It was over before it even began. Ryan Shazier flew toward the line of scrimmage, and as Kain Colter tried to push forward on a designed quarterback run, he dropped the snap, giving the ball back to the Buckeyes on a crucial 4th-and-1.
“The center-quarterback exchange wasn’t perfect,” Colter said. “I tried to pick it up and get as many yards as I could. I thought I got at least a yard.”
The turnover on downs came with 2:43 to play, and the spot of the ball was confirmed after a Pat Fitzgerald challenge. Fourth-ranked Ohio State never looked back, killing the majority of the clock to ice a 40-30 win Saturday.
“We’re close. We’re knocking on the door, we just have to knock that bad boy down,” a somber Fitzgerald said. “There’s no moral victories, none of that kind of garbage.”
No. 16 Northwestern jumped out to a 20-13 lead, starting with a sack and forced fumble from Tyler Scott that set up a touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian to Kain Colter.
Colter would add a rushing score in the second quarter, while Ohio State’s only first-half offense came on two field goals and a blocked punt recovered in the end zone by freshman Dontre Wilson. Northwestern’s quarterbacks started 17-of-19, but its running game was limited to just 2.5 yards per carry through the third quarter.
Despite Braxton Miller’s first two fumbles of the season, Ohio State marched back in the second half, engineering consecutive Carlos Hyde touchdown runs that took only 3:07 off the clock. The latter score was initially marked short of the plane, but was overturned upon review and gave OSU a 27-23 lead early in the fourth quarter. Hyde finished the game with three scores and 167 rushing yards, good for a 6.5 yard per carry average.
The Cardiac Cats would live up to their namesake, charging back with a 67-yard connection from Siemian to Rashad Lawrence. After putting up three catches in his first four games, the senior captain exploded to the tune of eight grabs and 149 yards. The drive was sealed on a touchdown toss to Cameron Dickerson, delivered by Siemian in a collapsing pocket. It put Northwestern up 30-27.
Ohio State stormed back 81 yards on only eight plays, capped by Hyde’s third score. Northwestern stalled on two inside runs late in the game, including Colter’s turnover on downs, and fumbled a lateral in the endzone on its final play to create a misleading 40-30 final score. Though the Wildcats sputtered down the stretch, Fitz praised his offense, which put up the second most points against the Buckeye defense this year.
"That's a pretty darn good football team we just played, and we put up 500 yards of total offense,” he said.
NU will continue its Big Ten schedule next week with a trip to Wisconsin.