LINCOLN — Nebraska outside linebacker JoJo Domann had nine tackles and an interception Saturday.
He also has a decision to make, Scott Frost said, about playing any more football games for the Huskers.
Domann is dealing with an undisclosed injury, Frost said, and chose to play through it against Ohio State. Since NU almost certainly cannot make a bowl game, Frost was asked if Domann would opt out of the final two games against Wisconsin and Iowa.
“I don’t know what decision he will make going forward, but it won’t be because he’s opting out,” Frost said. “I don’t see that happening with him.”
Domann has 72 tackles, nine for loss, and two interceptions this season. Outside linebacker Garrett Nelson said Domann has been a good influence on the team.
“He taught me how to lead, taught me how to play hard, taught me a lot of things about football — about life,” Nelson said. “He was one of my first really good friends here when I came to college, and he is a top-tier guy.”
Austin Allen also has a decision to make. Will he enter the NFL draft after this season?
As Nebraska enters its second bye week, he's waffling between yes and no.
“I really got to sit down and talk to my family,” Allen said. “Talk to some scouts and see what kind of grade they’re thinking I’m at right now. Right now, I’m probably 50-50, if you can put a number on it.”
Allen’s uncertainty centers on his draft stock. If scouts grade him high enough, “then I’m going to play some professional football.” If they don’t, he can spend next season adding muscle, improving speed and leading Nebraska where it “should be.”
The state of the Huskers matters deeply to Allen, who grew up in Aurora cheering for them every Saturday. If he enters the upcoming draft, he’ll have left Lincoln without experiencing a winning season. That reality frustrates him and weighs into his decision.
“That is a factor on the 50 side,” Allen said. “(I don’t want to) leave my guys. I want to come back and lead them, take them to a winning season.”
The scouts might have something to say about that. Allen and Travis Vokolek met with tight ends coach Sean Beckton earlier this week to discuss their futures. Beckton told them to do their research during the bye week and discuss the issue with family members and Frost. He also told them not to make a decision until after the season.
Saturday’s loss clinched a fifth straight losing season, which means the Huskers are unlikely to make a bowl game.
What motivates them now?
Pride, said defensive end Ben Stille, who is one of several Huskers — including five on defense — who returned for a sixth season of college football. And while they failed to meet most of the goals they envisioned, Stille doesn’t think that will affect their enthusiasm.
“We didn't come back to give up on the last few games,” Stille said.
Especially not when you consider who Stille will play to close his career.
The Huskers have lost six straight games against Wisconsin. They’ve never held the Freedom Trophy, introduced to the matchup in 2014, and three of their four all-time wins against Wisconsin came before 1974.
Nebraska closes with Iowa, and “who doesn’t want to beat Iowa,” Allen said. The Huskers haven’t beaten their neighboring rival since 2014.
Ending those streaks should supply all the motivation Nebraska needs, Allen said. And if they don’t, “You’re playing for the wrong team.”
“We’ve got a chance to storm across the field and take back some trophies,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of things to play for these last two games.”
The Huskers’ grandest failures continue to stem from the smallest mistakes.
In the red zone, where Nebraska scored seven points in two trips against the Buckeyes, Allen said he saw Huskers who were forced off their routes. When Nebraska allowed a sack, which it did five times Saturday, Allen attributed it to “poor blocking technique.”
Explaining those mistakes is hard. “There’s not necessarily a rhyme or reason” why players miss blocks, Allen said. But the Huskers have missed a lot this season. They’ve also struggled often in the red zone.
And they haven’t corrected either problem, even though the fixes seem so small.
“They had to do a little better technique getting into the route,” Allen said of Nebraska’s reroute issues. “If the timing’s off by just a little bit, it throws off the whole play. It’s just got to be a little more detailed.”
Cam Taylor-Britt walked off the field and screamed at no one in particular.
“This close every time!” the junior cornerback yelled.
In Nebraska’s seventh single-digit loss of the year, the defense again did its part. This time it held down electric true freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson while limiting the Ohio State offense to 5.9 yards per play.
OSU came to Lincoln as the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense at 47.3 points per game.
“I believe we did a great job,” Taylor-Britt said later. “They were supposed to go 49 a game. They got nowhere near 49.”
Henderson finished with 92 yards on 21 carries (4.4 per tote) and didn’t have a rush of longer than six yards until a burst of 11 and 22 on Ohio State’s final drive. The five-star prospect entered the day leading all high-usage running backs by averaging 7.9 yards per carry.
The Blackshirts got to freshman QB C.J. Stroud for a pair of interceptions. Stroud completed 36 of 54 passes for 405 yards, 240 of which went to Jaxon Smith-Njigba on 15 snags.
NU almost forced a third takeaway that would have given the Huskers a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter when outside ‘backer Garrett Nelson stripped Stroud. But the Buckeyes recovered and eventually kicked the clinching field goal.
“We got caught in the act of being ourselves,” Nelson said. “That is what we do.”
“I want to say that we impressed ourselves,” Farmer said.
Frost said the overall effort might have been Blackshirts’ best outside of the second half against Michigan State. The team rarely busted and made tackles against top pro prospects.
“For the caliber of player they have on offense, I was really impressed with the defense,” Frost said. “And the secondary in particular, we give up the one long one, and the one kid had a lot of plays. And those are some elite receivers, and they battled.”
Nebraska running back Sevion Morrison was not in uniform Saturday, Frost said, because he missed practice due to a “family thing” back home in Oklahoma.