Game 6 Recap: Ohio State 22 – Northwestern 10
The rumors around the program about a rise in positive COVID tests turned out to be true, however, it did not prevent the Buckeyes from playing this game. They were without 22 players and two coaches, most notable, Chris Olave, Baron Browning, and Drue Chrisman on the player side, and Brian Hartline on the coaching side. Northwestern has not had a positive test since the Big Ten returned to play, and they were at full strength for this game.
Give credit to Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats for what they were able to accomplish this season. He had his players feeling like they not only had a chance to compete, but a chance to win, and for 45 minutes of the game, it sure felt like the game might lean the way of Northwestern. But the Buckeyes proved their talent can take over, and there are too many players to defend.
The passing game seemed out of rhythm without Olave, and Justin Fields did not seem as smooth as he used to, and his passes felt a little off. After the game, Fields mentioned he might have a sprain, but something that can heal hopefully in the next 13 days.
Ohio State started with the ball, and drove down a methodical 16 plays, and over 8 minutes, but a holding penalty prevent a Justin Fields touchdown run, and the Buckeyes had to settle for a field goal, and took a 3-0 lead. Northwestern took a page out of the Ohio State playbook, and opened up with their first drive with tempo and quickly scored to take the lead 7-3. This was the first time since the first game against Nebraska that Ohio State had trailed all season.
The teams exchanged punts, and on Northwestern’s 3rd possession, and at the start of the 2nd quarter, they drove down and scored a Field goal to extend their lead 10-3. The offense for Ohio State was not in sync, and started to look differently than they had all season, but they were able to respond with a field goal of their own, and made it 10-6 in favor of the Wildcats.
On Ohio State’s next possession, they drove down the field and were near the red-zone, but an under-thrown pass from Fields to Wilson was intercepted by Brandon Joseph in the endzone in an impressive 1 hand catch. The Wildcats killed the clock on their next series, and took a 10-6 lead into halftime.
The teams exchanged interceptions for their first posessions of the second half, and after a punt from Northwestern, both teams had missed over 40 yard field goals to keep the score the same. It was clear to anyone watching to know that the only thing working for the Buckeyes were the running game, and on their next series, Trey Sermon carried the load and scored his first touchdown of the game, and gave the Buckeyes the lead once more to make it 13-10.
The Silver Bullets were in prime form in the second half, and really prevented the Wildcats from moving the ball. The Buckeyes would score another field goal to extend their lead to 16-10, but there was still some uneasiness with the Buckeye faithful. Once the Buckeyes got the ball back, that uneasiness was put to bed, after a methodical drive once more with the run game and Trey Sermon’s second touchdown where they extend their lead to 22-10 after a failed 2 point conversion.
That would be the final score for the game, and clinching the 4th straight Big Ten Championship for the Buckeyes, who now have a 5-1 record in Big Ten Championship games, and Northwestern drops to 0-2 in Big Ten Championship Games.
Justin Fields didn’t have his best day, passing for 114 yards and throwing 2 interceptions. He was able to add to the run game with 35 yards on 12 carries, most of which were broken pass plays.
Trey Sermon was the star though, and ran for 331 yards on 29 carries and finished with 2 touchdowns. He also was a part of the passing game, with 3 catches for 4 yards. Master Teague only had 2 carries the whole game for 23 yards.
Julian Fleming filled in as a starter on offense, and had 4 catches for 53 yards, while Garrett Wilson also had 4 catches for 49 yards.
The defense held Northwestern to 329 total yards and forced 3 turnovers. Justin Hilliard has his biggest game as Buckeye forcing 2 of those turnovers himself, and Josh Proctor caught an interception after filling in for Marcus Hooker.
Give credit to Northwestern for their defensive preparation for Ohio State’s passing game, forcing two turnovers, but the running game for Ohio State was the biggest difference, and with this game being close through the 4th quarter, it was Trey Sermon’s 2nd rushing touchdown that became the turning point, as it gave Ohio State a 22-10 lead with over 4 minutes to go. Northwestern’s offense did not have enough firepower to get momentum and score again. The defense should get credit to holding Northwestern to 10 points for the game, and none since the 6 minutes to go mark of the 2nd quarter.
Star of the Game
Trey Sermon. 331 yards rushing breaks several records: The Ohio State single game rushing record, the Big Ten Conference Championship Game rushing record, and the All Conference Championship game record. When the passing game was not working, the running game was, and Sermon rushed for only 60 yards in the first half, and finished with 271 in the second half. If you wanted to mention someone fo the defense, it would be Justin Hilliard, who filled in for Baron Browning, and had an interception, and recovered his own forced fumble. With his play and 2 takeaways, the defense was able to slow down Northwestern’s offense in the second half.
With a win, undefeated record, and Conference Champion, Ohio State should be a lock for the playoff and will just be awaiting who their next opponent will be. There is a very good chance they will play the winner of the ACC championship game, which could be Clemson or Notre Dame. With Florida losing last week to LSU, and now at 2 losses, Alabama will most likely be a lock with a win or loss. The selection committee has kept Ohio State at the 4th spot above now 8-1 Texas A&M. Fair or unfair, Ohio State is one of the best teams in the country, and remain as one of the undefeated teams in the country. Here is to hoping they can make it past the 1st round and compete for a championship!
Ohio State (6-0) will await their fate from Selection Sunday, and will most likely compete against a team in the CFP.
Northwestern (6-2) will know who their next opponent will be on Selection Sunday, or may elect to forgo a post season.
Photo credit: BuckeyesWire – USA Today