COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Ohio State University Buckeyes fought the weather and a stubborn Northwestern team but managed to win its closest game of the year so far, beating the Wildcats 21-7 Saturday.
Northwestern opened the quarter with an RPO keeper by Sullivan that picked up 15 yards on third and 1 at its own 11.
Sullivan avoided three Ohio State pass rushers on third and eight to find Cam Porter downfield for a 10 yard gain and a first down, and on the next third and eight Sullivan took off around left end and converted yet again. Northwestern has converted nine of 18 on third down. The next third and eight saw Genson Price drop a good throw by Sullivan, and Sullivan misfired on fourth and eight, turning the ball over to Ohio State at its 36 yard line with 9:41 left to play.
Ohio State couldn’t stand the good fortune as it was forced into a punt after a poorly executed third and two rollout pass by Stroud. Mirco punted 46 yards into the wind and pinned the Wildcats at their own 10-yard line with 8:20 to play. Northwestern was curiously passive on its possession, running three times for just five yards. A Wildcats punt gave the Buckeyes the ball at their own 38 yard line.
After a 12-yard run by Williams, Stroud tucked it on a designed run, getting great blocks by Harrison Jr and Cade Stover, churning down to the Northwestern 5 yard line after a 44-yard run. Williams capped the drive with a five yard burst up the middle, his second score of the contest, to just about salt the game away. Ohio State went 62 yards in five plays, and in the process hit the 20 point mark for the 70th consecutive game, a new FBS record.
Stroud set a personal mark with 79 rushing yards on six carries.
Northwestern gained a first down on the first play of its do or die drive, but on the second Sullivan went out after a hard tackle by Taron Vincent. Sullivan came up woozy and was replaced by early season starter Ryan Hilinski. Northwestern could not manage a first down and turned the ball over on downs for the fourth time today.
The loss will be Northwestern’s eighth straight, the longest streak since 2001-02.
Williams went over the 100-yard rushing mark on a punishing six yard run that took the ball to the Northwestern 42. He’s done it on a career-high 23 carries.
Stroud had his worst passing game as a Buckeye, finishing with just 76 yards, and no touchdown passes for the first time as a starter.
The victory pushed the Buckeyes to 9-0, 6-0 in Big Ten play, while Northwestern fell to 1-8, 0-6 for the season. The Buckeyes will host Indiana next weekend.
The Buckeyes were better in the second half and used its talent to finally push away from the Wildcats, who gave their standard 100-percent effort but just lacked the horses.
OHIO STATE PASSING: Stroud 10-26, 76 yards
NORTHWESTERN PASSING: Sullivan 10-14, 79 yards
OHIO STATE RUSHING: Williams 26-111, 2 TDs; Stroud 6-79; Egbuka 2-21, TD
NORTHWESTERN RUSHING: Hull 30-122, TD; Sullivan 12-55
OHIO STATE RECEIVING: Harrison Jr 5-51
NORTHWESTERN RECEIVING: Washington 6-49
TOTAL YARDS: Ohio State 283 yards, 207 rushing, 76 passing; Northwestern 285 yards, 206 rushing, 79 passing.
Northwestern was creative with its offense, using wildcat with Hull and driving to midfield but Ohio State bowed up on defense and stopped Hull on a middle run, getting the football in Northwestern territory with 10:45 remaining in the quarter.
Ohio State converted its first first down of the game when Harrison Jr caught a 12 yard bullet from Stroud on third-and-11. Egbuka dropped a certain touchdown on the next play, leaving the Buckeyes with second and long. Williams bulled ahead for seven on the next play, then evaded a pair of tackles for a 27-yard touchdown run that gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the afternoon. It was Williams’ 11th touchdown of the season and helped OSU navigate 45 yards in six plays.
Sullivan made a nifty improv on a third down keeper, flinging a pass to Malik Washington for a nine yard gain and a first down to keep the drive going. A pair of runs netted little, and Ohio State stopped Sullivan on a third down run and forced a punt that rolled out of bounds at the Buckeyes 16-yard line with 3:49 left in the quarter. Northwestern is keeping the ball on the ground to run the clock so it can have the wind at its back in the fourth quarter.
Ohio State was forced to punt after a third down throw to Harrison Jr misfired, when the receiver cut back in and Stroud threw toward the sideline. Mirco nailed a 48-yard punt that went out of bounds at the Northwestern 4 yard line with 1:24 left in the quarter.
The Wildcats focused on the run as the quarter expired.
