COLUMBUS, Ohio — “We want to play our best football in November,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said before the Buckeyes’ game at Northwestern on Saturday.
No. 2 Ohio State certainly did not play its best football against the 1-7 Wildcats. But in a game that was classic Big Ten football in November, the Buckeyes held on in the fourth quarter to secure a 21-7 shaky road win in ugly fashion.
In a windy and rainy day in Evanston, Ohio State tied its lowest-scoring first half of the season with only one touchdown. The Buckeyes looked sluggish early on, even factoring in weather they were uncharacteristically dull.
Ohio State’s defensive line was disruptive in the pass game. Northwestern had 79 yards in the air, but Northwestern found its success in the run game early on. The Wildcats finished with 206 yards, despite being held under 80 rushing yards four times this season.
Northwestern put up 285 yards as compared to Ohio State’s 283 yards of total offense. The Wildcats came in playing tough and scored the first 7 with their physicality at the line of scrimmage. From that point on, Northwestern made Ohio State earn every bit of its success.
When going against the wind in the first half, both Northwestern and Ohio State were scoreless. But both teams found success when playing with the wind. In the second half, it wasn’t until Buckeye running back Miyan Williams’ touchdown with 4:24 remaining that a team scored into the wind.
There’s no doubt that the weather affected Ohio State’s dynamic passing offense. The Buckeyes didn’t complete a pass play that was longer than 15 yards.
Ohio State also struggled to establish the run and was challenged converting third downs early on. The Buckeyes were without starting running back TreVeyon Henderson leaving three running backs available including Williams who got banged up and left the game last week at Penn State.
He had a career high 26 carries for 111 yards in the win on Saturday as the only running back who saw time on the field.
After gaining just 28 yards on his first 13 carries of the game, Williams broke one for a 27-yard touchdown, and Ohio State secured its first lead of the game,14-7, with back to back touchdown drives, 8:44 to play in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes finished the game accumulating 207 yards rushing, but it wasn’t easy — and quarterback runs made all the difference along with over 80 of those years coming in the fourth quarter.
Buckeye quarterback C.J. Stroud, not known for his running, produced impactful plays with his legs with runs of 44 yards and 16 yards.
Stroud wasn’t as effective passing, completing 10-of-26 passes for 76 yards, but he rushed for a total of 79 yards. Stroud had -4 rushing yards coming into the season, but he had more yards rushing than his new career-low passing yards in this game. Northwestern simply wasn’t expecting Stroud to keep the football and take off with his legs.
“It’s all about winning and that’s really been the focus,” Day said. “Really for half the game — you really can’t throw the ball in this type of weather. But even when the wind was at our back it was so strong that it was difficult to do anything in the pass game. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. I think we could’ve run the ball a little bit better, we could have got some more momentum going but what a strange game. I’m glad this one is behind us.”
Ohio State certainly didn’t put together an impressive performance but it once again showed another way it could win — and while that’s something Day doesn’t want to repeat, it was enough on Saturday.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this,” Day said. “This is as hard of conditions we’ve played in in a long time and I thought our guys played tough and played well.”
“Find a way to win. Every week is a new challenge. But this is something that I’m glad is over with,” Day added.
Photo via Ohio State Football
Better hope their is good weather for November 26!! Good win in tough conditions
I think the game against xichigan will be a track meet,we can’t stop their run and they can’t stop our pass,who ever has ball last will win.Go Bucks!
Rob Oller, in USA Today makes the point that OSU did not play well enough and questions their position in college football. I think he should understand that “where and when” game is played has a big influence on the outcome. a 21-7 game in the worst weather conditions should not lead to any more bashing than a 26-22 Georgia win over Mizzou, oh wait, Georgia more than handled Tenn. Go figure!
i dunno. seems Oline has regressed, i mean, they played well in the ND game,and ND D- line is ligit. i don’t get it. think not having Henderson is a big deal, as he has power, speed and hits the hole way quicker than Mylan (who, btw, for some reason, increasingly thinks he can go east/west like Barry Sanders, though love his moxie). Also seems every defense knows the running plays before the back even gets to the line-can it be the same as pitchers tipping pitches. i mean, NW never fooled once (TD run was rare missed tackles by them). I hate to be negative, but if they are way one-dimensional vs Mich, it will be a certain loss.
Warning! Bucks better work on the 0-line run blocking. Day needs to be better at not telegraphing when they are running the ball. I have a question? If you have confidence in your O-line, and want to say hey were running it, then why not use a formation like a full “T” or at least have a blocking fullback in to help, instead of going single back behind or beside Stroud. Three games now , not able to pick up 1 yard when needed, if this is not addressed and fixed, TTUN, will show them again how to run the ball. Come on Bucks!
I’m happy that we gutted out a win under extremely difficult weather conditions but concerned that we couldn’t do more with our running game in the whole first half. I think our running plays are entirely too predictable and we need to add a little deception. Look how well those two QB keepers worked. One positive was that C.J. showed some nice speed and quickness on those two plays. Miyam Williams apparent decision to run around instead of OVER also really hurt us for most of the game. His strength is going north and south and hitting people and not running around people. The positive is that we kept Northwestern outside the red zone except on their TD which was the result of a juke on our CB #4.
I totally agree. I’ve been wondering for years why we did not have two backs. That would have the defense wondering who was going to get the ball. Plus you would still have three receivers.
I’m not sure Ryan Day understands Big Ten football.
Finally! He could do that all year,he better keep doing it and the Oline still isn’t physical enough they better get mean or it’s another xichigan ass kickin!GO BUCKS!
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