Both the Ohio State Buckeyes and Northwestern Wildcats came to Indianapolis with hopes of walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium as conference champions. After 60 minutes of action on Saturday night, and a 499-yard passing performance from quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the Buckeyes were the ones that emerged victorious—defeating the Wildcats, 45-24.
At halftime, OSU was running away with the game, 24-7. But a 14-point third quarter from the Wildcats brought them back into the game, and at times, within one score of the Buckeyes. However, the Ohio State offense was too much, and the defense clamped down in the final nine minutes of the game.
Haskins ended the game with 499 yards and 5 touchdowns on 34-of-41 passing. His leading receiver on the night was Johnnie Dixon, who hauled in seven receptions for 129 yards—including a 9-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter. Parris Campbell wasn’t too far behind Dixon, ending the Championship Game with 79 reception yards on seven catches.
On the ground, the duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber struggled to break off big gains. When the final whistle was blown, Dobbins ended with 17 carries for 68 yards and a score; Weber saw a vast majority of the handles in the third quarter, and ended the game totaling 51 yards and 17 carries.
Northwestern turned the ball over three times, with two of them being interceptions. Damon Arnette and Shaune Wade tallied the picks, while Chase Young forced the fumble. Ohio State turned the ball over twice, with Haskins throwing an interception and Weber fumbling the ball. None of the Buckeye turnovers led to NU points, though.
For the Buckeyes, it’s now their second conference title in as many years, and their third win in Indianapolis in five years. With the win, the worst-case scenario for Ohio State’s postseason fate is the Rose Bowl. On Sunday at noon ET, the College Football Playoff committee will decide who the four playoff teams will be. But before we get there, let’s take a look at OSU’s huge win inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
After Ohio State marching band director Christopher Hoch conducted the National Anthem, the coin toss commenced. Northwestern won the flip and deferred to the second half.
It took the Buckeyes 4:29 to get the game’s first points. Haskins completed three passes that moved the chains, with all three of them going to Parris Campbell. J.K. Dobbins had a first down rush (an 11-yarder) of his own that helped move the Bucks down the field. Facing a third-and-11 from the NU16, Haskins was forced out of the pocket and scrambled to the far side line.
Before the defense could get to him, he fired into the end zone; the ball was nearly picked off by a linebacker, but he played too shallow on the pass. Instead, the ball floated into the waiting hands of Terry McLaurin, who had his defender beat by two steps. This touchdown drive included 10 plays to move 77 yards, and gave Ohio State a fast start offensively in Indianapolis.
Just like the offense, the Buckeye defense opened up hot too. Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson found his tight end Flynn Nagel for nine yards, and set up a third-and-1. OSU’s defense clamped down, and held the Isaiah Bowser-rush for no gain. The Wildcats punted the ball away, giving the Bucks possession at their 25.
Ohio State seemed like they were going to move down the field for another score, however, a 27-yard completion to K.J. Hill was called back as offensive lineman Isaiah Prince committed a personal foul; that 15-yard infraction stalled the drive. On fourth down, Drue Chrisman’s punt attempt clipped the front end of the end zone before bouncing back out, forcing a touchback.
After stopping the Wildcats on second-and-12, that play was called back as Dre’Mont Jones was whistled for being offsides. With the down replayed at second-and-7, John Moten IV took a rush up the near side for 77 yards and a touchdown. He had blockers all the way that sprung him loose for the big gain — a game-tying score.
However, the game wouldn’t be tied for long, as Ohio State would answer in a hurry. A pair of Dobbins rushes — totaling eight yards — set up a pair of Haskins completions that went for a total of 33 yards. Facing a third-and-5 at the NU19, Haskins found a wide open Binjimen Victor for 17 yards; one play later, Dobbins went right up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown.
Excitement in the first quarter quelled though, as both teams committed three-and-outs to end the frame. Ohio State held a 14-7 lead, and led the total offense 183-88. Thorson completed 3-of-4 passes for just 18 yards, while Haskins was 10-of-13 for 142 yards and a TD.
Northwestern had the ball to start the second quarter — getting it back via punt in the waning seconds of the first frame. A 15-yard pick up on third-and-3, followed by an 18-yard rush accompanied by an illegal block by Jordan Fuller put NU on the OSU36. Thorson then decided to attempt a deep ball, however, Shaun Wade wrestled it away from the intended wide receiver — leading to an interception in the end zone.
