The game looked eerily similar to Ohio State's 25-16 loss at Washington earlier in the season. Against the Huskies, the Buckeyes fell behind 22-0 before mounting a comeback. Unfortunately for OSU, the hole – and UW running back Napoleon Kaufman – was too much. Northwestern also raced out to an early lead, but the deficit was not as large. The Wildcats had three scoring drives that ended in field goals and not touchdowns, giving NU a 9-0 lead on a trio of boots by Sam Valenzisi.
The Buckeyes (4-1) woke up after halftime, limiting Northwestern to 50 total yards after the break and scoring all 17 of their points.
Even so, the talk after the game was about the slow start.
"There is nobody to blame but ourselves and you can put my name at the top of the list," Ohio State quarterback Bobby Hoying said in the Oct. 8, 1994, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "This is the second game now where we have come out and failed to execute as an offense. It cost us the first time and nearly cost us again today. Twice in five games isn't a very good average."
While the offense struggled for much of the game, Ohio State's defense stood tall. The Buckeyes not only held NU to three field goals when the Wildcats had momentum but they went 14 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown, a streak that ended when Northwestern tallied a fourth-quarter score.
"We came out of halftime knowing we just had to play Ohio State football," said senior safety Tim Patillo, who recorded three tackles and nabbed an interception. "That's what we talked about at halftime and that's what got everyone fired up and ready to play in the second half."
Not all of the news was bad on the offensive side. Junior tailback Eddie George set a then-career best with 206 yards on 39 carries with a touchdown and became only the sixth Ohio State' player to top the 200-yard mark in a single game. Of course, even George had his struggles, losing a fumble.
"Were we satisfied with the way we played? Certainly not," Ohio State head coach John Cooper said. "Are we satisfied with the victory? Absolutely. You're not going to hear me ever complain about a win. At the end of the season, they won't ask you how you won. They'll only ask you how many you won."
Ohio State's points all came in the third quarter. Joey Galloway got things started with a 13-yard touchdown reception Hoying. Kicker Josh Jackson put the Buckeyes ahead for good with a 21-yard field goal, and George capped the output with a 6-yard scoring run on the final play of the quarter.
Hoying completed 10 of 17 passes for 103 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Galloway caught four passes for 41 yards. Defensively, Ohio State was led by Lorenzo Styles. He made 15 stops. Mike Vrabel made three tackles for loss, including a sack.
1988: Illinois 31, Ohio State 12: A week after posting a dramatic come-from-behind victory against LSU, the Buckeyes came out flat and were flattened by the Fighting Illini at Ohio Stadium.
It was another dip in what was already become a roller-coaster season. Ohio State (2-2) began the 1988 season by ending what was the nation's longest winning streak by beating Syracuse. The Buckeyes then were thumped 42-10 against Pittsburgh before rallying to beat LSU, 36-33, in one of the most memorable games in OSU football history.
Then came the game against Illinois, one marred by missed opportunities. Ohio State had good field position for most of the afternoon, starting four of its 14 offensive possessions in Illini territory and starting at its own 35-yard line or better on six other occasions.
Ohio State head coach John Cooper summed up the game in one sentence.
"You talk about pathetic, you saw it today," he said in the Oct. 8, 1988, edition of BSB.
Ohio State was limited to 248 yards on 74 offensive plays, an average of 3.3 yards per play. Worse than that, however, was the Buckeyes' rushing output. OSU was held to only 38 yards on the ground on 33 carries. It was the worst rushing total by the Buckeyes since netting only 2 yards in 1987 in a 10-7 loss to Michigan State. Not helping OSU's attack was the absence of its top three tailbacks: Vince Workman (dismissed from the team), Marc Hicks (ankle injury) and Carlos Snow (knee injury). With that trio out, John Spencer and Jaymes Bryant were the top rushers. Bryant finished with 49 yards, while Spencer added 17.
While the Buckeyes sputtered on offense, Illinois piled up 314 yards, most coming from quarterback Jeff George. He completed 18 of 27 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown. Keith Jones led the Illini rushing attack with 80 yards on 21 carries.
Despite the final score, the game was close after three quarters Ohio State only trailing 10-6. The Illini got a 5-yard TD run by Howard Griffith, another touchdown on a fumble recovery in the end zone on a botched punt and another Griffith run, this one on a burst of 11 yards.
