Columbus, Ohio — With five minutes left in the game and Ohio State clinging to a six-point lead, J.K. Dobbins burst through a hole between center and right guard and rumbled untouched 42 yards for a touchdown and some breathing room.
The breakaway by the Buckeyes’ tailback was hugely satisfying for coach Urban Meyer, considering the running game has been absent for the past month, most notably in the inexplicable upset loss to Purdue two weeks ago. He harped on it with his team in the days afterward.
Dobbins ran for a season-high 163 yards and two more touchdowns as No. 8 Ohio State rallied in the second half and then weathered a late Nebraska score to win 36-31 on Saturday.
“It was great to get back to our old ways,” Dobbins said. “We knew what we could do.”
It wasn’t only Ohio State’s running game that showed up again. Its depleted and much-maligned defense — missing three starters in the secondary and prone to giving up big plays — staged a second-half stand.
Down 21-16 at half after the Huskers (2-7, 1-5 Big Ten) turned two Ohio State fumbles into touchdown drives, the Buckeyes (8-1, 5-1, No. 10 CFP) rallied in the second half. They forced five straight punts and held Nebraska to a field-goal when a drive stalled at the 1.
“We had every chance to in the world to win that game,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said.
After the field goal, Dobbins broke off his run to cap the next series. Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to JD Spielman to pull the Cornhuskers within five with 3 minutes left, but Dobbins pounded away for two first downs to run out the clock.
“The biggest thing is to get that darned bad taste out of your mouth from two weeks ago and win the game,” Meyer said. “It was a close game against a team that was hitting its stride now.”
More Big Ten
No. 3 Notre Dame 31, (at) Northwestern 21: Ian Book threw for two touchdown passes and ran 23 yards for a score in the closing minutes to lead Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish (9-0, No. 4 CFP) remained in line for a playoff spot and continued to build on their best start since the 2012 team went undefeated before losing to Alabama in the BCS championship game. The Wildcats (5-4) had won four in a row to grab the Big Ten West lead and they stayed in this one when it looked like Notre Dame was ready to pull away.
Book threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Miles Boykin in the corner of the end zone and a 47-yarder to Michael Young in the third to give the Irish a 21-7 lead. He sealed it in the closing minutes when he turned up the left side for that 23-yard run.
But things sure got close prior to that run.
It was 24-7 early in the fourth when Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson threw a 27-yard touchdown to Riley Lees. Cameron Ruiz then blocked a punt by Tyler Newsome, giving the Wildcats possession on the Notre Dame 17. That led to a 1-yard sneak by Thorson, cutting it to 24-21 with 7:05 left.
Book improved to 6-0 as the starter, going 22 of 34 for 343 yards. Chase Claypool had eight receptions for 130 yards, and Dexter Williams ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
(At) Purdue 38, No. 19 Iowa 36: Spencer Evans made a 25-yard field goal with 8 seconds left, putting Purdue back in the Big Ten’s West Division title hunt.
David Blough threw three touchdown passes to Terry Wright and topped the 300-yard mark for the fifth time this season.
The Boilermakers (5-4, 4-2 Big Ten) have won five of their last six and beat their third ranked team this season — the first time they’ve achieved that feat since 2003 — to move within one game of division leader Northwestern.
The Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-3) lost their second straight road game despite Nate Stanley’s big day. The junior quarterback threw for 275 yards with one touchdown and ran for another but the conference’s No. 2 scoring defense allowed a season-high point total.
(At) Illinois 55, Minnesota 31: Reggie Corbin rushed for 213 yards and two touchdowns — both coming on runs of more than 70 yards — to become the first Illini player to rush for two 70-yard-plus touchdowns in a single game since 1944.
Minnesota (4-5, 1-5) had trouble all game stopping the run, giving up 430 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
The 55 points were the most points for Illinois (4-5, 2-4) since Lovie Smith took over as head coach before the 2016 season.
Illinois’ first two possessions resulted in two 72-yard touchdown runs — one by Corbin and the other by Dre Brown. Both came on second-and-long and both backs were untouched once they cleared the line of scrimmage. Corbin later ripped off a 77-yard scoring run.
Tanner Morgan, starting at quarterback for the second straight game for injured starter Zack Annexstad, was 14 of 27 for 258 yards and two touchdowns for Minnesota.
(At) Wisconsin 31, Rutgers 17: Jonathan Taylor rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns, and Wisconsin played smash-mouth football in the second half to run away from Rutgers.
Ryan Connelly led a strong effort from the front seven with eight tackles, while D’Cota Dixon blocked a field-goal attempt for the Badgers (6-3, 4-2).
Starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook left the game at halftime because of a head injury, a week after missing a loss at Northwestern while in the concussion protocol.
The Badgers had 13 plays, all runs, for 163 yards in the third quarter to turn a 10-0 halftime lead into a comfortable 24-3 advantage. Taylor, who had 27 carries on the day, scored on runs from 38 and 18 yards in the third.
Running back Raheem Blackshear had eight catches for 162 yards and a touchdown to lead Rutgers (1-8, 0-6), the only team still winless in Big Ten play.