Defeated by a special team (Football)

be Rakov

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After two weeks of sputtering, Northwestern’s offense broke down.

The Wildcats scored on the opening drive of the game, but the Buckeyes defense held NU (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) scoreless the rest of the way.

NU not only had to go against the No. 5 defense in the country, but it faced an Ohio State team seeking redemption after NU’s improbable 33-27 overtime win against Ohio State last year.

“We had the score posted all over the locker room,” Ohio State senior offensive lineman Rob Sims. “We saw it everywhere we went. It was definitely on our minds.”

While NU’s offense was on hold, No. 9 Ohio State (8-2, 6-1) took the opportunity to rack up 422 yards on the way to a 48-7 drubbing of then-No. 25 NU.

“We came out and played horrible against a really good team,” senior quarterback Brett Basanez said. “We didn’t capitalize when we needed points, and it got out of hand.”

The overmatched Cats didn’t help their defensive cause by giving the Buckeyes a short field, as they started seven drives at their own 40-yard line or better.

Ohio State scored all five times it started in NU territory.

“If they were hitting one pass play, getting in field-goal range and kicking a field goal, then I’d say, ‘Hey, we were in bad field position,'” senior defensive lineman Barry Cofield said. “It doesn’t matter where you start it off at. If you don’t get off the field on third down, you got no chance.”

With Ohio State up 14-7 at the beginning of the second quarter, Ohio State senior linebacker A.J. Hawk returned a blocked punt for a touchdown eliminating any chance of a comeback.

As NU’s special teams continued to struggle, the offense couldn’t consistently mount a drive. After a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive to open the game, NU managed 171 yards the rest of the game.

It was the Cats’ lowest scoring output since being shutout 20-0 at Ohio State in 2003. This was the first game this season NU was held to below 400 yards of offense, as it managed just 251.

Basanez was 15 for 31 for a season-low 121 yards with one touchdown.

“You couple being a little bit out of rhythm with just great defensive team speed, they’re going to make it difficult on offense,” NU coach Randy Walker said. “And they closed us down after that first drive.”

Freshman running back Tyrell Sutton got out of his recent slump, as he ran 14 times for 93 yards in the return to his home state.

But Sutton fumbled for the third time in four games when he lost the ball early in the third quarter, setting up an Ohio State field goal that put the Buckeyes up 31-7.

“They swarmed to the ball, they slanted, they twisted, they stunted, they did everything possible to get us out of our game,” Sutton said.

Through seven games this season, NU averaged more than 37 points per game. But the Cats have managed just 17.3 points per game the last three contests.

“We like the calls we’re making, we feel good, we’re just a play away here or there,” Walker said. “People who don’t execute, people that aren’t consistent, that’s what they say. You’re a play away here or there.”

Coupled with Ohio State’s excellent field position throughout the game, NU’s defense was unable to contain Ohio State’s offensive arsenal. The Cats gave up more than 400 yards for the ninth time this year.

Ohio State junior quarterback Troy Smith only threw 12 times, completing seven passes for 77 yards. He also carried the ball 11 times for 75 yards.

“He drops back to pass and you have to chase him all over the field,” Cofield said. “That can wear you down mentally and physically.”

With the loss, the Cats fell to 56-14-1 all-time against the Buckeyes and continued the trend of Ohio State blowouts following NU wins in this series.

Since 1943, the Cats have been outscored 150-59 by the Buckeyes in games played the year after an NU win.

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