Ohio State moved to 12-1 and secured its second consecutive Big Ten championship with a 45-24 victory over Northwestern Saturday at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis.
Behind another standout effort from Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State controlled the first half and jumped out to a 24-7 advantage. The Buckeyes, seeking their third bid to the College Football Playoff in five years, held off a second half rally from the Wildcats who cut the game to 24-21. Behind Haskins, who passed for 499 yards and five touchdowns, Ohio State then pulled away for the 21-point win.
The Buckeyes, who claimed their 37th all-time Big Ten title, will await their postseason fate Sunday during the College Football Playoff announcement.
Ohio State 14, Northwestern 7
Ohio State took the opening kickoff and methodically drove down the field, ending with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Haskins to Terry McLaurin. It was the fifth time the Buckeyes scored on their opening possession and also moved McLaurin into an eighth place tie with Michael Thomas in career touchdown receptions with 18. The Buckeyes picked up five first downs on the drive that covered 10 plays and 77 yards.
After a penalty stalled Ohio State’s next drive, Northwestern got the ball back and tied the game on a 77-yard run by John Moten IV with 6:27 remaining in the opening quarter.
The tie was short-lived, however, as Ohio State responded with an eight-play, 65-yard drive that resulted in a two-yard touchdown run by J.K. Dobbins. On the drive, Haskins completed three of four passes for 50 yards, including a 20-yard strike to McLaurin. He also found Johnnie Dixon for a 13-yard gain on third and two.
For the quarter, Ohio State outgained Northwestern 183-84 as Haskins completed 10 of 13 passes for 142 yards. Six different players had receptions, led by Campbell (four catches, 58 yards).
Ohio State 24, Northwestern 7
Ohio State increased its lead over Northwestern in the second quarter with a Blake Haubeil 42-yard field goal and a 42-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin late in the quarter.
In another impressive half, Haskins has now broken yet another Big Ten record, this time the single season total offense mark held by Denard Robinson, as he has thrown for 249 yards, rushed for another 20 and totaled 269 yards of offense.
Dobbins became the first Buckeye to rush for 1,000 yards as both a freshman and sophomore. He’s sitting at 1,020 yards this season. Dixon joined the 1,000-yard receiving club giving the Buckeyes four receivers with at least 1,000 yards receiving.
Ohio State 31, Northwestern 21
Northwestern took the opening kickoff of the third quarter and drove right down the field, culminating in an 18-yard touchdown run by Clayton Thorson. The drive was five plays and covered 75 yards, taking 1:37 off the clock. Four of the five plays on the drive resulted in first downs.
The Wildcats drew to within three, 24-21, when it finished off an 11-play, 85-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown pass from Thorson to Cameron Green. The key play in the series with an overturned fumble recovery by Ohio State’s Damon Arnette at the Buckeye three yard line. Two plays after the ruling, Thorson found Green for a touchdown. Thorson completed seven of eight passes in the drive.
The Buckeyes were able to quell the Northwestern momentum when Arnette intercepted a Thorson pass at the Wildcats’ 35 yard line. He caught the ball after it was deflected by Chase Young. Five plays later, however, Mike Weber fumbled and the Northwestern recovery turned the ball over at their own 39 yard line. Ohio State forced a three-and-out, highlighted by Young’s second sack of the game.
Ohio State regained a 10-point lead when Haskins tossed his third touchdown pass of the night, connecting with freshman Chris Olave on a 29-yard score. The Buckeyes’ drive was six play and 60 yards, taking 1:29 off the clock. It was also Olave’s third touchdown reception in the last two games.
Ohio State 45, Northwestern 24
Ohio State opened the quarter with aspirations to extend its lead, but a 27-yard field goal attempt by Haubeil was partially blocked and sailed wide.
On its next possession, Haskins topped 400 yards passing again with a 63-yard bomb to Dixon and then found No. 1 from nine yards out to push the Buckeye lead to 14 with just more than 9:00 to play. The drive covered 75 yards on four plays in just 1:23.
Haskins tossed his fifth TD pass of the game to seal Ohio State’s scoring for the evening with a 17-yard strike to Dobbins to end an 8-play, 54-yard drive that covered nearly three minutes.
Ohio State was able to salt away the win and its second straight conference championship in the waning moments in victory formation.