The Northwestern Wildcats made a strong bid for an upset victory in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday afternoon, but the Ohio State Buckeyes used a strong second half from Justin Fields and Trey Sermon to win a 22-10 contest, likely punching their tickets to the College Football Playoff.
Sermon set a new Ohio State record for rushing yards in a game, besting Eddie George's record with 331 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Northwestern led 10-6 at halftime, but the Buckeyes responded with a massive second half, blowing past the Wildcats and securing an undefeated season in the process.
The Wildcats got on the board early in the contest, putting together a seven-play, 75 yard drive to give themselves a 7-3 lead. Cam Porter reeled off a nine-yard touchdown run to cap off the drive. Giving the Wildcats the advantage.
After a clock-melting 14-play drive, the Wildcats ultimately had to settle for a field goal with 8:46 left I the first half, giving themselves a 10-3 lead. The Buckeyes did answer back with a field goal of their own however, making it a 10-6 game.
The half ended with an electrifying play, as Brandon Joseph went up and grabbed a one-handed interception to deny Justin Fields and the Buckeyes a score just before the half. Northwestern took a knee, heading to the locker room with a 10-6 advantage after the first half.
After seeing limited success in the first half on offense, the Wildcats’ offense sputtered to a complete halt in the second half, as turnovers and ineffective play were the dominant storylines in the second 30 minutes of the contest.
Ramsey was intercepted in the end zone early in the third quarter, then the Wildcats were forced to punt after a three-and-out on their next possession. After a missed field goal with five minutes to go in the third quarter, the Buckeyes responded with a quick seven-play, 71 yard drive, with Trey Sermon scampering in for a nine-yard touchdown with 2:41 remaining in the third to give Ohio State a 13-10 lead.
After that touchdown, Northwestern’s offense continued to sputter, as Ramsey threw another interception and then lost a fumble near midfield, giving the Buckeyes the ball back early in the fourth quarter.
Sermon continued to bulldoze his way over the Wildcats in the fourth quarter, reeling off multiple long runs on a drive that ate up a bunch of clock in the middle stages of the fourth quarter. The back racked up a remarkable 64 yards on an 80-yard drive, punching in a three-yard run to put Ohio State ahead 22-10 with just four minutes remaining in the game.
After Northwestern turned the ball over on downs, the Buckeyes were able to run the clock down, using Sermon's running ability to push into the red zone before taking a knee and ending the contest.
Northwestern finishes the season with a 6-2 record, while the Buckeyes captured their fourth straight Big Ten championship. They'll likely be heading to the College Football Playoff, but they'll learn their fate on Sunday when the committee announces the four teams that will compete for the title.