Every college football game has some element of weirdness to it, but Saturday’s Big Ten Championship felt like it went off the rails at times. Outcomes ranged from the weird (John Moten IV scoring a long touchdown) to the rare (Northwestern blocking a field goal) to the absurd (Jelani Roberts registering the game-long reception for the Wildcats). Here’s a look at six odd occurrences in Saturday’s game:
1. John Moten IV’s 77-yard touchdown run. The junior got hurt during the Nebraska game and missed Northwestern’s next five contests. He got eight carries in NU’s win over Illinois, but I don’t think many were expecting Moten to channel his inner Anthony McFarland Jr. and gash OSU for a long touchdown in the Big Ten Championship. But sure enough, it was Moten who got a first-quarter carry and ran through the entire Buckeye defense to tie the game at 7. To make matters weirder, Gus Johnson exclaimed “Touchdown, Wisconsin!” on the FOX broadcast before correcting himself.
Moten had three carries for -1 yards following his touchdown.
2. Dwayne Haskins’s second touchdown throw to Terry McLaurin. Northwestern held Ohio State to a field goal after Clayton Thorson fumbled in NU territory, and it looked like the Wildcats would head into the half down only 17-7. With 1:21 left in the half, Ohio State had a 3rd and 20 from the NU 42. The Wildcats dropped eight defenders, but Haskins still threw an absolute dime to McLaurin, dropping the 50-yard pass just outside the reach of Greg Newsome II. It’s hard to consider anything Haskins did “weird” because he’s just such a talented player, but this was an absurd throw.
3. The Charlie Fessler non-fumble. Of course, the Ohio State touchdown before the half didn’t put the game away, and NU marched right down the field to open the third quarter before forcing a Ohio State punt. Clayton Thorson and the NU offense penetrated the Buckeye redzone again on its next possession. On 1st and 10 from the OSU 20, Thorson found Charlie Fessler inside the 5-yard-line. As Damon Arnette Jr. wrestled Fessler to the ground, he appeared the rip the ball out and subsequently recover it. The call on the field was a fumble, but the refs overturned the decision, ruling that Fessler’s knee was down before the ball came out. I was surprised the call was overturned, but you can be the judge:
Regardless, this was a huge play because instead of handing the ball back to the Buckeyes, NU scored two plays later to cut the lead to three.
4. Clayton Thorson and Jared Thomas get intercepted, but there are no huge consequences. Northwestern had ALL the momentum following another Buckeye punt. But, two plays into its own drive, the Wildcats turned the ball over for the third time. Chase Young managed to get a piece of Thorson’s arm as he was throwing, and No. 18’s pass boinked off center Jared Thomas’s head and into the arms of Arnette. It was weird and frustrating.
Doink. Anyways, Ohio State couldn’t capitalize because Jordan Thompson forced a Mike Weber fumbled that Travis Whillock pounced on. The Wildcats lived on.
5. Fred Wyatt blocked a field goal. Ohio State had a chance to push its advantage to 13 with a fourth-quarter field goal attempt. Northwestern didn’t get a particularly good push, but Fred Wyatt got his hand on the low kick attempt (seriously, how do you kick it so low?) and the ball fell harmlessly to the turf. Buckeye kicker Blake Haubeil had made 10 of his last 12 attempts and hadn’t missed a kick inside of 30 yards.
This was an odd outcome. Understandable, I guess, given how the second half went. Fitz was very pumped, perhaps because we don’t think NU has blocked a field goal attempt in like, 20 years.
Seriously, does anybody remember the last time Northwestern blocked a field goal? A cursory google search brings up a Chicago tribune article from 1997.— Inside NU (@insidenu) December 2, 2018
6. Jelani Roberts snags a 33-yard reception. In the car back to the hotel, we were joking about how much of a Northwestern football deep-cut Jelani Roberts is. He’s a wide receiver by name, but the Wildcats pretty much only use Roberts on fly sweeps and special teams. Before Saturday, he had nine receptions in his NU career compared to 24 rushing attempts. His longest reception was 12 yards. So we were pretty shocked when Clayton Thorson let a deep pass fly to Roberts in the fourth quarter of the Big Ten Championship game.
Give lots of credit to Roberts. He burns Shaun Wade and adjusts well to the ball to make an excellent catch. Weird, but a good outcome. NU kicked a field goal to cap off the drive, bringing the deficit to seven.