Inside the Box: Haskins and Young Dominate Northwestern for a Second Big Ten Title in As Many Years

By Jake Anderson on December 3, 2018 at 2:25 pm
Chase Young hunts for his third sack against Northwestern

With a date in Pasadena in four weeks, No. 6 Ohio State has a lot to be proud of; 12 wins, a Big Ten title, and a win against one of the best Michigan teams in the past decade makes the 2018 season a successful one.

In a game that featured way too many replays and dominant performances on both sides of the ball, the Buckeyes were able to claim victory. Ohio State disposed of No. 22 Northwestern 45-24 for consecutive Big Ten championships. 

For today's Inside the Box, we will analyze Haskins' final Heisman moment, the struggling backfield of the Buckeyes, Chase Young's improving play, and how a season-long trend reversed against the Wildcats. 

Haskins Put Together An Incredible Big Ten Capstone

In presumably his final Big Ten game, Dwayne Haskins gave Ohio State fans a historic performance...just like every other game this season. 

Before starting, let's take a look at Haskins' numbers after 13 games. 

Passing Yards Total Touchdowns Passing Touchdown: Interception Ratio Completion Percentage Adjusted QBR
4,580 51 5.9:1 70.2% 86.9

Go ahead and accept that invitation to New York. You deserve it. 

Onto his performance against Northwestern, Haskins' aggressive approach against a conservative defense was beyond impressive. The Wildcats are focused on forcing long drives and Ohio State's downfield passing destroyed their opponent's philosophy.

OSU is finally passing the ball deep

For much of the year, the Buckeyes have focused on its short passing. Only recently has the coaching staff allowed Haskins to consistently attack the medium-to-deep areas of the field, adding another lethal weapon to his arsenal. 

With the more aggressive play-calling, the Heisman candidate has reaped the benefits. His 499-yards against Northwestern is a new school record for passing yards in a single game. His three-game stretch of Maryland, Michigan, and Northwestern saw him throw for 1,300 yards and 17 total touchdowns (14 passing). 

Haskins has been given the green light and is taking full advantage of the opportunity. 

Ohio State's Backfield Struggled on the Ground but Contributed in the Passing Game

The duo of Dobbins and Weber ran for a total of 118 yards on 34 carries, putting them under four yards a carry for the sixth time this season. Last year, Ohio State's backfield never rushed for less than four yards an attempt and were only under five yards a carry four times. 

Dobbins, however, found other ways to contribute. He finished with 50 receiving yards and two total touchdowns, giving him an average of 5.6 yards per touch. 

Throughout the game, however, it felt pointless to run the ball. After all, the Buckeyes averaged three times more yards per play when choosing the throw the ball instead of running it. Haskins is so good that he is making the running attack of Ohio State irrelevant. 

The Predator is Back

Even after losing Nick Bosa, Ohio State's defensive line was seen among the best in the nation. In the middle of the season, however, the defense struggled mightily, in part to subpar play from the Rushmen. 

Chase Young, who went six games without recording a full sack, has resurrected his play in the past three games. The Predator was on the hunt at the beginning of the season, recording four sacks in as many games. After a slump, Young has recorded five sacks in the past three games. 

Young had his second-most efficient day as a pass rusher against Northwestern, averaging a sack every 20 snaps. Only his day against Rutgers was better, where he recorded two sacks in 24 snaps. 

In addition to the sacks, he forced two turnovers. Jordan Fuller was able to recover Thorson's fumble after this beautiful play from Chase Young. 

He also forced an errant throw, which Damon Arnette picked off for his second first turnover of the game.

Chase Young's strong end to the season is encouraging; he will return next year as one of the best players on Ohio State's defense and, with another offseason with Larry Johnson, could be among the most disruptive players in the nation in 2019. 

Ohio State's Tale of Two Halves Flipped Against Northwestern

For much of the year, the Buckeyes have stumbled into the break. Once they come out of the locker room, however, the scarlet and gray tend to be a different animal. This type of play is frustrating but often effective, allowing the coaching staff of Ohio State to adjust to their opponent. 

Against Northwestern, however, the script was flipped. The Bucks exploded out of the gates, leading by 17 points heading into halftime. 

Ohio State typically outplays ranked opponents in the second half, but not against Northwestern
"Previous Ranked Opponents" includes opponents that were ranked at the time of the game (TCU, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan).

Ohio State has been at its best against ranked teams and the halftime adjustments have been key. In Indianapolis though, the Wildcats were able to match the Buckeyes' production. Pat Fitzgerald, who has more Big Ten Coach of the Year Awards than Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer combined, was able to spur his anemic offense to 17 points to keep Northwestern within three touchdowns. 

Though the Bucks will not get a shot at the National Championship, the 2018 Buckeyes will have a chance to win 13 games on the season for only the third time in school history. 

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