Final: Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30
Ohio State escaped a conference road game, its first, against Northwestern with a 40-30 victory on Saturday night. Three turnovers nearly did the Buckeyes in, but the defense stepped up just in time to allow the offense enough time to score three touchdowns and win this game.
Even with home-field advantage in a night game, an underdog like Northwestern cannot make big mistakes. However, that is exactly what happened, with a punt block for a touchdown and an interception in the fourth quarter leading to another OSU touchdown.
Ohio State now heads into a bye week and the easiest part of its conference schedule with a perfect record, while Northwestern must recover for a tough road trip to Madison next weekend.
The Buckeyes have a long way to go to be a national title contender, but just winning these tough games will potentially give them a chance for the crystal football like Notre Dame a season ago.
For the full box score, check out NCAA.com.
Game Analysis for the Ohio State Buckeyes
Braxton Miller was just about to lose his starting job with a third turnover, but then he pulled it together and made some key throws to keep Buckeye drives alive throughout the second half.
The output was similar to a weekend ago and good enough to win, but the passing game must be more consistent in future games.
The Buckeyes saw a mismatch with the undersized Northwestern players against Carlos Hyde and exploited it well.
Hyde drove for 169 yards and Braxton Miller added 66, which is just what was needed. The offensive line dominated in run blocking all game.
The defensive line generated a fair amount of pass rush, but Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter still picked apart the defense for over 340 yards.
Once again the secondary had trouble containing a star receiver, this time Rashad Lawrence. Christian Bryant is clearly missed.
Although Venric Mark found some openings and the option worked well in the first half, the defensive line shut down the rushing game completely in the second half.
Northwestern finished with only 94 yards and couldn’t get a single yard when it needed in order to keep its last drive alive.
With the exception of a big Venric Mark return in the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes special teams did everything perfectly.
A punt-block touchdown kept the team in the game, and Drew Basil and Cameron Johnston were perfect. Great outing.
The Buckeyes stayed with the game plan and rode Carlos Hyde as far as his strong legs would carry them. That turned out to be enough on this night.
However, questionable play-calling in the first half—like the failed fake punt—lower this grade significantly.
First-Half Analysis for the Ohio State Buckeyes
Although Braxton Miller started 5-of-6 passing on the first drive, he overthrew too many passes for the remainder of the half. Miller’s costly fumble allowed Northwestern to grab the lead and the early momentum.
Continued bad passing and turnovers should result in a Kenny Guiton sighting.
Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller found tons of openings early against Northwestern’s front, but the big plays stopped twice in the red zone at bad times.
The Buckeyes did average five yards per carry, but that will not be good enough if the passing game does not help punch it into the end zone.
Despite the defensive line generating a fair amount of pressure, Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter each completed nearly every single pass.
The elusiveness of the quarterbacks and rolling the pocket is allowing Northwestern to expose the Buckeye secondary too much.
As expected, Venric Mark has made a couple of big plays early, but Ohio State still held firm for most of the half.
The troubling aspects are the lack of adequate coverage on option plays, which Northwestern will run all night long if allowed.
Drew Basil has been perfect on his field goals so far and the only touchdown was on a punt block, so a great half overall for this unit.
The kick coverage could be a bit sharper, but Cameron Johnston was great on the one punt he actually attempted.
Tom Herman will need to be more aggressive calling passes in the second half, as the Buckeye offense is getting a bit too predictable.
However, calling for a fake punt in your own territory is an unacceptable mistake for Urban Meyer.