Football: Haskins dominates depleted Northwestern secondary, shatters records in Ohio State win


Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Dwayne Haskins fires a pass. The Ohio State quarterback decimated Northwestern’s defense on Saturday.

Ella Brockway, Reporter


INDIANAPOLIS — In order to beat No. 6 Ohio State and claim its first Big Ten title in 18 years, Northwestern needed to play a nearly perfect game.

Someone played a nearly perfect game Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. But it wasn’t the Wildcats.

It was Dwayne Haskins. The Buckeyes quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate threw for 499 yards and five touchdowns against No. 21 NU (8-5, 8-1 Big Ten), powering Ohio State (12-1, 8-1) to a 45-24 win and its second straight conference crown. The sophomore set Big Ten Championship Game records for completions, total yards and touchdowns en route to being named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

“We had a really good plan to make (Haskins) have to move. We just weren’t able to make that next play to get us over the hump to make it a tie game,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “He’s a guy that I would vote for the Heisman, and obviously he played outstanding today.”

Haskins’ 499 yards were the most an NU team has ever allowed an opposing quarterback. Of his 34 completions, 24 were for 10 or more yards; on third downs, he went 10-for-18, throwing completions to earn a first down on nine of the successful situations and running for seven yards on the tenth.

The signal-caller also benefited from NU’s once-again depleted secondary. Cornerback Montre Hartage, who had missed the last two games for the Cats, started the game, but he and other starter Cameron Ruiz left in the second half with injuries. Safety Jared McGee and cornerback Greg Newsome saw time on the field, but both sporadically.

“I’m never going to make excuses. We’ve gone all year with guys having to step up, and I thought guys did,” Fitzgerald said. “Do we have to coach them better, and will they play better? Yes, absolutely. … I’m thankful for the fight and their battle today.”

There were moments when it seemed like NU’s defense might have figured out how to stop — at the very least, contain — Haskins. As the Cats’ offense found a rhythm and cut the Buckeyes’ lead to one score in the third quarter, Haskins was sacked three times.

The first came from defensive ends Joe Gaziano and Earnest Brown on third down on Ohio State’s opening drive of the second half, while the next two came later in the third by defensive tackle Jordan Thompson and then by fellow tackle Alex Miller. But Haskins responded in the fourth quarter, throwing nine completions for 155 yards and two touchdowns to again enlarge Ohio State’s lead.

“Our plan could have been executed a little better, to be honest,” Gaziano said. “We did make him have to move his feet, but credit to him, he still made throws when he had to move his feet. It was just a matter of getting more pressure and containing a little better.”

Despite the final score, there were some positive that came out of Saturday’s loss, Gaziano said. The three sacks tied for the most the Buckeyes have allowed this season, and especially early in the game, the defensive line put a solid amount of pressure on Haskins. The lessons learned, and the plays that the Cats wished they could have back, will be especially valuable heading into the bowl game to close the 2018 campaign, Brown said.

“We know that (Ohio State is) probably going to be a top-four team,” the sophomore said. “We just know we’ve got to let the dog out, cause nobody can beat us when we all play Wildcat football.”

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