Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

Hyde4NWOhio State engineered a second half comeback behind the relentless running of Carlos Hyde to edge an inspired Northwestern team and notch their 18th straight victory under Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes trailed for the first time all season, and faced a 23-13 deficit late in the 3rd quarter before the defense stiffened, and Hyde took over the offensive load, rushing for 112 of his career high 168 yards in the second half.

After leading 3-0 and 10-7 early in the game, Ohio State would trail for most of the middle two quarters, getting outplayed by the Wildcats, and hurting themselves with turnovers and other mistakes. Northwestern looked like a team that had two weeks to prepare for this important matchup, while the Buckeyes were struggling to find a rhythm on offense, and a clue about how to stop the Wildcats passing attack.



Braxton1 NWBraxton Miller (15-26, 203 yds, 1 INT) fumbled the ball away twice, and missed a wide open receiver in the end zone, and the Buckeyes also failed to convert on a fake punt deep in their own end. The Wildcats, meanwhile, had their diversified offense humming with option runs and a quick hitting passing game. To say the OSU pass defense looked confused and ill-prepared would be too kind. For more than two and a half quarters, the better team was wearing the black jerseys.

In the end though, the Wildcats would have no answer for Hyde, who averaged 6.5 yards per carry as he powered his way over, around and through the NU defense. The senior from Naples, FL scored three times, on second half runs of 4, 2 and 7 yards, though he was clearly struggling with his conditioning at times in the fast-paced OSU offense on a muggy night in Chicago.


Hanging In

Fitz2 OSU2013A blocked punt and a recovery for a touchdown by cornerback Bradley Roby accounted for the only OSU TD of the first half, and with all the miscues by the visitors, they seemed fortunate to go into halftime down by just seven points at 20-13. It looked like more of the same when the Wildcats took the second half kickoff and quickly drove to a first down at the OSU 10-yard line. But that’s where the OSU defense began to rise to the occasion, and the Buckeyes comeback got underway.

The ’Cats were held to a field goal after a sack set them back, and the Buckeyes mounted a drive inside the Northwestern 5, only to turn it over on Miller’s second fumble of the night. But the OSU defense rose up to force a 3-and-out, and the Buckeyes got a short field to work with after a penalty on the punt. Hyde rushed for 22 of the 36 yards on the TD drive, going in from four yards out to bring the Buckeyes within three at 23-20.

After an exchange of punts, the Buckeyes got the big defensive play they needed, when cornerback Doran Grant picked off Wildcat quarterback Trevor Siemian, and gave OSU the ball  at the Northwestern 16. Hyde got the go-ahead score when a review determined that he had broken the plane of the goal line on a dive from the 2-yard line.


Back and Forth

Hyde NW2The lead would change hands three times in the 4th quarter as the Wildcats came right back with a quick strike of their own, Receiver Rashad Lawrence got away from Roby on a slant pattern, and dashed 67 yards to set up a Northwestern score, as they grabbed the lead back at 30-27. For the Buckeyes, it was time to go back to the Carlos Hyde Show.

Hyde had three rushes and two pass receptions on the 8-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that put the Buckeyes back in front to stay. He scored off the left side from seven yards out with just over five minutes to play, but it took one last stand by the OSU defense to put this one in the win column.

Down 34-30, the Cats got a good kickoff return to their 41, and three plays later, had the ball at the Ohio State 38. But the drive stalled as the OSU rush defense stuffed two attempts by Venric Mark, and a fumbled snap foiled a 4th-and-1 try at the OSU 34-yard line. The ball, and the game, belonged to Ohio State, and a fumble recovery touchdown on the game’s final play was meaningful only to the gamblers, as it ended 40-30, a rather bizarre backdoor cover for OSU, a 7-point favorite coming in.


Backfield Blues

A bye week is next for the Buckeyes, and it couldn’t come at a better time for Meyer, who must somehow shore up a pass defense that has been scorched three times now, and has looked bad doing it. They gave up 343 yards through the air to Northwestern, and there’s no sugar-coating the fact that the defensive backfield is a hot mess right now. It is complicated by the loss of Christian Bryant to injury, and made worse by the sub-par play of Roby in his last several games. The only glue in that group at the moment seems to be coming from senior safety C. J. Barnett, who played a solid game Saturday, leading the team with 11 tackles.

From my amateur vantage point, it seems to be more a failure of scheme...though certainly also one of tackling technique...than it is one of talent on hand.  In any case, the schedule provides something of a break, with Iowa and Penn State visiting the Horseshoe for the next two contests before they go on the road to Illinois and Purdue. On the plus side, the Buckeyes defensive line is coming into its own, and once again deserves a large share of the credit for the comeback win in Evanston. The defense registered five sacks, and held a good rushing team to just 94 yards on the ground, giving up no rush longer than eight yards.


Box Score and Complete Statistics (pdf)


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