Football: Ohio State, Northwestern talent gap shows in ugly loss

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Football: Ohio State, Northwestern talent gap shows in ugly loss

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields sprints forward. The sophomore powered the Buckeyes to a blowout win over Northwestern on Friday.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields sprints forward. The sophomore powered the Buckeyes to a blowout win over Northwestern on Friday.

Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields sprints forward. The sophomore powered the Buckeyes to a blowout win over Northwestern on Friday.

Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields sprints forward. The sophomore powered the Buckeyes to a blowout win over Northwestern on Friday.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

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They congregated on the south side of Ryan Field before the game to get a close look at some future stars. Multiple NFL general managers and dozens of scouts arrived well before kickoff and scribbled in their notebooks.

They weren’t there to see Northwestern.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald understands why, as he recognized the NFL talent on the other side of the field. Quarterback Justin Fields is a future first round pick, running back J.K. Dobbins is an All American candidate and defensive end Chase Young is on the Bosa-route to a top-five selection in this year’s draft.

Ohio State isn’t just the best team in the country, according to Fitzgerald. They’re the best built team. So it wasn’t even close Friday night at Ryan Field, and the Wildcats (1-6, 0-4 Big Ten) were outmatched by the No. 4 Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0) in a 52-3 loss.

“We can start to wear on you a little bit,” Day said in one of the biggest understatements of the season.

Take Justin Fields, who was interested in NU before he turned into a five-star high school prospect. After transferring from Georgia to Ohio State last spring, Fields is becoming the next great Buckeye quarterback. Fitzgerald said the Cats couldn’t sign him after he got “too many stars,” but Ohio State could.

The rich get even richer.

Fields’ performance Friday matched those high expectations. On the first series of the game, Fields dropped back and was hit as he threw off his back foot. He still found receiver Chris Olave open in the endzone, having shaken safety Travis Whillock with a sharp, precise cut.

That was the start of the Buckeyes’ “onslaught,” as Fields threw for four touchdowns in three quarters and Dobbins added 121 rushing yards. Fitzgerald said Ohio State didn’t surprise him with anything they did –– they just executed that much better than NU.

“They didn’t do anything different than we expected to see,” Fitzgerald said. “The plays they made were the plays we expected to see, and that’s what makes you really, really mad. Doesn’t it, when you’re calling plays from the (sideline) and they run it and you don’t stop it? That ticks you off.”

The Buckeyes were just as effective defensively, limiting junior quarterback Aidan Smith to 42 passing yards and a 30 percent completion rate. Smith only had one sack and one pick in his second career start, but he didn’t complete a pass longer than ten yards. Ohio State rarely missed a tackle.

Fitzgerald said he sees four players on the Buckeyes’ secondary being taken in the first two days of the draft this spring. NU hasn’t had a player taken in the first three rounds since Luis Castillo’s first round selection in 2005.

The Cats were competitive with this same program for three quarters in the Big Ten Championship game last season. The change in leadership from Clayton Thorson and a talented senior class was cited as the biggest reason for the growing discrepancy between the two programs.

Unlike the game in December, Ohio State got what they wanted on both sides of the ball and handed NU its biggest loss since 2007.

“They executed really well,” junior linebacker Paddy Fisher said. “That’s what a top-3 team in the nation looks like.”

Email: charliegoldsmith2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @2021_Charlie

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