No. 4 Ohio State captured one of the most thrilling games of the 2013 college football campaign on Saturday, going on to a 40-30 victory over No. 16 Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.
On the first drive of the game, the Buckeyes went 65 yards in eight plays before Drew Basil booted home a 27-yard field goal. Braxton Miller was 5-of-6 on the drive, accounting for all 65 yards.
Northwestern eventually responded, though. Miller fumbled on Ohio State's next drive, giving the ball up to the Wildcats in Buckeyes territory. Five plays and 23 yards later, the Wildcats had themselves a touchdown, as quarterback Trevor Siemian hooked up with the multi-purpose Kain Colter, who also plays QB for Northwestern.
Bleacher Report NFL Lead Analyst Matt Miller tweeted:
But Ohio State came up with a huge defensive play of its own. Cornerback Bradley Roby blocked a Wildcats punt and recovered it in the end zone with 2:33 remaining in the first quarter. He gave the Buckeyes a 10-7 lead.
That lead didn't last long, though. On the Wildcats' next drive, they went 75 yards on 10 plays, capped off by Colter running the pigskin into the end zone off an option play. Northwestern had a 14-10 lead.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com tweeted:
The Buckeyes then drove 72 yards on 12 plays on the ensuing possession, capped off by a 20-yard field goal by Drew Basil. The Buckeyes trailed by one point with 8:36 remaining in the second quarter.
Miller appeared to regress as the first half wore on.
Kenny Roda of Fox Sports Ohio lamented:
Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com delved into the psyche of Miller:
Northwestern continued to beat up on Ohio State's defense in the second quarter, going 68 yards on eight plays before Jeff Budzien knocked home a 23-yard field goal. The Wildcats had built a 17-14 lead with five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The No. 16 team in the country continued to inch away from Urban Meyer's squad before halftime, putting another three points on the board.
The Wildcats entered half with a 20-13 lead in Evanston. Each team had about the same amount of first-half yardage, but Miller's fumble, which was turned into seven points for Northwestern, was the big difference.
Northwestern picked up right where it left off in the second half, driving 60 yards in 12 plays to set up another Jeff Budzien field goal. Colter continued to impress. Up until that point, he was 9-of-9 passing for 92 yards, not to mention his rushing score and receiving touchdown.
Ohio State drove 58 yards on the next possession, but with the Buckeyes at Northwestern's 7-yard line, Miller lost another fumble. People began calling for backup Kenny Guiton at this point.
Then, with Guiton warming up on the sideline, Miller and the Buckeyes responded, going on a six-play, 36-yard drive, culminating on a Carlos Hyde four-yard touchdown run.
Ohio State athletics tweeted after the score:
All of a sudden, the Buckeyes were within three points with under four minutes to play in the third quarter.
Both teams went back and forth until early in the fourth quarter. Then, Siemian's pass was intercepted by Doran Grant, setting up a four-play, 16-yard drive that ended in a two-yard touchdown run by (who else?) Hyde. The Buckeyes took a 27-23 lead.
Hip hop artist Mekka Don, creator of the official Buckeyes anthem, tweeted:
But Mekka Don and the Buckeyes faithful weren't very happy when Northwestern scored on the next drive, going 80 yards in six plays, capped off by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Siemian to sophomore receiver Cameron Dickerson.
Bucks Insider noted:
But Miller, Hyde and Co. responded like true professionals, driving 81 yards on eight plays before Hyde ran it in for a seven-yard touchdown. The Buckeyes had re-taken the lead with 5:33 remaining, 34-30.
Northwestern attempted the hook and ladder at the end of the game, but it resulted in a fumble and an Ohio State touchdown to clinch it.
Ohio State's secondary clearly needs some work, but you can't help but be impressed by the way the Buckeyes battled on Saturday.
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: C-
Braxton Miller played poor football for most of the game, but seeing Guiton warming up on the sideline down the stretch appeared to energize him. He stepped up when the Buckeyes needed him most, and for that I can't give him a horrible grade. He finished 15-of-26 for 203 yards while tossing an interception and losing two fumbles. He also rushed for 68 yards.
Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern: A
It's hard not to give Kain Colter an "A" after accounting for two touchdowns on Saturday. He was perfect from the pocket (12-of-12 for 98 yards), and he added a rushing and receiving score. He was a big part of the Wildcats offense coming into the clash, and he was a big part of it on Saturday. When you have a player like Colter who can do so many things, it has to make you giddy as an offensive coordinator.
Trevor Siemian, QB, Northwestern: A-
Trevor Siemian completed Northwestern's two-headed monster under center on Saturday, going 13-of-18 for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Everyone talks about Colter (and rightfully so), but Siemian makes the Wildcats even more dangerous and unpredictable. He did throw a crucial interception late in the game that allowed the Buckeyes to take the lead for a moment, but he made up for it with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Dickerson on the next drive.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State: A+
Carlos Hyde had a big game for the Buckeyes on Saturday, rushing for 168 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. The senior has rushed for more yards in each game since returning to the field on Sept. 21 against Florida A&M. Looks like he has no intention of slowing down after scampering for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern: B+
Multi-purpose threat Venric Mark made an impact in his first game back from injury on Saturday, racking up 141 total yards. He only averaged 3.5 yards per carry, but he had some nice runs and he was a true threat as a receiver out of the backfield and as a return man.
Ohio State will host Iowa on Oct. 19, while Northwestern visits Wisconsin on Oct. 12. Iowa is 4-2 this season (1-1 Big Ten), coming off a 26-14 loss to Michigan State. Wisconsin is 3-2 (1-1 Big Ten), coming off a bye week after a 31-24 loss to Ohio State on Sept. 28.