Buckeyes Hang On, Beat Northwestern 24-20

Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports /

As Urban Meyer was interviewed on the field following the Buckeyes’ win over Northwestern, he had the look of a coach who fully understands how imperfect his young football team is, but also thankful for every win his team can get. A week after the stunning collapse in Happy Valley, Ohio State was able to get back in the win column,  rinsing the bad taste out of their collective mouths.

Well, kind of.

Nothing about the Buckeyes’ performance was pretty, and they did little to invoke confidence in an offense that has struggled for several weeks now.

Ohio State got off to a fast start finally, one of the few things that Meyer was happy with after the game. After forcing a punt on Northwestern’s opening drive, J.T. Barrett and the offense opened up on their own six yard line.

Nine plays and 94 yards later, Mike Weber found the end zone on a one-yard run to give the

Buckeyes an early 7-0 lead. Barrett completed four passes on the drive, and the balance that had been missing for weeks was finally on display.

After Damon Arnette picked off a Clayton Thorson pass on the ensuing drive, the Buckeyes were set up with prime field position, and the chance to jump on the Wildcats early. The offense moved the ball 33 yards on nine plays, but the drive stalled. Tyler Durbin nailed a 35-yard field goal to give Ohio State an early 10-0 lead.

As has so often been the case this season, the Buckeyes were unable to get both units rolling together. With the offense finally starting fast, the defense was unable to allow the offense to build on the lead.

Northwestern took their third drive of the game and drove 75 yards on 16 plays. Thorson scored on a one-yard run to slow down Ohio State’s momentum.

Barrett and the offense stayed hot on their next possession, putting together a 15-play drive that covered 80 yards and ended with Mike Weber finding the end zone for a second time on a 23-yard run.

With the lead back up to 10, the Silver Bullets were again unable to build on momentum. Northwestern capped off a 12-play drive with a 23-yard field goal by Jack Mitchell to cut the Ohio State lead to seven points.

After a string of three-and-outs by both teams, the lead would stay at a touchdown as the game headed to halftime.

The Buckeyes opened up the second half with a pair of lackluster drives, and Northwestern finally cashed in on their second drive of the third quarter.

Thorson capped off a 10-play drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Dickerson to tie the game up at 17 with just under four minutes left in the quarter.

The score would remain that way as the game entered the fourth quarter, leaving Ohio Stadium uneasy with the thought of losing a second-straight game becoming a legitimate possibility.

After the two teams traded punts, the Buckeyes set up shop at their own 37 yard line and in desperate need of a drive ending in points.

And they delivered.

Barrett found K.J. Hill for a 34-yard catch and run, moving the ball down to the Northwestern 10 yard line. Two plays later, Curtis Samuel was into the end zone, giving the Buckeyes the lead with under 10 minutes to play.

The Wildcats refused to go away, answering with a 16-play drive that ended in another Mitchell field goal. The Buckeyes’ lead was cut to 24-20 as the offense came back out onto the field with the game in the balance.

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A 16-yard pass from Barrett to Noah Brown on third and eight extended the drive, as precious time ticked away for Northwestern. Facing another third down, Barrett broke loose for 35 yards, moving the ball down to the Wildcats’ 22 yard line and bringing the clock down under two minutes.

Weber’s 11-yard run for another first down allowed Barrett to take a couple of knees and put the game away, giving Ohio State their seventh win of the season.

The Buckeyes are what they are at this point. While they are undoubtedly still in the playoff talk, Meyer and his staff understand that they must take the rest of the season on a week-by-week basis, focusing on nothing more than figuring out how to get better and win in that particular week.

Next: Curtis Samuel and the Percy Position

If they continue to win, the rest of it will take care of itself. If this team doesn’t figure out ways to get better, none of it will matter anyways.