It has become a familiar pattern. At home or on the road, in sunlight or at night, Ohio State plays a decent first quarter — a cat toying with its prey. Then the second quarter kicks in, the Buckeyes slam the trap, and suddenly it’s like the supermarket scene in “Raising Arizona.” Mayhem. Game over. Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis. — Ray Stein
The OSU running game was largely stacked up all night, with two exceptions — J.K. Dobbins’ 68-yard burst to spark the second-quarter onslaught and Master Teague’s fourth-quarter cherry on top. With four more TD passes, Justin Fields was typically efficient without being spectacular — such is the unfair standard he has established.
The final product — three points, 199 yards — suggests the latest model on the lot is another winner. And it was. But it’s also true that Northwestern’s backs ran free at times, at least until the Buekeyes' coaches got under the hood. It helped OSU’s cause that the Wildcats’ passing game is less exotic than the one Ara Parseghian used to employ.
Special teams (4)
Blake Haubeil had to make the walk of shame to the sideline after shanking his first kickoff out of bounds. But his 55-yard field goal (with room to spare!) to end the first half more than made amends. Punter Drue Chrisman averaged 47.4 yards on five punts and helped the Buckeyes own the field-position battle.
There is something to be said for the way Ohio State players reacted to Haubeil’s career-long field goal. It put OSU up by 28, and he and his teammates acted as if it were a triple-overtime game-winner. Hooray for joy! And bully for Ryan Day and his staff to embrace and foster such a culture. It’s supposed to be fun.
Haubeil’s kick was the emotional highlight, by a mile. For the most part, fans from both teams got the game they would have expected all week. Northwestern backers decided early that Chicago traffic was a more acceptable alternative, leaving OSU backers to lead a robust O-H-I-O circling the stadium in the third quarter.
It wasn’t playing on Friday that didn’t agree with the Wildcats; rather, it was playing a much better football team. A few decent runs and a stout defensive front is only going to take a team so far in this day and age. And an absent passing game had Pat Fitzgerald massaging his temples way too often, trying to relieve the pain.
Missing left tackle Thayer Munford to start the game, Ohio State decided to use the umpire as an unsuspecting screen on each of Fields’ first two TD passes. Hey, whatever works. As for the refs, they called a quick game, and replay correctly overturned a Northwestern completion that mattered not a whit in the long run.