Northwestern had a short field and was driving into the wind, but OSU was able to make a stop on fourth down and took over at its own 21 yard line.
The Buckeyes gained a first down on the first target of the game to Marvin Harrison Jr, a pickup of 15 yards, but the drive bogged down again as the Stroud had consecutive incompletions to slide to 4-for-12 for the afternoon. The passing game is definitely off, with Stroud looking like the primary issue at the moment.
Northwestern got one first down on its next drive before facing a fourth-and-two at its own 46 yard line, and lined up the offense but ran the clock down and took a timeout before deciding to punt.
OSU gained a first down on a pretty pass from Stroud to Harrison Jr, then got cute with a reverse to Emeka Egbuka for a loss of a yard, leaving the Buckeyes with second and long, and then third and long after an overthrow to Harrison Jr. Another incompletion on third down forced Jesse Mirco’s fifth punt of the afternoon, which traveled 77 yards with the wind at his back. Northwestern gets the ball back with 6:25 left before halftime.
Ohio State forced a Northwestern punt after consecutive run blitzes produced lost yardage. The Buckeyes took over at the Wildcats 46-yard line with 4:35 to play before intermission.
The Buckeyes were faced with fourth-and-1 at the Northwestern 37 and Day made a great call to have Stroud keep it around right end, where he picked up 16 yards. After another scamper by Stroud off of a pass call, Egbuka took it around right end and scampered 15 yards for a score, with 2:47 left in the half. Ohio State covered 31 yards in five plays.
OHIO STATE PASSING: Stroud 6-16, 46 yards
NORTHWESTERN PASSING: Sullivan 5-6, 31 yards
OHIO STATE RUSHING: Stroud 3-29; Williams 11-22; Egbuka 2-21, TD
NORTHWESTERN RUSHING: Hull 15-75; Sullivan 6-28
OHIO STATE RECEIVING: Harrison Jr 2-26
NORTHWESTERN RECEIVING: Kirtz 1-12
TOTAL YARDS: Ohio State 118, 72 rushing, 46 passing; Northwestern 140, 109 rushing, 31 passing
Ohio State opened with a pretty nondescript drive, Miyan Williams picked up seven yards on the first carry, but OSU was called for a holding penalty which backed the ball up to the 20 yard line. Two incompletions forced a Jesse Mirco punt, which traveled just 34 yards into the wind.
Northwestern had a three and out of its own, with J.T. Tuimoloau batting down a third down pass from Brendan Sullivan. Ohio State got the ball at its own 25 after Luke Akers punt sailed through the end zone. An illegal formation penalty was added to the end of the play.
Ohio State gained its first first down on a Northwestern defensive holding penalty, and added what looked to be a second on a 3rd-and-8 run by CJ Stroud, putting the ball at the Buckeyes 47-yard line, but it was marked short. Williams powered past the 50 to make the first down official. Two more incompletions by Stroud took him to 0-for-5 for the afternoon, an anomaly for someone who completes 71 percent of his passes.
Northwestern took over after a punt and marched right down the field, using tempo and short, controlled passes to advance the ball to the Buckeyes 16. Evan Hull took a wildcat snap and made OSU cornerback JK Johnson grasp air on the way to a scoring scamper. The Wildcats went 80 yards in nine plays.
The Buckeyes took over at their own 25 and used two easy passes to get Stroud comfortable, and the offensive line, as it has all year, showed it was not up to the short-yardage challenge and Northwestern stopped the Buckeyes on third and less than a yard.
The Buckeyes forced a three and out when Tommy Eichenberg sniffed out a Wildcats screen pass to Hull, keeping it to four yards. Ohio State took over at its own 33 yard line with just over three minutes to play in the quarter. Ohio State got it to third and one again, but Williams slipped on a cut, and the Wildcats blasted through the porous OSU line and stopped Williams for a loss on fourth down.
Sullivan picked up a first down on a six yard run as the quarter ended, marking the first time this season the Buckeyes have not scored in the first quarter.
It’s back on the road again for No. 2 Ohio State, as it takes on what appears to be an overmatched Northwestern (1-7) squad in Evanston, Ill. The Buckeyes (8-0) have won nine straight over Northwestern and have lost just twice to the Wildcats since 1970.
The Buckeyes will be without two stars today as receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running back TreVeyon Henderson are out. Running back Miyan Williams is available to play after sustaining a hand injury against Penn State last Saturday.
There is also the matter of what could be inclement weather — high winds and possible rain at some point at Ryan Field.