INDIANAPOLIS – For the third time in five seasons, Ohio State is a Big Ten champion.
It wasn’t the dominant performance the Buckeyes likely needed to make the College Football Playoff, but Ohio State defeated Northwestern at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night, 45-24, to win its third conference title since 2014.
Ohio State’s offense started the game with an emphatic touchdown drive, capped by a spectacular play by Dwayne Haskins on which he ran in multiple directions to evade Northwestern’s pass-rush before lofting a throw over multiple Wildcat defenders to hit Terry McLaurin for a 16-yard touchdown in the end zone.
|#6 OHIO STATE||14||10||7||14||45|
A 27-yard pass to K.J. Hill on Ohio State’s second possession that would have put the Buckeyes into Northwestern territory was nullified by a personal foul penalty called against right tackle Isaiah Prince, and the Buckeyes were forced to punt. Northwestern tied the game on its subsequent possession with an all-too-familiar sight against Ohio State’s defense – a big-play touchdown run – as John Moten IV ran for a 77-yard score.
The Buckeyes drove right back down the field to retake the lead on their next possession, as J.K. Dobbins powered into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown to cap off an eight-play, 65-yard drive.
After trading punts on their next possessions, the two teams traded a pair of interceptions. Northwestern drove the ball into Ohio State territory before Shaun Wade intercepted a deep ball by Clayton Thorson in the end zone. Haskins had a deep ball intercepted by Northwestern’s Montre Hartage on Ohio State’s next possession after driving into Northwestern territory.
Ohio State forced another turnover on its next possession, though, when Chase Young forced a fumble by Thorson (initially ruled as an incomplete pass, but overturned by replay review) that was recovered by Jordan Fuller, giving the Buckeyes the ball at Northwestern’s 46-yard line. The Buckeyes weren’t able to turn the short field into a touchdown, but Blake Haubeil made a 42-yard field goal to extend the Buckeyes’ lead to 17-7 with 6:09 to play in the second quarter.
Haskins completed a gorgeous 42-yard deep ball to McLaurin for their second touchdown connection of the game on Ohio State’s next possession to extend the Buckeyes’ lead to 24-7 before halftime.
Northwestern started the second half strong, driving 75 yards in just five plays on its opening possession of the third quarter, as Thorson ran for an 18-yard touchdown to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 10 points.
After Ohio State was forced to punt on its opening possession of the half, Northwestern drove 85 yards in 11 play to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to three points. Damon Arnette nearly came away with a forced fumble and fumble recovery inside the Wildcats’ 5-yard line, but after Northwestern receiver Charlie Fessler’s knee was ruled to be down, Thorson capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Green, left wide open by Ohio State’s defense.
|607||NET TOTAL YARDS||418|
|2.3||AVERAGE PER RUSH||6.3|
|14.7||AVERAGE PER COMPLETION||9.9|
|6||RUSHING 1st DOWNS||6|
|25||PASSING 1st DOWNS||13|
|0||PENALTY 1st DOWNS||2|
|7.0||YARDS PER PLAY||6.1|
|2 (0)||TURNOVERS (DEF PTS OFF)||3 (3)|
Arnette came up with a takeaway that actually stood on Ohio State’s next possession, intercepting a pass at the 34-yard line after Young brought pressure to force a tipped pass. A fumble by Mike Weber, however, gave away a prime scoring opportunity for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes were able to extend their lead back to 31-21 with 1:21 to play in the third quarter when Haskins found Chris Olave on a 29-yard strike to the end zone for his third touchdown pass of the game.
Ohio State missed another scoring opportunity on its next possession, though, when Northwestern blocked a 27-yard field goal attempt by Haubeil.
The Wildcats responded by driving inside Ohio State’s 5-yard line before settling for a 21-yard Charlie Kuhbander field goal, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to just seven points with 10:34 to play.
Haskins responded in a big way on Ohio State’s next possession by completing a 63-yard pass on a deep bomb to Johnnie Dixon before finishing the drive with a throw on the move to Dixon for a 9-yard touchdown.
Haskins threw his fifth and final touchdown pass of the game on Ohio State’s next possession, completing a 17-yard touchdown toss to J.K. Dobbins that brought him to 499 passing yards for the game, breaking his own school record for single-game passing yards as well as the Big Ten Championship Game record, previously set by Penn State’s Trace McSorley (384 yards) in 2016.
Now, Ohio State will wait to find out which four teams are selected for the College Football Playoff on Sunday afternoon. But barring an unexpected jump into the top four of the standings – with Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma expected to make up the playoff field – Ohio State will play Pac-12 champion Washington in the Rose Bowl.
- McLaurin, Tuf Borland, Fuller and Isaiah Prince took the field as Ohio State's game captains for the coin toss.
- Moten's 77-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was the second-longest run in Big Ten Championship Game history, tied with a 77-yard run by Dobbins in 2017. Former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott still holds the record with an 81-yard run in 2014.
- Haskins became the Big Ten's single-season record holder for total offense during Saturday's game, breaking the previous record set by Michigan's Denard Robinson (4,272) in 2010.
- Dobbins surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season on Saturday, becoming the first Buckeye ever to rush for 1,000 yards in both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
- McLaurin's two touchdown catches were his 10th and 11th of the season, making him the first Buckeye to catch double-digit touchdown passes in a season since Devin Smith in 2014.
- Johnnie Dixon surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for his career on Saturday, becoming the fourth 1,000-yard career receiver on Ohio State's roster, joining Campbell, Hill and McLaurin.
- Ohio State defensive tackle Davon Hamilton left the game with an apparent ankle injury during the third quarter, but returned in the fourth quarter.
- 66,375 was the official attendance for Saturday night's game, and a majority of that crowd consisted of Ohio State fans.