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12-for-12: Ohio State’s Perfect Season - Game 8 vs. Northwestern

The Buckeyes face-off against a ranked Wildcats squad in Evanston as we look all the way back to 2008.

Ohio State Buckeyes v Northwestern Wildcats Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

This is 12-for-12: Ohio State’s Perfect Season. Originally, we put this together thinking there would not be an actual football season in 2020, but fortunately that is not the case. So now, this just functions as a fun look at throwback games each week as we prep for Oct. 24.

We have put together a full 12-game schedule for the Buckeyes using one game from each of the last 12 years. The docket is complete with three non-conference opponents, nine Big Ten showdowns, and will also include a three-game postseason with a Big Ten title game and College Football Playoff matchups. We tried to use the best games from each of the 12 years to fill the slots, but some had to be left out to avoid duplicate opponents in the regular season.

We will also be keeping a running total of the regular season’s stat leaders as if all of these games were occurring over one full season. There are many different players that have come through the program during this 12-year span, so only the top three guys in each category will be listed. In the end, we’ll have an interesting concoction of who led the Buckeyes over this 12-game Frankenstein season.

We are going to continue this series even with the announced start date for the actual Big Ten 2020 season, and will move to two Perfect Season pieces a week to try and fit the whole series in before the team’s opener against Nebraska. As we anxiously await the return of Ohio State football, we still have a bunch of games from seasons past to help pass the time.

Game eight on the schedule: Ohio State vs. Northwestern (2008).


Tale of the Tape

In 2008, Ohio State signed who is to this day the highest-rated recruit that has ever come to Columbus in five-star dual-threat QB Terrelle Pryor. Naturally, Pryor would start for the team as a freshman, helping lead the Buckeyes to a 10-3 record and and share of the Big Ten title in the program’s eighth season under Jim Tressel. After defeating Michigan 42-7 to end the regular season, OSU came up just short in the Fiesta Bowl with a 24-21 loss to No. 3 Texas.

Man, Pat Fitzgerald has really been at Northwestern for forever, huh? The 2008 season marked his third year at the helm of the program, and after not receiving a bowl invitation with a 6-6 record the season prior, led the Wildcats to a 9-4 campaign — which included wins over Michigan and No. 20 Minnesota. Northwestern made it to the Alamo Bowl, where they would fall 30-23 in overtime against No. 25 Missouri.


Game Recap

This one started out as a classic Big Ten battle, with both Ohio State and Northwestern looking to establish the run early on. The Buckeyes had the ball first, and after lulling the defense to sleep with the ground game, Terrelle Pryor was able to hit Brian Hartline over the top for a huge 44-yard gain.

That play would set up an easy two-yard rushing TD by Chris “Beanie” Wells, and just like that Ohio State took a 7-0 lead.

Not to be out-done, the Wildcats put together their own stereotypically B1G possession. A 13-play, 67-yard yard drive — which featured just two passing plays and ate up over six minutes of clock — resulted in six points, as QB Mike Kafka punched it in on the goal line for a 1-yard TD, tying the game up at 7-7.

After the two sides traded punts, it was Ohio State with the ball again to begin the second quarter. Pryor completed a 22-yard pass to Rory Nicol on third-and-long to earn a new set of downs, and Wells was able to take it from there. On a play that looked to be destined for a loss, Wells broke a tackle out of the backfield and shot up the middle for what would wind up being a 55-yard TD run as the Buckeyes took a 14-7 lead.

The Ohio State defense had tightened up after that early score by Northwestern. On the second play of the ensuing drive by the home team, Malcolm Jenkins forced a fumble to set up his offense just outside the red zone. The Buckeyes would not be able to capitalize on the short field, however, and would muster only a field goal to make it 17-7 early in the second quarter.

Following another punt by the Wildcats, the scarlet and gray offense started to heat up. A 12-play, 90-yard drive culminated in yet another Ohio State TD, as Pryor completed a pass to Brian Robiskie in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score. The Bucks now led 24-7, and they would take that lead into halftime as things looked like they were beginning to slip away from Pat Fitzgerald’s group.

Northwestern began the second half with a field goal to cut the deficit to 24-10, and after forcing Ohio State to punt it looked as though they may have begun to seize a little momentum. However, the offense could not keep things going, and the Wildcats were forced to punt themselves.

The Buckeyes offense then put together perhaps their most impressive drive of the afternoon. A 13-yard rush by Wells was followed up a few plays later by another big 46-yard pass-and-catch from Pryor to Hartline to get OSU down just outside the red zone. A 16-yard run set them up first-and-goal, and Pryor was able to escape a sack and hit Nicol in the end zone to extend the lead to 31-10.

From there, Ohio State seriously took control of the game and never looked back. A pair of sacks forced the Wildcats to punt once more, and another long drive by the Buckeyes ended with points. Pryor completed a big 34-yard TD pass to Robiskie for his third passing score of the day, and the rout was now officially on as the lead grew to 38-10.

If there was any life left for Northwestern in this game, it was taken away on their next drive as Kafka was intercepted by James Laurinaitis. The home team was actually able to get a stop on the ensuing OSU possession, as the backups had now entered the game for Jim Tressel, but would go on to turn it over yet again on their next offensive series on a sack fumble.

Keeping the ball on the ground to kill time, Ohio State’s backups joined the scoring party. Maurice Wells and Daniel Herron slowly worked the ball down the field, and it was Herron who put a bow on the afternoon with a 16-yard rushing TD.

It would be the final scoring play of the afternoon, as the Buckeyes walked out of Evanston with a 45-10 win over Northwestern. Pryor finished the day completing nine of his 14 pass attempts for 197 yards and three TDs, and as a team Ohio State put up 244 total yards rushing, led by Well’s 28 carries for 140 yards and two TDs.


LGHL Season Stat Leaders (OSU 8-0)

Passing

  1. Terrelle Pryor: 696 Yds / 6 TD / 1 INT (3 games)
  2. Dwayne Haskins: 405 Yds / 3 TD / 1 INT
  3. Braxton Miller: 322 Yds / 5 TD / 1 INT (3 games, 2 at QB)

Rushing

  1. J.K. Dobbins: 380 Yds / 6.2 Avg / 1 TD (2 games)
  2. Daniel Herron: 306 Yds / 4.6 Avg / 2 TD (4 games)
  3. Terrelle Pryor: 218 Yds / 4.7 Avg / 1 TD (2 games)

Receiving

  1. DeVier Posey: 12 Rec / 206 Yds / 1 TD (2 games)
  2. Johnnie Dixon: 7 Rec / 131 Yds / 0 TD (2 games)
  3. Terry McLaurin: 4 Rec / 118 Yds / 1 TD

Sacks

  1. Chase Young (2), John Simon (3): 3.0
  2. Ryan Shazier (2), Nathan Williams (3): 2.0
  3. Tyquan Lewis: 1.5

Interceptions

  1. Chimdi Chekwa: 2 (3 games)
  2. Jeff Okudah: 2 (2 games)
  3. Seven tied at one

Up Next

Next on the schedule is the first J.T. Barrett-era game of the Perfect Season, as we take a look back at the clash with Michigan State (2014) in East Lansing that really put Ohio State on the map as a national title contender that year.