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No. 6 Ohio State holds on against Northwestern

Mitch Stacy
Associated Press

Columbus, Ohio — The problems that have bogged down Ohio State’s offense put the Buckeyes in a bind again. J.T. Barrett and Ohio State did enough in the fourth quarter against Northwestern to avoid a second consecutive upset loss.

Curtis Samuel ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 9:43 left to give No. 6 Ohio State a lead, and Barrett converted two third downs on the game-sealing drive in a 24-20 victory Saturday.

After the Buckeyes were upset by Penn State last week, their offense struggled against another multi-touchdown underdog. Ohio State (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) punted on five straight drives in one stretch, but responded to Northwestern, tying it at 17 with a touchdown drive capped by Samuel’s run.

Northwestern (4-4, 3-2) then got to the Ohio State 3, but settled for a 33-yard Jack Mitchell field goal to close to 24-20 with 3:31 left. The Buckeyes mounted a final clock-eating drive. Barrett hit Noah Brown for 16 yards on third-and-8 and then took off on a 35-yard run to convert a third-and-10 and put the Buckeyes in the clear.

“It was a pretty good chess match back and forth, and I just loved the way we finished it off,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said.

Barrett, who has struggled finding open receivers and whose offensive line had difficulty protecting him last week, was 21 for 32 for 223 yards, but he didn’t complete a pass over 19 yards until the fourth quarter when K.J. Hill turned a sideline completion into a 34-yard gain.

“I’m comfortable where we’re at,” Barrett said. “I know there’s things we can absolutely be better at as far as our offense. We’re executing.”

Mike Weber rushed 14 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns, the first coming on Ohio State’s opening drive. He found the end zone again in the second quarter, chugging around the right end for a 23-yard score.

Samuel ran the ball seven times and caught seven passes for 99 total yards.

Clayton Thorson was 25 for 42 for 256 yards with a touchdown and a first-quarter interception for Northwestern. Austin Carr, the Big Ten’s leading receiver, caught eight passes for 158 yards.

“It obviously didn’t start the way we wanted it to, spotting them a couple scores, but the guys didn’t flinch and kept swinging,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “And, you know, we ended up one punch short.”