Ohio State game ‘Classic’

Tania Ganguli

Missed Northwestern’s 33-27 victory over Ohio State? ESPN Classic is bringing it back.

The game was named an ESPN Instant Classic and will re-air Friday at 7 p.m. on ESPN Classic.

Apparently America likes watching the Buckeyes and Wildcats in Evanston. This year’s contest was the most watched college football telecast ever on ESPN2 with an average of 2,028,000 million homes tuning in.

That total makes it the fifth most-watched program on the network, behind four Major League Baseball playoff games last year.

The last time Ohio State came to Evanston, the game was also televised on ESPN2 and was then the highest-rated college football game.

Saturday’s contest will be the fourth NU game that has earned Instant Classic status. Two games from the 2000 season, the Cats’ 54-51 overtime victory over Michigan and their 41-35 win over Minnesota, also were Instant Classics.

The other Instant Classic was NU’s 2001 27-26 victory over Michigan State.

“It’s a nice tribute, I’m talking a lot to (the team) about letting go and moving forward,” NU coach Randy Walker said. “I was up at 5:30 Sunday morning thinking about Indiana.”

o-line improvement

Seeing the quarterback he protects get knocked on his back isn’t something any offensive lineman likes to see.

A week ago right guard Trai Essex said he was seeing too much of that. The senior said the line wasn’t living up to its potential.

But after the Ohio State game, running back Noah Herron and quarterback Brett Basanez praised the line’s performance.

Still, Essex wasn’t satisfied.

“I guess I’m a perfectionist, the whole offensive line (guys) are perfectionists,” Essex said. “We want to get used to rushing 200 yards a game at least. We want Noah and Terrell to get into the end zone more.”

This weekend the Cats prevented Ohio State’s vaunted defense from ever sacking Basanez.

After Basanez injured his right shoulder against Minnesota, they decided it was time to step up their game and keep him on his feet.

“We had a little extra motivation because Baz got dinged a little bit, and we said we’re not going to get him touched,” Essex said.

But they knew they wouldn’t be able to keep him safe on their own.

“We told him to get his butt down if he decided to run,” Essex said.

no room for error

Strength of schedule might not matter as far as the BCS is concerned, but as of this weekend’s games, NU has the seventh most difficult schedule in Division I.

The Cats play a tougher schedule than any of their Big Ten foes. Iowa and Illinois are close behind NU at No. 8 and No. 10. The next Big Ten team on the list is Ohio State at No. 28.

NU’s next opponent, Indiana, plays a schedule ranked 57th in Division I.

Cats players said they liked their schedule and welcomed the challenge before the tough Big Ten schedule began, and Walker felt that playing difficult games were important.

He attributed at least some aspects of Saturday’s game to the fact that the Cats had played such a strong schedule.

“You get used to playing in tough games,” Walker said. “We had been into overtime before.

“We had been in some knock-down-drag outs, and when you get down to it we were in a knock-down-drag out Saturday, and we were ready for it.”

Reach Tania Ganguli at [email protected]