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Three up and three down for Northwestern’s Big Ten Championship loss

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The Wildcats battled the Buckeyes to the final whistle, but couldn’t overcome Dwayne Haskins.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Conference-Football Championship-Northwestern vs Ohio State Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes hung 45 points on Northwestern, but there were at least a few positives to take away from the game.

Stock up

Run defense

Though they didn’t break off anything big, Ohio State’s running game was fine in the first half, gaining 85 yards on 26 attempts plus a touchdown. But after the break, Northwestern put the clamps on. The Buckeyes attempted 20 runs in the second half, but turned them into just 21 yards. Meanwhile, Northwestern made plenty of impact plays in the run game, finishing with six non-sack tackles for loss.

Explosive offense

Clayton Thorson had another inconsistent performance on Saturday, but he hit some big plays. The senior completed nine passes of 15 yards or more while drawing a pass interference on a missed connection with Skowrownek. Meanwhile, John Moten IV’s 77-yard touchdown run (though it feels like ages ago now) was one of four Northwestern carries that went for at least 15 yards, including a trickeration-laden Riley Lees reverse and Thorson’s touchdown scramble. Despite the Wildcats being one of the worst big-play teams in the country all year, they were pretty explosive against Ohio State.

Playmaking defense (and special teams!)

Though the pass defense struggled, the Wildcats created some havoc. NU added four sacks, a Montre Hartage interception, and a fumble recovery to the aforementioned six tackles for loss. For good measure, Fred Wyatt added an impressive field goal block. The Wildcats didn’t make enough happen defensively to hang with Dwayne Haskins, but the defense’s impact remained impressive.

Honorable Mentions: Receiving depth, Defensive line as a whole, Northwestern students

Stock down

Secondary

They battled injuries, but Haskins finished 34-of-41 for 499 yards and five touchdowns. That speaks for itself. When Northwestern played soft coverage, which non-Hartage corners did for most of the game, Haskins destroyed them underneath. The Buckeye wide receivers did their thing too — the Wildcats got beaten on post routes, wheel routes, and corner routes. All said, OSU had even more of a field day than most expected.

General health

Besides their secondary woes (Hartage, Trae Williams, Cam Ruiz, Greg Newsome and Jared McGee all missed at least some of the game), Northwestern had plenty of other players go down. Flynn Nagel, clearly not at 100 percent, left the game early on, and Riley Lees missed time in the second half. Fred Wyatt and Earnest Brown had to come out for multiple plays as well. Suffice it to say that this one was injury-filled.

Field position

Both teams turned it over multiple times, but two of Northwestern’s occurred in their own end. Ohio State won the punting battle resoundingly, with Drue Chrisman averaging nearly 14 more yards per punt than Jake Collins. Both teams did turn it over multiple times, but two of Northwestern’s occurred in their own end. Those factors combined to create a game in which Northwestern never started a drive at their own 40 or better, while the Buckeyes did so five times.

Honorable Mentions: Defense with the quarterback out of the pocket, offensive line, dreams of Pasadena