Cooper did not mince words with the media after the game – or with his team in the locker room.
"I talked to them about how they embarrassed themselves," Cooper said. "I told them how I thought they embarrassed Ohio State. I think it's a disgrace to go out there and play as well as we did last week (against LSU) and then come back this week and play as poorly as we did."
1983: No. 8 Ohio State 69, Minnesota 18: The Buckeyes returned home after back-to-back road games and crushed the Golden Gophers. The game represented not only the worst Big Ten loss in Minnesota history in terms of points surrendered but in margin of defeat. Ohio State (3-1) scored 31 points in the second quarter and 24 more in the third. The Gophers committed seven turnovers, four lost fumbles and three interceptions.
1977: No. 6 Ohio State 35, SMU 7: Dallas native Rod Gerald had a special homecoming as the visiting Buckeyes (3-1) crushed the Mustangs in the Cotton Bowl. Gerald rushed for a 33-yard touchdown and led the OSU offense to victory. The defense also did its job, intercepting seven SMU passes, one short of the school record.
1966: Washington 38, Ohio State 22: Ohio State fell to 1-1 with a home loss to the Huskies. Washington built a commanding 21-0 lead and the Buckeyes never recovered. Halfback Don Moore led UW with 221 yards, and the Huskies outrushed Ohio State 413-34.
1960: No. 9 Ohio State 20, USC 0: The host Buckeyes earned revenge for a 1959 loss in Los Angeles by blanking the Trojans at Ohio Stadium. Bob Ferguson scored each of Ohio State's three touchdowns on runs of 74, 2 and 19 yards. Ohio State (2-0) outrushed USC 274-69. The Buckeye defense intercepted four Trojan passes and recovered a fumble.
1955: Stanford 6, No. 8 Ohio State 0: The Buckeyes fell to 1-1 on the season after Stanford pulled off an upset in Palo Alto. The only score came in the first quarter after Stanford took the opening kickoff and drove 72 yards for a touchdown. The loss broke Ohio State's 11-game winning streak that spanned two seasons. Ohio State's Hopalong Cassady was held to 37 yards on 11 carries in the loss.
1949: Ohio State 46, Indiana 7: Jerry Krall's 128 rushing yards led Ohio State to an easy victory against Indiana. The Buckeyes improved to 2-0 on the season and had little trouble with the Hoosiers, who they outgained 508-96. Krall scored two touchdowns, and Vic Janowicz and Skip Doyle also added their first collegiate scores.
1938: Ohio State 6, Indiana 0: The Hoosiers dominated the stat sheet, but the Buckeyes scored the only points in the season-opening victory at Ohio Stadium. Indiana outgained OSU 265-137, but four interceptions stunted IU's offense. The lone score of the game came on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Sexton to Don Scott.
1932: Ohio State 34, Ohio Wesleyan 7: An Ohio Stadium crowd of 17,113 watched the Buckeyes defeat the Battling Bishops in the final meeting between the schools. Bill Carroll led the OSU attack with 115 yards in the season opener. The game was the 29th meeting between OSU and OWU. The first was the first game in Ohio State football history.
1927: Ohio State 31, Wittenberg 0: The Buckeyes set up a crucial battle at Iowa by starting the season with a shutout of the Tigers. Ohio State would finish the season 4-4.
1921: Ohio State 28, Ohio Wesleyan 0: The final season at Ohio Field began with a victory against the visiting Battling Bishops. The Buckeyes finished the season with a 5-2 record including five shutout victories. Construction on Ohio Stadium began less than two months before the OWU game, with the official ground-breaking ceremony taking place on Aug. 3, 1921.
1910: Ohio State 62, Wittenberg 0: Ohio State won for the second time in two games with a whitewash of Wittenberg. The Buckeyes had little trouble with the Tigers and would next face Cincinnati.
1904: Ohio State 80, Miami (Ohio) 0: The Buckeyes routed visiting Miami to improve their record to 2-0. Ohio State recorded shutout victories in the first four games of the season but lost five of its last seven games.
1898: Ohio State 17, Heidelberg 0: The first Ohio State football game to be played at University Field – later known as Ohio Field – was a victory for the Buckeyes. It was the start of what would be a 3-5 record for Ohio State.