the biggest play of his Husker career in his first appearance as a cornerback, producing a leaping interception to give Nebraska a shot at the victory.
Martinez and Burkhead capitalized again, as Burkhead capped NU's four-play, 78-yard game-winning drive with a 17-yard scoring burst down the Ohio State sideline with 5:10 left in the game.
The Buckeyes were unable to mount any offensive threat, and the Husker offense ran out the clock before taking a knee at the OSU 24 to end the game.
Ohio State struck first, marching 56 yards on 13 plays in 7:44 culminating with Drew Basil's 41-yard field goal to make it 3-0 Buckeyes with 7:16 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska answered with Brett Maher's 50-yard field goal just 1:52 later, which was setup by Ameer Abdullah's 38-yard kickoff return.
Ohio State closed the quarter by driving 80 yards in seven plays, capped by Braxton Miller's 32-yard touchdown pass to Jake Stoneburner to carry a 10-3 lead into the second quarter.
The Buckeyes firmed their grip on the lead with Carlos Hyde's 63-yard touchdown run to score on a one-play drive and give OSU a 17-3 lead with 12:46 left in the half.
Maher trimmed to the Husker deficit to 17-6 with a 34-yard field goal with 2:44 left. After the Blackshirts forced a three-and-out by the Buckeyes, the Huskers threw an interception on a deep route with 15 seconds left in the half.
Ohio State capitalized on Basil's 35-yard field goal as time expired in the half to send the Buckeyes to the locker room with a 20-6 advantage.
OSU had 246 total yards at the half, including 178 rushing yards, while NU had just 117 yards, including just 37 on the ground. Martinez completed 10-of-13 passes in the half for 80 yards, including 10 straight to open the game, but did throw one interception.
Miller completed 4-of-6 passes for 68 yards for the Buckeyes and rushed seven times for 79 yards in the opening half.
Nebraska finished the game with 423 yards of total offense, including 232 rushing yards and 191 passing. Ohio State managed 351 total yards, but just 105 in the second half. OSU finished with 243 rushing yards, but just 65 after halftime.
Nebraska will enjoy the weekend off before returning to Big Ten Conference road action at Minnesota on Saturday, Oct. 22.
Final: #14 Nebraska 34, Ohio State 27
Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (OSU, 10-3)
OSU - 7:16 - Drew Basil 41 FG - 13 plays, 56 yards, 7:44, OSU 3-0
NU - 5:15 - Brett Maher 50 FG - 5 plays, 21 yards, 1:52, 3-3
OSU - 1:51 - Jake Stoneburner 32 pass from Braxton Miller (Basil kick) - 7 plays, 80 yards, 3:24, OSU 10-3
Second Quarter (OSU, 20-6)
OSU - 12:46 - Carlos Hyde 63 run (Basil kick) - 1 play, 58 yards, 0:10, OSU 17-3
NU - 2:44 - Maher 34 FG - 9 plays, 40 yards, 3:43, OSU 17-6
OSU - 0:00 - Basil 35 FG - 2 plays, 29 yards, 0:15, OSU 20-6
Third Quarter (OSU, 27-20)
OSU - 10:53 - Hyde 1 run (Basil kick) - 7 plays, 47 yards, 3:02, OSU 27-13
NU - 7:23 - Taylor Martinez 18 run (Maher kick) - 2 plays, 23 yards, 0:31, OSU 27-13
NU - 1:44 - Quincy Enunwa 36 pass from Martinez (Maher kick) - 7 plays, 80 yards, 2:37, OSU 27-20
Fourth Quarter (NU, 34-27)
NU - 7:35 - Rex Burkhead 30 pass from Martinez (Maher kick) - 7 plays, 72 yards, 2:51, 27-27
NU - 5:10 - Burkhead 17 run (Maher kick) - 4 plays, 78 yards, 1:19, NU 34-27
Final: #14 Nebraska 34, Ohio State 27
Time of Game: 3:14
Game Start: 7:07 p.m. (central)