On the surface, Nebraska's 52-17 loss seems like it should give Scott Frost and the Huskers absolutely no reason to feel good about themselves. However, the Huskers came away from their encounter with the Buckeyes notably improved one year removed from yet another disappointing season. Ohio State's talent gap again helped plunk the Big Red. But here's why Nebraska should be encouraged despite the 0-1 start:
1. Adrian Martinez is inching his way back
Martinez looked far more like his true freshman self than last year's version. Going 12-of-15 passing for 105 yards while rushing for an additional 77 yards and a score, he seems far more like his old self. If he's able to continue producing at this clip, Husker fans should feel optimistic about the remainder of the season.
2. Luke McCaffrey is too good to stay on the sidelines
This isn't a new sentiment and McCaffrey added fuel to the fire last Saturday. He was a nuisance for the Buckeye defense leading the Huskers in rushing with 87 yards on nine carries. It's doubtful he swaps in nearly as much for Martinez moving forward, especially if No. 2 finds a rhythm. However, he'll no doubt have a hand in future offensive success.
3. Those offseason weight training montages didn't lie
The Nebraska social media team wasn't shy about displaying the amount of time, energy, and resources the Huskers put into getting leaner and meaner. If anyone proved that effort was more than hype videos, the Big Red's offensive line made the case.
While Ohio State's defensive front was revamped to a degree, the Huskers still cleared the way for 217 rushing yards. There were a few miscues but considering the quality of opponent, Nebraska's effort was impressive, especially considering the layoff.
4. Breakout receivers are missing in action... for now
The Huskers' wide receiver corps clearly isn't lacking in perimeter blockers as expected. However, with the exception of Wan'Dale Robinson, it's difficult to tell if any true game-changers are among their ranks.
To be fair, the jury is still out as Omar Manning has yet to see the field, same for several other newbies. Alante Brown did show both shake and bake on a fourth-quarter, 16-yard reception. But watch for this necessity to be addressed shortly.
5. Tight end packages are the real deal
If there was any question whether or not Frost was committed to getting his tight ends involved this year, it was answered with an emphatic "YES!" in Columbus. Jack Stoll, Travis Vokolek, Austin Allen, and Kurt Rafdal were all part of the game plan to some degree.
Seeing them participate as both big-bodied receiving threats and paving the way for the Big Red running game looks to be a staple moving forward.
6. Tony Tuioti is earning his paycheck
One of the biggest concerns heading into 2020 was replacing the loss of Khalil and Carlos Davis along with Darrion Daniels. Though only one game into the season, Nebraska's run defense showed an eyebrow-raising effort, holding Trey Sermon and Master Teague III to a combined 96 yards on 23 attempts.
If the rotation Tuioti spoke of not long ago continues to play at this level, the pressure on Nebraska's back seven decreases to a monumental degree.
7. The Blackshirts' inside linebackers are a force
Collin Miller's solid play against the Buckeyes wasn't a surprise. He and Jojo Domann were the two known quantities of the Huskers' defensive second level. Will Honas came out of the gate with a notable fire not only leading the Blackshirts in tackles with seven (six solo), but also racking up two sacks. This duo's play only reinforces Nebraska's efficiency against the run.
8. Keep an eye on targeting penalties
Nebraska was flagged for targeting on three separate occasions versus Ohio State. One was overturned, but two were upheld including a controversial call against safety Deontai Williams. As a result, the Huskers will be without two starting defensive backs for the first half against Wisconsin.
It's impossible to teach a defense how to not tackle in a way that draws a targeting penalty, especially considering how vague the term continues to be. While the addition of review helps, the black-and-white nature of player disqualification remains a concern.
9. Special teams can once again help instead of hinder
With Dan Cerni sidelined, Michigan State transfer Will Przystrup took over punting duties, and did he ever put on a show. Averaging almost 45 yards per punt on five boots, Przystrup eclipsed the 50-yard mark twice and even downed a kick inside the 20-yard lin for good measure.
Kicker Connor Culp didn't get much opportunity to show how well Nebraska can split the uprights. However, converting a 22-yard field goal is a step in the right direction following the three-ring circus that 2019 saw. He did lead an impressive kickoff effort, though. Giving coordinator Erik Chinander and his unit a full 75 yards to defend until the opposition finds the end zone is a definite blessing.
10. Nebraska's most difficult opponent is themselves
This is an unfortunate constant over the course of Frost's tenure. Unforced errors have repeatedly yanked wins away from the Huskers and taken the wind out of their sails. However, Nebraska's head coach isn't wrong when he says his team is capable of fixing them. Their final record will ultimately reflect their ability to take another major step forward in actually accomplishing this after two years of struggling to do so.
(Top photo by Joshua Bickel, pool via Ohio State Athletics)