A grade card on Rose Bowl bound Ohio State’s 45-24 win over Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game:
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins set a career-high with 499 yards passing, completed 34 of 41 passes and threw for five touchdowns, three of them in a 12 1/2-minute span in the second half after Northwestern had cut a 17-point lead to three points at 24-21. Haskins probably earned a few more Heisman Trophy votes with that performance. It also made it seem more likely he could explore his NFL opportunities after this season.
Johnnie Dixon and Parris Campbell both caught seven passes and Terry McLaurin had two touchdown catches in his hometown of Indianapolis.
Haskins’ performance was even more amazing when you consider he was sacked four times and didn’t get a lot of help from the running game, which produced only 108 yards with a long run of 11 yards. J.K. Haskins did go over 1,000 yards for the season, which made him the only OSU running back ever to get 1,000 yards as a freshman and as a sophomore.
Ohio State’s season-long problem with allowing big plays showed up again when seldom-used Northwestern running back John Moten IV ran 77 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Moten’s run was the seventh play of 70 yards or more OSU has given up this season. Six of them have been running plays.
Northwestern drove 75 yards for a touchdown on its first possession of the second half and 85 yards for another touchdown on its third possession of the second half to pull within three points. But after that OSU’s defense responded in a big way and limited the Wildcats to three points in the final 23 minutes of the game. Chase Young had a huge game with three sacks out of the five Ohio State had. One of Young’s sacks resulted in a fumble by Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson, which led to a field goal in the second quarter.
OSU had two interceptions which is the only the fourth time this season it has had that many picks in a game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
Combining Drue Chrisman with an indoor stadium almost isn’t fair to the other team. The OSU punter, who somehow wasn’t first-team All-Big Ten, averaged 54.8 eight yards per kick Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. But OSU also had a field goal blocked and a kickoff that went out of bounds that set Northwestern up at the 35-yard line to start a drive.
Give Ohio State credit for coming out focused on Northwestern even though it had to know its chances of getting into the College Football Playoff were almost gone by the time Saturday night’s game kicked off because of Oklahoma’s win over Texas. It was almost like playing a home game for OSU. Judging by the amount of scarlet and gray in the crowd, probably around 50,000 of the 67,000 fans at the game were Buckeyes fans.
The players and fans seemed sincere in their enjoyment of the win even if the prize wasn’t a trip to the College Football Playoff.