It was the latest in a line of several lopsided victories for Ohio State over Northwestern since 2004, when the Wildcats upset then-No. 7 OSU 33-27 in overtime in Evanston. In the last two meetings before the '07 matchup, the Buckeyes had blasted NU to the tune of 48-7 and 54-10, respectively.
Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald inadvertently poured fuel on OSU's fire during the Big Ten media days even in Chicago over the summer. The night before the game, the Buckeyes watched a video that featured Fitzgerald talking about the upcoming game with OSU complete with spliced in with clips of Northwestern fans storming Ryan Field after NU's win in 2004.
"At the Big Ten conference, Pat Fitzgerald kind of called up out," senior co-captain Kirk Barton said in the Sept. 29, 2007, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "He said he couldn't wait to get to the Horseshoe. We kind of took that as a slap to the face.
"The Horseshoe should be like Alcatraz. Nobody wants to go there. You shouldn't in your right mind want to come to the Horseshoe. We felt like we'd done a poor job of letting people know they don't want to come here. If someone wants to come here, obviously we're not doing enough to beat them."
It didn't take long for Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) to set the tone. Northwestern (2-2, 0-1) won the pregame coin toss and deferred, allowed the Buckeyes to start the game on offense. It took just three plays for OSU to open the scoring. On that third play, junior quarterback Todd Boeckman completed a play-action pass down the right sideline to fellow junior Brian Robiskie for a 42-yard touchdown 1:10 into the game.
By the end of the first quarter, the rout was on. Ohio State led 28-0. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions and punted once the entire game. Every OSU drive ended in Northwestern territory save one – a two-play drive that ended the game following a pair of kneel downs to run out the clock.
Robiskie scored three touchdowns on the night, adding a 28-yard connection with Boeckman in the first quarter and a 19-yard strike in the second quarter. Maurice Wells reached the end zone twice on runs of 3 and 1 yard. The OSU defense also got in on the action when Vernon Gholston recovered a first-quarter fumble and returned it 25 yards for a score.
Boeckman finished with 179 yards on 11-of-14 passing with four TDs and one interception. Backups Antonio Henton and Rob Schoenhoft also saw action in mop-up duty. Beanie Wells led the rushing attack with 100 yards on 12 carries, while Robiskie caught three passes – all touchdowns – for 89 yards.
Defensively, James Laurinaitis paced the Buckeyes with seven tackles, including one for a loss. Nick Patterson and Chimdi Chekwa intercepted C.J. Bacher passes.
Northwestern's lone score game on a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by redshirt freshman Stephen Simmons that began the second half.
2001: No. 14 UCLA 13, No. 21 Ohio State 6 – The Buckeyes returned to the field for the first time since Sept. 8 – and the first time since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011, cancelled a weekend of college football – with a loss in the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State (1-1) failed to find traction on offense, ruining an otherwise good performance by its defense. The Buckeyes limited UCLA running back Deshaun Foster to 66 yards on 29 carreis and forced seven fumbles (recovering four of them). Despite that, the offense could not make the Bruins pay for miscues.
"We probably had more opportunities than we deserved," Tressel said in the Sept. 29, 2001, edition of BSB. "They were all hurtful. We feel like we let the rest of the group down. I'm proud of the way our guys kept fighting. Despite the fact we didn't move the football, the defense still came up with some stops to keep us in the game."
Ohio State's lone points came thanks to its special teams. Mike Doss blocked a punt, which Ricky Bryant recovered for a first-quarter touchdown. Mike Nugent missed the extra point, however.
It was an especially tough day for OSU quarterback Steve Bellisari, who completed 5 of 23 passes for 45 yards and two touchdowns. Over the final three quarters, Bellisari completed only 1 of 17 attempts for 9 yards.
"Some of the things we asked of Steve, he did," said Tressel, who suffered his first loss as OSU's head coach. "There were things he could have done better. But at the same time I could say that about the rest of the offense and the coaches, too."
UCLA never trailed. The Bruins opened the scoring with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Cory Paus to Ryan Smith on the first offensive possession of the game. The Bruins added field goals in the second and third quarters, respectively, to close the scoring. Chris Griffith booted kicks from 49 and 33 yards.
Jonathan Wells led Ohio State's rushing attack with 47 yards on 14 carries, and he added two receptions for 16 yards. Defensively, Matt Wilhelm made 10 tackles. Will Smith, Kenny Peterson and Courtland Bullard each recorded a sack.
Prior to the UCLA game, Ohio State announced that its game against San Diego State, originally scheduled for Sept. 15, would be played Oct. 20.
1990: No. 18 USC 35, No. 15 Ohio State 26 – In the end, lighting and the Trojans were too much for host Ohio State.
The game was called off with 2:36 remaining in the fourth quarter because of severe weather in the area. Before then, the lightning came courtesy of USC running back Ricky Ervins. He rushed for a career-high 199 yards and touchdowns in leading the Trojans to victory. USC entered the game averaging 82.7 rushing yards per game but piled up 331 yards on the ground against OSU – thanks in large part to the efforts by Ervins, Scott Lockwood and Mazio Royster. Lockwood rushed for 75 yards – 66 coming on a third-quarter touchdowns – and Royster finished with 70 yards on 10 carries, most coming in the fourth quarter when Ervins was limited because of a sprained ankle. Royster's biggest rush was a 50-yard gain that set up a crucial fourth-quarter touchdown.
"I think you have to give USC an awful lot of credit," OSU head coach John Cooper said in the Oct. 6, 1990, edition of BSB. "A football team that got hammered like they did last week (a 31-0 loss at Washington) came in here today and wasn't supposed to have a running acttack and took the ball time after time after time and hammered on us.
"They made a lot of big plays with their running game. They ran the sweep right down our throat. We did a very poor job of tackling and we gave up too many big plays on the defensive side of the ball to have any kind of chance to beat a good football team."
USC led 14-0 after the first quarter and never trailed. A blocked punt returned for an 8-yard touchdown and a 15-yard TD run by Ervins gave the Trojans the early momentum. OSU quarterback Grey Frey threw a pair of touchdown passes – a 17-yard strike to Bobby Olive and a 29-yard connection with Jeff Graham – but the Buckeyes (2-1) played catch-up the entire afternoon.
Frey completed 19 of 36 passes for 262 yards to pace Ohio State's offense. Robert Smith was limited to 54 yards on 12 carries, and the Buckeyes had only 79 rushing yards on 31 attempts.
Defensively, Vinnie Clark made 12 tackles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. Mark Pelini – better known know as Bo Pelini – made eight tackles and picked off a pass.
1984: No. 5 Ohio State 45, No. 14 Iowa 26 – Ohio State's win over the visiting Hawkeyes at Ohio Stadium was especially gratifying for OSU tailback Keith Byars. He knew what might have been one year earlier when he watched helplessly as Iowa beat the Buckeyes after Byars had to leave the game late in the second quarter with a bruised knee.
"I've been wondering for a whole year now what would have happened if I had played the whole game," Byars said in the Sept. 29, 1984, edition of BSB. "So I had a little added incentive to play the whole game and help out my team as much as possible."
He did just that in OSU's Big Ten opener. Byars rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and the junior added five receptions for 55 yards and another score. The Dayton native did not stop there, either, as he also threw a halfback TD pass to Mike Lanese after taking a pitch from Mike Tomczak in the second quarter.
"That was the first time in my life I ever threw the halfback pass," Byars said. "We wanted to show them some flair today. We just opened up our offense a little more."
The day belonged to Keith Byars, but Tomczak also had a big day. Going up against what was considered one of the Big Ten's best defenses, Tomczak completed 15 of 23 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. It was his first start after breaking his leg during the spring game.
"(It's) the biggest win in my career," Tomczak said. "I've never been 3-0 since I've been here. We're over the hump now."
Pepper Johnson led the defense with 14 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
1979: No. 16 Ohio State 45, Washington State 29 – The Buckeyes improved to 3-0 with a nonconference win against the visiting Cougars on a chilly, overcast afternoon. The game featured the longest touchdown pass in Ohio State history – an 86-yard connection from Art Schlichter to tailback Calvin Murray in the third quarter. Schlichter found Murray on a short pass over the middle, and Murray did the rest. Murray finished with three touchdowns, and Schlichter threw for 233 yards.