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Curtis Samuel’s touchdown run in the fourth quarter proved the difference as No . 6 Ohio State beat Northwestern 24-20 on Saturday before 107,296 fans in Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State (7-1, 4-1) broke a 17-all tie with 63-yard drive early in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run by Samuel with 9:43 to play. Earlier, sophomore K.J. Hill made just his sixth catch of the season, a 35-yarder to help set up the go-ahead score.
Northwestern (4-4, 3-2) moved downfield after the kickoff and facing a third-and-14 from the OSU 30, Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson hit Austin Carr for 27 yards to the 3. Thorson lost 2 yards on a carry on first down. Northwestern had an incompletion then was penalized for holding on the next play, moving the ball back to the 15. Another incomplete pass left Northwestern with the choice to kick a 33-yard field goal to make it 24-20 with 3:31 to play.
OSU got the ball back and converted a third-and-8 from its 27 when junior quarterback J.T. Barrett hit sophomore Noah Brown for 16 yards to the 43. On third-and-10, Barrett ran 35 yards to the Northwestern 22 and the Buckeyes were able to run out the clock, finishing at the Northwestern 15 yard-line.
The Buckeyes started well with scores on their first two possessions for 10-0 lead but the offense struggled, save for a long drive in the second quarter, and the Buckeyes led 17-10 at the half before Northwestern tied the score at 17 late in the third quarter.
Barrett as 21 for 32 for 223 yards and added 71 rushing yards. Freshman Mike Weber ran for 87 yards on 14 carries and had two first-half touchdowns. Junior Curtis Samuel had 31 rushing yards along with seven catches for 68 yards. OSU had 431 total yards (208 rush, 223 pass) and 23 first downs.
Thorson was 22 for 42 for 256 yards with a TD and an interception and ran for 44 yards. Austin Carr had 158 receiving yards on eight catches and Justin Jackson ran for 76 and had 21 more yards receiving.
This was Northwestern’s first game in Ohio Stadium since 2007. The Wildcats last win in Columbus was 1971.
How It Happened
After forcing a Northwestern punt on the first drive of the game, the Buckeyes started at its own 6 following a fair catch by senior Dontre Wilson.
OSU rapidly moved down the field, taking nine plays and 2:56 to go the 94 yards for the Buckeyes first TD on their first possession this season. They previously had punted three times, thrown two interceptions, lost a fumble and kicked a field goal.
Not this time. Weber ran for 14 yards, sophomore Parris Campbell caught a pass for 15 and ran a reverse for 24 more before Barrett hit Samuel for a 15-yarder. Weber then took a Barrett toss 15 yards to the 1 and completed the drive with a run up the middle with 10:34 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats then turned the ball back to OSU when freshman cornerback Damon Arnette intercepted a pass that was tipped by teammate junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan at the Ohio State 49. The Buckeyes ran off eight plays to reach the 18 but had to settle for a 35-yard field goal by senior Tyler Durbin for a 10-0 lead at the 6:36 mark.
Northwestern responded with a well crafted 16-play, 75-yard series over a 6:45 span. The big play was a 22-yard run by Jackson. Thorson made it 10-7 nine seconds into the second quarter on a sneak from the 1.
OSU had a sustained drive of its own to increase the lead to 17-7. The Buckeyes used nine runs and six passes to go 80 yards in 8:28, capped by a 25-yard run around the right end by Weber with 6:17 to go in the quarter.
The Wildcats started at their 12 following the kickoff and moved to a first-and-goal at the OSU 9 only to have two runs net 2 yards and an incomplete pass on third set up a 23-yard field goal by Jack Mitchell for a 17-10 score with 1:43 to play before the half. Northwestern held the ball for 12 plays on the drive.
OSU ended the half with two series with a combined six plays that went for a total of 11 yards. and resulted in two punts by senior Cameron Johnston that averaged 30 yards.
The Buckeyes punted on its first two possessions of the second half. On the Wildcats’ second drive they marched 84 yards in 10 plays and escaped a third-and-18 from their own 38 with a Thorson screen to Jackson for 16, followed by a fourth-down pass to Bennett Skowronek for 6 yards to the OSU 40.
Two plays later, Carr’s 35-yard catch-and-run to the 5 was a prelude to Thorson connecting with to Garrett Dickerson for a scoring strike in the left corner with 3:49 remaining in the third quarter.
OSU got the ball again and moved to the Northwestern 35 but punted for the fifth straight time.