The Buckeyes took to the road tonight for the first time in Big Ten play, and while things didn't come as easy as expected, they fought off a solid effort from a feisty Northwestern team to take the 27-16 victory. The Buckeyes were in a tussle in the first half but slugged it out in the second half to pull away behind 285 rushing yards (140 by Maurice Clarett on 29 carries with 2 TDs, 83 on 18 carries by Lydell Ross with 1 TD, and 62 on 9 carries by Craig Krenzel).
Northwestern started the opening drive on their own 20, and the Buckeye defense came out strong as the Wildcats were forced to punt after three downs. The Buckeyes got good field position at the Northwestern 45, but they also went three-and-out, so Northwestern got the ball back shortly after. The defense was strong once again though as Northwestern ran the ball three straight times with Jason Wright but could not get a first down. On the following possession though, Maurice Clarett would have his first of three fumbles on the evening, which gave the ball to the Wildcats in OSU territory.
Northwestern couldn't capitalize though as they went three-and-out for the third straight time and had to punt the ball again. On the next drive though, Clarett again fumbled the ball on the second play, and since the Wildcats pinned the Buckeyes at their own 3-yard line on the punt, the fumble gave them the ball at the OSU 9-yard line. However, once again, Northwestern could not do anything and wound up kicking a 26-yard field goal. The defense for OSU was playing well to start the game, but they were down 3-0.
On the next drive, OSU began to move the ball. Behind a few Ross and Clarett runs, a 23-yard Krenzel run and a 13-yard pass completion to Michael Jenkins, OSU moved the ball well into Northwestern territory. But a fourth down opportunity arose, and instead of kicking the field goal, OSU opted to go for it and fell short, giving the ball back to Northwestern at their own 26. This time, the Wildcat offense got in gear as they moved the ball downfield well with runs, passes and a reverse, but the Buckeye D stiffened when they got down close and held them to another field goal. The score stood at 6-0 to end the first quarter.
The score didn't stay that way for long though as OSU took the ball on their own 33 on the next drive and moved the ball downfield with some runs from Lydell Ross, some Michael Jenkins and Chris Vance catches, and a good run from Craig Krenzel. Ross would wind up punching it in from four yards out, and the PAT made it 7-6.
On the next drive, Northwestern got the first of two bad breaks. They started moving the ball again, but a third down arose, and on the play, quarterback Brett Basanez clearly completed a pass for the first down that was called incomplete, and the Wildcats had to punt. OSU could not score on the next drive though and had to punt the ball back to Northwestern, and the Buckeyes got a big scare as Jason Wright returned the ball 78 yards to within scoring position (Andy Groom's pursuit to make the tackle on the play was impressive), but the run was called back on a personal foul. Northwestern quickly drove back downfield though, but they were then victims of another incorrect call, this time on a touchdown pass to Mark Philmore that was called incomplete. Big Ten referees have been under fire lately, and these calls did not help. The Wildcats had to settle for a 37-yard field goal, making it 9-7.
The Buckeyes would quickly make it 14-9 though as on the next drive, Craig Krenzel promptly hit Chris Gamble with a 48-yard deep pass, and Maurice Clarett would run it in soon after. Northwestern drove down again before halftime, but they missed a 18-yard field goal attempt, so the score would stand at 14-9 at the half.
In the second half, OSU started with good field position after a strong return at the Northwestern 45. A few plays later, the Buckeyes were stopped on 3rd down, and Mike Nugent stayed perfect on the year with a 41-yard field goal, making it 17-9. Northwestern had a great chance to come right back as Jason Wright had another big return all the way back to the OSU 28, but they failed on their field goal attempt.
The Buckeyes followed with a solid drive. Starting on the OSU 21, the Buckeyes marched downfield in 11 plays, which included Clarett and Ross runs, two strong runs by Craig Krenzel, a 13-yard pass to Ben Hartsock, and a 20-yard run for the touchdown by Clarett. The PAT would send it to 24-9 in favor of the Buckeyes.
Northwestern did not back down though as they took the ball on their own 20 on the next drive and marched downfield to score on a Jason Wright touchdown, making it 24-16. The Buckeyes began to grind it out a bit on their next drive though as Clarett and Ross led the team downfield and seemed poised to score, but a personal foul penalty pushed OSU back a bit, and instead of scoring a touchdown, they settled for another Nugent field goal, this time from 30 yards to make it 27-16.
The next three drives resulted in a punt, and then when OSU had the ball and was trying to put away the game, Clarett fumbled for the third time, giving the Wildcats the ball in good field position. However, Cie Grant sealed the deal shortly after as he intercepted a Basanez pass in OSU territory. The Wildcats would not have enough to pull off the upset tonight.
- The running back situation will be discussed quite a bit this week. Clarett showed emotion on the sidelines, but he's a competitor. The two-headed monster of Ross and Clarett did the job tonight though as both had good runs. Krenzel, once again, showed that his sneaky running ability can be a big weapon as he went for 63 yards on 9 carries. He's no Brad Smith (the Missouri quarterback who put up 200+ rushing yards on Oklahoma), but he can hurt opponents with his legs.
- The Buckeyes tried the deep pass a few times tonight and hit on it once. Krenzel went 11 or 22 for 170 yards.
- The Buckeye D did give up some chunks of yardage tonight; 399 total. Brett Basanez went for 288 through the air. The shorter pass plays are still there for opposing teams. Jason Wright did a lot of things for Northwestern tonight, but he fell short of 100 yards.
- Shane Olivea went down with an injury late in the game. No word as of now what it was, but we need to keep posted. Tim Anderson and Mike Stafford are also not back from injury as David Thompson started again at DT and Adrien Clarke started at guard.
- A win is indeed a win. Northwestern came out playing hard tonight and looked like a much better team than advertised, but this is the kind of effort that the Big Ten teams are going to give when they face Ohio State. The Buckeyes need to be ready to give that effort right back. Next up is San Jose State, who is a surprising 4-2 this year and will be coming into the Horseshoe prepared to give that same type of effort. It will only get tougher from there as the second half of the season consists of a rugged stretch of Big Ten wars. It's time to forget about the teams ranked in front of Ohio State and where the Buckeyes might be in January. Let's worry about one game at a time, because none of the teams OSU plays from here on out will be intimidated, and each of them are going to give the Buckeyes their best shot. Go Bucks!