Dwayne Haskins Jr., the newly named all-Big Ten quarterback and league offensive player of the year, knows the most significant referendum this season for him and his Ohio State teammates will come Saturday night.
That’s when the Buckeyes, fresh off a 62-39 win over Michigan that clinched the Big Ten East title, take on West winner Northwestern in the league title game in Indianapolis. They also know that not only will the College Football Playoff selection committee, which has them No. 6 headed into the final weekend, want to see them win, they likely will want to see them win impressively.
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“But gameday is gameday, and we’ve got to worry about Northwestern,” Haskins said. “Playing in Indianapolis is a great place — indoors, so that’s a great place for me. It’s a fortunate opportunity.”
He meant that wind, rain or cold temperatures won’t affect the passing game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Northwestern likely spent a lot of time worrying not only how to make it harder for Haskins in the passing game, but — and this is new — how to contain him when he runs.
The past two weeks Haskins has gone from timid to aggressive, rushing 12 times for 46 yards against the Wolverines a week after running 15 times for 59 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-51 overtime win at Maryland.
That is on top of the Big Ten season records he has set for passing yards (4,081) and passing touchdowns (42), including 396 yards and six touchdowns passing last week against the Wolverines, who had the top-ranked overall defense and pass defense in FBS. Haskins tied an Ohio State record for most TD passes in one game.
“Just throwing the ball, obviously his accuracy and anticipation is pretty special,” offensive coordinator Ryan Day said. “But I think in the last couple of weeks you’ve seen him change his game a little bit in that he’s run, he’s made some tough yards, he’s scrambled when he’s needed to. That changes how a defense approaches him. I think that aspect of his game has helped the whole offense.”