Offensively challenged Northwestern never had a chance

Jim Naveau - Staff Columnist

EVANSTON, Ill. – Ohio State fans might have had more trouble navigating the streets around Northwestern’s Ryan Field than the Buckeyes did against Northwestern on the field in a 52-3 win on Friday night.

Understandably, No. 4 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) will hear mentions of a 55-24 loss at Iowa in 2017 and a 49-20 loss at Purdue last year every time it goes on the road.

But there really was no reason to trot out those bad memories on Friday night. This was a mismatch on paper and just as much of a mismatch on the field once the game started.

Northwestern (1-5, 0-4 Big Ten) is a team that came into the game with only eight offensive touchdowns in its first five games.

Its starting quarterback began preseason practice as its third-string quarterback. Its most experienced receiver is out indefinitely with an injury and its leading rusher played for the first time in three weeks on Friday night.

Northwestern’s offense ranked No. 125 nationally. There was simply no way the Wildcats were going to be able to score enough points to challenge Ohio State. Northwestern never had a chance.

STREAK CONTINUES: Ohio State has won eight times in a row against Northwestern and 32 of the last 33 times the two teams have played.

Northwestern’s last win was a 33-27 overtime decision at Ryan Field in 2004.

OSU came into that game ranked No. 7 with a 3-0 record after wins over Cincinnati, Marshall and North Carolina State. Northwestern came into the game with a 1-3 record.

Ohio State would finish 8-4 that season after switching to Troy Smith as its starter quarterback in place of Justin Zwick. Northwestern finished 6-6.

Brett Basanez passed for 278 yards and two touchdowns and Noah Herron rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Northwestern’s defense held OSU to 132 yards, sacked Zwick four times and intercepted him twice.

FRIDAY NIGHT HISTORY: Friday night’s game was the first time Ohio State had played a regular-season game on a Friday since a 17-0 loss at USC in 1959. The Buckeyes played four Friday games between 1890 and 1896.

Northwestern’s Friday history is a little more extensive. The Wildcats had played 10 Friday games before this year but their most recent Friday night game in Evanston was in 1946 in a 62-0 win over DePauw.

BOWSER RETURNS: Sidney High School’s Isaiah Bowser rushed for 866 yards and had four games of 100 yards or more last season as a freshman for Northwestern.

A knee injury in the Wildcats’ season opener against Stanford had limited him to 103 yards in three games before Friday night. He had not played since a 24-15 loss to Wisconsin on Sept. 28.

He returned to action on Friday night and was one of the few bright spots for Northwestern.

PETIT-FRERE GETS START: Redshirt freshman Nicholas Petit-Frere got his first career start when starter Thayer Munford was held out because of an unspecified injury. Munford, the only returning starter on OSU’s offensive line, was listed as a game time decision and did get into the game in the first half.

Jim Naveau

Staff Columnist

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