INDIANAPOLIS (WCMH) — Ohio State was able to beat Northwestern 22-10 in the Big Ten championship game despite the Buckeyes’ worst performance of the season.
Ohio State trailed for more than 30 minutes before the Buckeyes scored their first touchdown of the game at the 2:41 mark of the third quarter to take a 13-10 lead — one they would not relinquish.
OSU has won four-straight Big Ten titles and may have clinched a spot in the College Football Playoff for a second-straight year.
The Buckeyes played without 23 players including a few starters, but the team does not release who missed the game due to the coronavirus.
Chris Olave, Baron Browning, Tyler Friday and Marcus Hooker were among the most notable Buckeyes who did not play. Hooker and Friday were on the sideline, which means they did not test positive for the coronavirus.
Trey Sermon set a Big Ten championship game and Ohio State single-game rushing record with 331 yards, breaking Ezekiel Elliott’s 2014 Big Ten Championship record and Eddie George’s record.
“My mindset is just to make the most of my opportunities,” Sermon said. “I’m aware of my ability and I know I’m more than capable of making plays and just playing my game, which is making guys miss and winning at the second level.”
Sermon was deservedly named the Big Ten Championship MVP.
OSU’s rushing attack was dominant racking up 399 yards and nine yards per carry, but the play calling left much to be desired with OSU running only sporadically in the first three quarters despite its clear effectiveness the whole game.
“[Trey] ran. I mean he ran with a different look in his eye and sometimes when you come off an injury, it takes a little time to get into a rhythm,” Ryan Day said. “Master [Teague] went down and he kind of just stepped up in a big, big way.”
Coming into the game, Northwestern ranked first in the Big Ten and second in the country in scoring defense. The Wildcats showed why throughout the game, most notably with its pass defense only allowing 114 yards and a 44 percent completion percentage while forcing two interceptions.
Ohio State was fortunate to escape the first quarter without a turnover.
On the Buckeyes’ first offensive play, freshman wide receiver Julian Fleming overran his route and the ball was tipped in the air but landed harmlessly on the ground. Fields almost gave up his fourth interception of the year again when he threw an ill-advised pass while getting tackled on third down on a pass well behind the first down marker. On the second to last play of the quarter, Fields threw a swing pass to Garrett Wilson behind the line scrimmage and Wilson couldn’t make the catch but was there to recover the ball with three Wildcats near the play.
Ohio State’s turnover luck ran out just before the end of the first half when Fields was picked off by Northwestern’s Brandon Joseph who made a one-handed snag in the Wildcats’ endzone for his sixth interception of the season to keep a 10-6 lead at halftime.
Northwestern and Ohio State traded interceptions to start the second half starting with a Justin Hilliard pick in the end zone to keep the Wildcats to a four-point lead.
But Fields threw his second interception after miscommunication between he and wide receiver Jameson Williams.
Trey Sermon took over on OSU’s next drive, but Blake Haubeil missed 42-yard field goal. Northwestern missed a field goal on the next drive, and Ohio State finally relied on the run on its next drive with seven runs for 71 yards ending with a nine-yard touchdown by Sermon.
Sermon scored his second touchdown of the game with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, securing the win for Ohio State.