Ohio State wiped the sweat off its collective brow after escaping Evanston with a narrow 21-7 win over a struggling Northwestern team that hasn’t won a game since late August.
Played in heavy winds and rain in the Chicago suburb, the vaunted Buckeye offense was stalled throughout the game and quarterback C.J. Stroud was unable to unleash his explosive passing attack.
The weather was expected to play havoc with the passing attack, but the fact that it took nearly two full quarters before they could run the ball effectively against Wildcats does not bode well for Ohio State. The Buckeyes will have their annual showdown with Michigan later this month, and their inability to establish their physical game is an issue heading into the most important part of the season.
Rushing numbers were decent
The Buckeyes were ineffective in all aspects of executing all phases of their offense throughout much of the first half. They finally started to have some success when wide receiver Emeka Egbuka ran scored from 15 yards out with 2:26 left in the second quarter that gave the Buckeyes a 7-7 tie.
During the second half, the Buckeyes established their effectiveness running the ball. They concluded the game with 207 rushing yards and a 5.9 yards per carry average. Miyan Williams led the way for the Buckeyes with 111 yards on 26 carries and scored 2 touchdowns.
Stroud doesn’t often run with the ball, but the conditions forced him to change his strategy. He ran 6 times for 70 yards, including a 44-yard burst around right end in the second half.
Day was happy to come away with the win
Stroud was held to 76 passing yards, and his passes lacked the accuracy that Ohio State head coach Ryan Day is used to seeing from his leader. However, he knew that it was simply the weather conditions that kept Stroud from putting his usual explosive numbers ont he board.
“I’ve never been around conditions like this,” Day said. “It must have been 30-mile-an-hour winds. And if you’ve ever tried to golf in 30-mile-an-hour winds, it’s hard to get off the tee, (let alone) throw a football. We saw this coming, so we had a plan. … There were times I was concerned about the snap coming back.”
Ohio State was held to a season low 283 yards, but beat Northwestern for the 34th time in the last 35 meetings. The Buckeyes have won 10 games in a row in the series.
Ohio State needs to establish its physical game
Prior to facing Michigan, the Buckeyes have games against Indiana and Maryland. Ohio State will be heavily favored in both games, and it seems certain that Stroud will get back in form if the weather cooperates.
However, Ohio State wants to demonstrate its prominence running the ball, and not wait until the late stages of the first half for that to happen. The Buckeyes would like to have established that aspect of their game when they host the Wolverines in the final game of the regular season since that’s the Michigan signature.
Michigan’s tough running in 2021 was the key to the 42-27 victory over the Buckeyes last year. That was the Wolverines first victory in the series since 2011, and the Buckeyes don’t want their archrivals to establish a winning streak.