Ohio State looked sloppy — again — but at the end of the day the Buckeyes delivered a win Saturday, defeating Northern Illinois, 20-13, in front of a crowd of 104,095 at Ohio Stadium.
Cardale Jones started the game at quarterback but was inefficient and was replaced by J.T. Barrett in the second quarter. Ohio State's offense was a little better from there, but not much, and it was a play by the defense that eventually won it the game.
Darron Lee's interception return for a touchdown with 1:44 remaining in the third quarter was the difference in the game. With the Buckeyes clinging to just a 13-10 lead, Lee intercepted a swing pass from Northern Illinois quarterback Drew Hare and took it back 41 yards to the house.
Ohio State totaled just 298 yards offensively and committed five turnovers. Barrett finished the game 11-for-19 for 97 yards and one touchdown. Ezekiel Elliott carried it 23 times for 108 yards, topping the 100-yard mark for the eighth-straight game.
The defense played stellar for the second-straight week when it needed to, holding the Huskies to just 190 yards of total offense and only 80 through the air.
The Buckeyes were sluggish in the first half, falling behind 7-0 and 10-3 before heading into halftime tied at 10.
Jones was just 4-for-9 passing for 36 yards and two interceptions before he was replaced by Barrett, who went 3 for 6 through the air for 31 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Elliott also had a first-quarter fumble as Ohio State committed three first-half turnovers.
Trailing 10-3 in the second quarter, Barrett hooked up with Michael Thomas, who made a sensational catch in the corner of the end zone, for a 25-yard score. Jack Willoughby's 31-yard field goal were the only other points of the first half for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is scheduled to host Western Michigan 3:30 p.m. next Saturday at Ohio Stadium.