The fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes survived a trip to Evanston, extending the nation's longest winning streak to 18 games. The Wildcats were undefeated and College Gameday was on campus for the first time since 1995, therefore this game had all the makings of a loss.
Out of the gates, the offense marched right down the field. Quarterback Braxton Miller completed his first five passes, getting the Buckeyes in the redzone with ease. However, the drive stalled as they only came away with three points on the opening possession.
Ohio State got the ball back after the defense forced the Wildcats to punt after five plays. Turnovers were the story of the game, though, as Miller was stripped on the ball after a read option keeper deep in Ohio State's own territory.
The Buckeyes trailed for the first time this season after Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian hit quarterback/receiver Kain Colter, five plays later, for the touchdown. Per usual the whole night, the receiver found an opening in the zone defense to get the score.
In unchartered territory, the Buckeyes turned to their workhorse and hero of the game, running back Carlos Hyde, to drive down the field. While the drive came up short of points, an excellent punt from Cameron Johnston pinned the Wildcats on the one yard line.
The OSU defense forced a quick three-and-out, and the ensuing punt was blocked by cornerback Bradley Roby. Coming off the right side unblocked, Roby and linebacker Ryan Shazier met at the punter to block the kick. When the players were pulled off of each other in the endzone, Roby emerged from the pile with the ball, giving the Buckeyes a 10-7 lead.
Northwestern used their two-quarterback system quite effectively as Siemian and Colter gave the Buckeyes defense trouble all night. Siemian drove the Wildcats down the field to start the second quarter, before Colter came in to finish the drive, scrambling into the endzone to put Northwestern back on top.
The Buckeyes answered with a drive deep into Wildcat territory, but eventually had to settle for a field goal.
On the next drive, Siemian, who was generally used in passing situations whereas Colter was used in the running game, found a wide open Vernric Mark for a 41 yard catch and run into the redzone. The running back, who missed the last three games with a leg injury, was a huge spark to the Wildcat offense.
However, the defense tightened up in the redzone and held the Wildcats to just three points.
Sensing the need for a spark of his own, head coach Urban Meyer decided to try a fake punt from his own 30-yard line. Johnston, the former Aussie Rules football player, was unable to outrun the defense and the Buckeyes handed the ball to the Wildcats with great field position. However, Pat Fitzgerald's crew was unable to cash in, settling for another field goal and a six-point lead at the break.
The Wildcats deferred option to the second half and had the opportunity to take control of the contest with a touchdown. With his scrambling ability, Colter drove the home team deep into Ohio State territiory again. Again, the defense would tighten up and only allow a field goal.
Down nine, the Buckeyes rode Carlos Hyde yet again. The senior from Naples, Florida, drove the team inside the ten yard line, but Braxton Miller coughed up the ball just short of the goalline.
The defense tightened down, blitzing the linebackers and sending more than three down-lineman, forcing the Northwestern punt. On the ensuing drive, Hyde, who rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns, rammed it in from seven yards out to pull the Buckeyes within one score.
In the turning point of the game, cornerback Doran Grant picked off a Trevor Siemian pass deep in Northwestern territory, setting the Buckeyes up with terrific field position.
Down three to begin the fourth, Braxton Miller looked more comfortable in the pocket, often checking down to the Hyde when his receivers downfield were covered. The Buckeyes put together a drive that looked to have stalled at the Northwestern one, as Hyde looked to have been stopped short of the endzone. This left Meyer with a choice: kick the field goal and tie the game or go for the lead. However, Meyer didn't have to choose as the play was reviewed and overturned to put Ohio State ahead 27-23.
The lead was short lived as moments later, Sieman connected with Rashad Lawrence for a 67-yard gain, bringing the ball to the Buckeyes 7. Three plays later, Siemian, who was flushed out of the pocket, found Cameron Dickerson in the endzone, putting the Wildcats back on top 30-27
With the game on the line, the Buckeyes called on Hyde again. With 5:22 left in the game, Hyde punched it in the endzone for third time on the night, giving the Buckeyes a 34-30 lead. With the flow of the game, the only question was whether the Buckeyes scored too earlier or not.
The game came down to a 4th-and-1 attempt in Ohio State territory with 2:45 left. Colter lined up in the shotgun formation, but hurried to the line to catch the Buckeyes off guard. However, he fumbled the snap and was unable to get the first down, essentially ending the game. The Buckeyes were able to melt the clock, running the ball until seconds remained. The Wildcats had one last gasp at a victory, but Siemian slipped and fell under pressure, melting precious seconds away. As the clock hit zero, the home team desperately hoped a hook-and-ladder would have success, but that only led to the ball bouncing freely into their own endzone, where defensive lineman Joey Bosa pounced on it to seal the game.
Up next, the Buckeyes have a much deserved bye week, and nobody is happier than Carlos Hyde, who carried the ball 26 times in the 40-30 win. After the week to recover, the Buckeyes will play host to the Iowa Hawkeyes, who lost earlier in the day to Michigan State, 26-14. The last time the 4-2 Hawkeyes visited Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes won an overtime thriller en route to the Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl berth.