2014: Devin Smith catching jump balls in this endzone— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 2, 2018
2018: Shaun Wade picking them off pic.twitter.com/38027TrRiC
OSU took over on the 20, and moved the chains three times. As Haskins and the offense went on the prowl for points, it was their turn to commit a turnover. Haskins overthrew Hill on an out-route to the sideline. Montre Hartage was there for the interception, keeping NU within a score. It appeared that there was a miscommunication between the QB and WR, as Haskins thought he was breaking deeper.
However, on the subsequent drive, NU couldn’t convert. In fact, Thorson turned it over again just 30 yards (and eight plays) downfield. Chase Young hit Thorson on an attempt; however, the NU QB was losing possession of the ball as he was winding up the pass. Initially called on the field as an incompletion, the referees took a look at the replay, and overturned the ruling.
With possession at the NU46, the Buckeye offense gave the rock to Mike Weber; in fact they gave it to him six-straight times. The sixth handle was on a second down, and resulted in a loss of five. Forced into a third-and-13 play, Haskins aired it out to Weber, but only gained six yards. Ohio State had momentum, but Northwestern held them to just three points, as Blake Haubeil was summoned for a 42-yard field goal. He converted, putting the Buckeyes up 17-7.
A three-and-out by the Wildcats gave possession right back to the Bucks — and the West division champions slowly drifted into blowout range. Ohio State was approaching the NU30 until a Prince holding call struck again.
That stifled things for a bit and forced a third-and-20 from the NU42. The Buckeyes played small ball all half, but finally decided to uncork the pigskin. Unsurprisingly, letting the most prolific single-sesaon passer in Big Ten history throw the ball worked.
Haskins found McLaurin in stride, and he hauled in the football for a touchdown. Ohio State took a commanding 24-7 lead, and that would be the score heading into halftime. Northwestern did nothing productive in their final drive of the half — committing another three-and-out.
Below are some of the stats from the first 30 minutes of action inside Lucas Oil Stadium:
To begin the third quarter, Northwestern needed to play inspired football to make this thing close. And, they did just that on their first drive, scoring a TD in five plays. Marching 75 yards in the process, Thorson hit three passes for gains of 15, 16 and 17 yards. The score came on an 18-yard scramble down the sideline by Thorson, who then cut towards the middle of the field for the final 10 yards.
Ohio State’s opening drive was the exact opposite. After a 10-yard rush from Weber, the drive failed to materialize anything more, ending in just four plays for eight yards.
Northwestern followed up with another huge drive resulting in a TD. This drive marched 85 yards in 10 plays, and was nearly stopped at the OSU3. Damon Arnette appeared to pull the ball away from tight end Charlie Fessler just short of the goal line, but upon further review, the replay showed Fessler getting his shin on the turf before the ball came out — marking it dead. The almighty replay review gave NU a second chance, and they made the most out of it; two plays later, Thorson rolled out a pass to Cameron Green for a 2-yard score.
Both teams would then trade turnovers, as momentum teetered back and forth. Thorson threw a pass that deflected off the helmet of his center, and landed in the hands of Arnette. However, the football gods giveth, and the football gods taketh away, as just four plays later, Weber would cough the ball up, turning it back over.
After the turnover bug visited both squads, scoring returned. After Haskins found Johnnie Dixon for nine yards on a third-and-3, the Heisman contending QB connected with Victor for 16 more yards. With the NU defense on the ropes, Haskins finished them off two plays later with a post route to Chris Olave.
Chris Olave has quickly become a Dude™️ pic.twitter.com/0fFep4i5dd— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 2, 2018
This would be the last of the scoring excitement for the third quarter.
Another three-and-out gave the Buckeyes possession to start the fourth. This possession could’ve put the game away, and it seemed like that would be the case — the offense was cruising deep into Northwestern territory. Faced with a fourth-and-5 from the NU10, Urban Meyer elected to kick the field goal. Haubeil’s attempt from 27 yards out was blocked — sputtering away and underneath the goal post. With 12:24 remaining in regulation, there was plenty of time left for anything to happen.
The Wildcats went down and quickly secured a field goal, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to seven, 31-24. Ohio State, though, would not be done scoring.
Haskins hit a wide open Dixon for a 63-yard completion down the middle of the field on the next drive. Then, after Weber weaved his way for six yards, Haskins went back to Dixon; this time, it was for a TD from nine yards out. The Buckeyes pulled up 38-24 with less than 10 minutes left in the final quarter.
The Wildcats would make strides to get back in, but it was too little too late.
Ohio State will find out their College Football Playoff fate on Sunday. The playoff selection show will take place at noon ET, and will be broadcast on ESPN. If OSU doesn’t make the CFP, the Big Ten Championship winner will be going to the Rose Bowl.