COLUMBUS, OHIO- So close, yet so far. Despite keeping it close for most of the game, Northwestern simply could not get a stop when it needed it most, and No. 6 Ohio State came out on top with the 24-20 victory. With the loss, the Wildcats fall to 4-4 (3-2 B1G) on the season.
Northwestern got the ball first and promptly got to work against the Buckeye defense. Clayton Thorson found Austin Carr on back to back passes for two quick first downs. Thorson completed a third straight pass to Carr, but after review Carr was ruled out of bounds and two plays later the drive stalled and Northwestern punted, pinning Ohio State at their own five.
Despite being deep in their own territory, Ohio State quickly moved the ball down the field. Nine plays and 95 yards later Mike Weber punched it from the one-yard line to open the scoring and put the Buckeyes up 7-0.
After getting the ball back, Clayton Thorson had a pass tipped at the line by linebacker Raekwon McMillan and intercepted by Damon Arnette. The Northwestern defense managed to hold on despite the bad starting field position and held Ohio State to just a field goal. The Buckeyes took a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
With possibility of a blowout seemingly in the balance, the Wildcats responded, led once again by Thorson and the offense. Attacking both on the ground with Justin Jackson and through the air to Austin Carr, the Wildcats methodically marched down the field. The Wildcats finally punched it from the one-yard line to start the second quarter on a quarterback sneak from Thorson. Despite a shaky start to the game, the Wildcats only trailed 10-7 early in the second quarter.
The Buckeyes responded with points once again, though. On one of the more demoralizing drives Northwestern has seen all season, Ohio State went 80 yards in 15 plays and used up 8:28 of game clock to increase its lead to 17-7. The drive was capped off by a 23-yard TD scamper from Mike Weber.
Northwestern once again responded, even after being pinned at its own 12 following a mishandled kickoff return. The Wildcats drove all the way to the Ohio State 6-yard line highlighted by a 35-yard run from Thorson into the redzone. Thorson couldn’t find Carr in the back of the endzone on third down, though, and Northwestern was forced to kick a 23-yard field. Mitchell converted, and Northwestern cut the lead to 17-10 with 1:43 left in the first half.
Following a quick Ohio State three-and-out, Thorson was sacked by Tyquan Lewis and Northwestern was forced to punt it back to the Buckeyes with 43 seconds left in the half. Ohio State went three-and-out once again and Northwestern’s Hail Mary attempt fell short as the Buckeyes went into the half leading 17-10. The Wildcats were outgained by just three, 207 to 204, and hung tough after a slow start.
Coming out of the half, Ohio State started hot with a 23-yard run from Curtis Samuel, but the NU defense stayed strong and forced a punt. Starting from its own six-yard line, Northwestern managed to move the ball to around midfield, but the drive stalled. Ohio State got the ball back, but punted once again and the game appeared to enter a bit of a stalemate.
However, Northwestern would have none of that. Pinned at its own 15, Thorson completed a 30-yard pass to Austin Carr. A few plays later Northwestern was faced with a 4th-and-2 just past midfield and Thorson completed a short pass to freshman Bennett Skowronek for the first down. After another Carr catch and run down to the five, Thorson completed a TD pass to Garrett Dickerson to tie the game up at 17.
And. We. Are. Tied.@Senor__Nueve evens things up for @NUFBFamily.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 29, 2016
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The Buckeyes had the ball to start the fourth quarter, but Northwestern’s run defense continued to shut down the Buckeyes and forced yet another punt. Northwestern punted right back after a three-and-out and the stage was set for an incredible finish.
Ohio State threw the first punch as it easily moved the ball down the field and punched it in on a 3-yard run from Curtis Samuel. With a little under 10 minutes to go Northwestern trailed 24-17.
But Northwestern was up to the challenge. The Wildcats drove down the field, converting huge third downs to Justin Jackson and Austin Carr before getting stopped in the redzone and having to settle for a field goal. With 3:31 left in the game, the Wildcats trailed 24-20.
With two timeouts remaining, Northwestern needed a stop, and it got two chances on two third and longs. But J.T. Barrett was able to find Noah Brown for a first on the first third down and the talented QB then had a keeper on 3rd and 8 that went for 35 yards right up the middle to effectively end the game and finally subdue the valiant Wildcat effort.
- Following a shaky start, Northwestern’s defense held it’s own against the high powered Buckeye offense. The biggest change was in the secondary as the buckeyes only threw for 35 yards in the third quarter. This wound up being a combo of strange play calling by Ohio State and Northwestern beginning to get a better push up front. However, it came up just short in the fourth as the Buckeyes were able to move the ball through the air just enough to get the victory.
- Clayton Thorson had his best game as a Wildcat on Saturday. Thorson was 22 for 42 and had 256 yards and 1 TD, but also had the best game control and accuracy he’s ever had. Despite going up against one of the nation’s best defenses, Thorson played the game of his life, even in a loss.
- Even though the defense managed to play better in the second half, tackling was still a problem. On the Buckeye’s long 15 play TD drive, Northwestern missed multiple tackles on third downs that would have gotten them off the field.
- Austin Carr continues to be the best receiver in the Big Ten. The league’s leading receiver had 8 catches for 158 yards as he continues to hold onto the Big Ten lead in each category. Carr now has three straight 100 yard games, while his touchdown streak ends at six.