Northwestern runs a balanced offense, and the Wildcats aren’t shy about mixing it up on the edge in the running game.

The Ohio State defense probably will find out about that a few times Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game. The Wildcats will have reviewed OSU’s 52-51 overtime win at Maryland two weeks ago. They know that with a little pushing, shoving and edge-setting, big gains could be possible if they catch the Buckeyes at the right time.

 

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For example, with this play — let’s call it “Trips left, power over 5” — that Northwestern loosed on Iowa for the first of its two touchdowns in a 14-10 win three weeks ago that clinched the Big Ten West title. Isaiah Bowser, a freshman running back from Sidney, Ohio, scored on a 34-yard run off the left side.

Based on the numbering system, he ripped through the 5 hole. But there was no hole there when the play started, just a space between the left tackle and the first of three receivers spread left. It was “over” action by center Jared Thomas and right tackle Rashawn Slater that created the opening.

As quarterback Clayton Thorson took the shotgun snap from Thomas, Bowser — next to Thorson — took a false step back before taking the handoff, allowing Thomas and Slater to cross to the left. Thomas sped left of the left tackle and cut-block the outside linebacker while Slater cut up just past the left tackle and blocked the scraping middle linebacker.

Behold: the 5 hole. Bowser ripped through it and, courtesy of blocks downfield from the receivers, raced to the end zone.

 

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports