Sunday, December 2, 2018

Green's five takeaways from Ohio State's 45-24 win over Northwestern

Photo Credit: Geno Green

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

The No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1) made an early statement with Dwayne Haskins’ touchdown to Terry McLaurin which helped set the pace in a 45-24 win over the No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats (8-5) in the Big Ten Championship game. Here are my five takeaways from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Buckeyes’ swarming defense:

The glaring weakness of Ohio State for most of the season has been its inability to put together a four-quarter effort against an opposing offense. The Big Ten Championship Game served as the time for OSU to put the breaks on Northwestern’s offense.

Outside of John Moten IV’s 77-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Northwestern struggled for the majority of the first half with four three and outs, an interception and highlighted by a fumble recovery by Ohio State’s Jordan Fuller caused by Chase Young’s hit on quarterback Clayton Thorson.

Despite Northwestern cutting the deficit to 31-24 in the fourth quarter, Ohio State scored the last two touchdowns of the game as it held Isaiah Bowser to 60 yards on 13 carries and forced him to line up at multiple spots on the field.

Heisman hype:

The heart and soul of Ohio State’s offense has been quarterback Dwayne Haskins and the sophomore added to his 4,000-plus yard passing mark with a pair of completions to Terry McLaurin (16 and 42) for touchdowns, which highlighted a Big Ten Championship game record 499-yard night.

Haskins also threw for five touchdowns, but focused on winning the game as opposed to the yards accumulated.

“I mean, we got the one; that was the win. That's all that matters,” Haskins said. “I could have thrown for 80 yards or 600 yards, all we needed to do is win the game. I'm proud of how we played today. Sure, one yard would have been great. But we're Big Ten East champions, Big Ten champions. What else would you want to be?” 

Never say die Wildcat mentality:

When things looked to be down and out with a 24-7 deficit to start the second half, trick city arrived.

Bowser took the handoff and tossed it to Riley Lees and back to Thorson as he found an open Bowser underneath for a 15-yard pass into the OSU red zone. The play galvanized what was a then-lethargic Wildcat offense to an eventual 18-yard touchdown run by Thorson to cut the lead to 10, 97 seconds into the second half.

After an OSU punt, NU scored on its next drive on a rollout bootleg pass from Thorson to an open Cameron Green for a two-yard touchdown. Despite the Wildcats not getting any closer, their effort in defeat looked a lot closer than the final score itself and proved worthy of being in the title game despite being 8-5 overall.

From one 83 to another:

Following in the footsteps of Ohio State great Terry Glenn, Terry McLaurin kept the legacy of No. 83 alive with two of his three receptions going for touchdowns and finished with 78 yards in his final Big Ten game.

“A lot of quarterback and wide receiver relationships are just trust,” Haskins said. “Terry was there for me and made a clutch play on third-and-11 and got open as I found time, which is a credit to how well the scramble drills worked in practice.”

Potential College Football Playoff reality check:

With Oklahoma and Georgia as potential candidates for the fourth and final playoff spot, the possibility of Ohio State making the final four could be bleak. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer knows the College Football Playoff committee is in a tough spot, but believes they are worthy of consideration given the overall quality of opponents.

“It is a tough situation for the people in Dallas and we are one of those great football teams. There should be a lot of merit for winning your conference,” Meyer said. 

“We won on the road and got some tough wins: TCU, Penn State, Michigan State, and then to come back and play against our rivals the way we did and then we went and represented the Eastern [Division]. We had a great game here, I think we deserve a shot.”