INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — Back to back.
That’s what No. 6 Ohio State did on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Buckeyes clinched the Big Ten Championship title for the second season in a row with a thunderous 45-24 victory over No. 21 Northwestern.
Ohio State received the ball to open the game as they started at their own 23. Crossing routes and the connection of Dwayne Haskins to Parris Campbell quickly led the Buckeyes down into the red zone on their opening drive and on a third down play, Haskins scrambled around and then found a wide open Terry McLaurin in the end zone for a touchdown to give Ohio State an early 7-0 lead.
Northwestern opened their first drive at their own 25 but Ohio State would make quick work of the Wildcats as the Buckeyes held them to a quick three-and-out to get the ball back at their own 25.
Ohio State was driving on their second possession of the game when a questionable penalty was called on Isaiah Prince, which wiped out a big gain and stalled the Buckeye drive. Drue Chrisman then had a booming 58-yard punt which came a foot away from being downed at the Northwestern goal line.
Northwestern started their second drive of the game at their own 20 and on the second play of the drive, Wildcats running back John Moten took the ball 77 yards to the house for a Wildcat touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:27 left in the first quarter.
Ohio State started their following drive at their own 35 and made somewhat quick work with the shortened field as a pass-heavy drive was topped off with a 2-yard touchdown run by J.K. Dobbins to complete an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive by Ohio State as the Buckeyes took a 14-7 lead with 3:29 left in the quarter.
Northwestern would start their third drive of the game at their own 35 after Ohio State’s kickoff went out of bounds. The Wildcats would be contained well by the Buckeyes as they were forced to punt on another three-and-out after not gaining a single yard.
Ohio State would respond with a three-and-out of their own as they were forced to punt after coming just short on third down as Drue Chrisman had yet another booming punt, this one being 54 yards as Ohio State held onto a 14-7 lead to end the first quarter.
Northwestern was driving on their ensuing possession into Ohio State territory, but Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson threw a pass directly to Shaun Wade in the end zone for an interception.
Dwayne Haskins would respond with an interception of his own as he threw an errant pass that was intercepted by Northwestern cornerback Montre Hardage at the Wildcats’ own 16.
Northwestern was putting together a lengthy drive on their following possession when Chase Young forced a fumble on Clayton Thorson as Ohio State took over at the Northwestern 46.
Ohio State failed to take advantage of the short field with a touchdown but a 42-yard field goal by Blake Haubeil increased the Buckeye lead to 17-7 with 6:09 left in the half.
Northwestern would start their sixth drive of the game at their own 25 but would only gain a total of three yards and be held to yet another three-and-out and their fifth scoreless drive out of six possessions.
Ohio State then put together their third touchdown drive of the game on their following possession as Dwayne Haskins found Terry McLaurin in stride for a 42-yard touchdown pass to cap off a 9-play, 78-yard touchdown drive to give them a commanding 24-7 lead with 1:21 left in the first half.
Northwestern would be held to their fourth three-and-out of the game on their following drive of the game and Ohio State would get the ball back with 43 seconds left at their own 15 but elected to kneel out the half and take a 24-7 lead into the break.
Northwestern came out firing to start the second half as they drove 75 yards down the field on just five plays and 1:37 of game time as Clayton Thorson ran it in from 18 yards out for a touchdown to cut the Ohio State lead to 24-14.
Ohio State started their first drive of the second half at their own 32 and were quickly forced to punt after a net gain of just eight yards on the drive.
The Wildcats then followed up their impressive opening second half drive with another touchdown drive, this one a lengthy 11-play, 85-yard drive capped off by a 2-yard pass from Clayton Thorson to Cameron Green to make it a 24-21 ballgame midway through the third quarter after a fumble by Northwestern was overturned at the goal line.
Ohio State continued their offensive struggles of the second half as they were held to a three-and-out after losing six yards on the drive.
Clayton Thorson gave Ohio State a gift on Northwestern’s next drive as he threw a ball off on a Wildcat offensive lineman’s helmet as the ball bounced up in the air and was intercepted by Damon Arnette at the Wildcat 34.
The Buckeyes would return the favor with a turnover of their own as Mike Weber fumbled the ball away and Northwestern recovered at their own 39.
Ohio State finally managed to find their first offensive pulse of the second half as the Buckeyes put together a six-play, 60-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 29-yard pass from Dwayne Haskins to Chris Olave for the score. Ohio State would take a 31-21 lead with the score with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes then managed to get a stop as they held Northwestern to -7 net yards on the following possession as they forced the Wildcats to a three-and-out to get the ball back at the end of the quarter.
Ohio State squandered their first drive of the fourth and final quarter as they drove all the way down to the Northwestern 10 and failed to convert as they missed a 27-yard field goal to keep the score at 31-21.
Northwestern then marched 76 yards down the field all the way to the Ohio State 4 before they were stalled and forced to attempt a field goal, but the 21-yard chip shot was good as the Wildcats cut the OSU lead to 31-24 with 10:35 remaining in the game.
Johnnie Dixon made it his time to shine as Ohio State desperately needed a score and hauled in a 63-yard catch and then a 9-yard touchdown catch to give the Buckeyes a 38-24 lead with 9:11 left in the game.
Northwestern would turn it over on downs on their ensuing possession and Ohio State would capitalize as they put together an 8-play, 54-yard touchdown drive which put the nail in the Wildcat coffin as the Buckeyes took a commanding 45-24 lead with just 2:32 remaining in the game.
Northwestern failed to get anything going on their final drive as Ohio State got the ball back and kneeled out a victory in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Haskins Claims MVP Honors
Dwayne Haskins was masterful for Ohio State in their Big Ten Championship victory as the Heisman Trophy candidate threw for a staggering 499 yards and five touchdowns in the win over Northwestern, both of which are new records for the Big Ten Championship Game.
With his incredible performance, Haskins brings his updated season stats to 4,580 passing yards and 51 total touchdowns. It’s probably safe to assume that with those numbers and the big wins Ohio State has had in the past two weeks, Haskins will be getting an invite to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony and may have a chance to actually win the award.
With the 21-point victory over Northwestern coming on the heels of a 23-point victory over Michigan, Ohio State has certainly made a case to be in the College Football Playoff. It may be seem unlikely for Ohio State’s name to come up in one of the final four spots in the final College Football Playoff rankings on Sunday with no serious chaos happening on Saturday around college football, but Ohio State has definitely made a case to be in the playoff. However, even if they don’t get into the playoff, the Buckeyes will at least be heading to the Rose Bowl, which is the sweetest consolation prize a team could get.
With the victory in the Big Ten Championship Game, Ohio State finishes the regular season with a 12-1 record before heading into bowl season. The Buckeyes will learn their final postseason fate on Sunday at around 12:30 when the top six spots of the final College Football Playoff rankings of the season are unveiled.
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