EVANSTON, Ill. — Ohio State had its hands full with Northwestern. The Buckeyes did enough to win.
The Buckeyes ran the nation’s longest win streak to 18 games, rallying from 10 down in the second half for a 40-30 victory over Northwestern at a wet and loud Ryan Field on Saturday.
Whether they helped their national standing is another issue, and that was one receiver Corey Brown really didn’t want to address afterward.
“We’re not worried about any of the media stuff,” he said. “We’re just going to play for ourselves and keep winning and do what we do.”
The Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0) are unbeaten since Urban Meyer took over as coach last season. They won all 12 games a year ago but were banned from a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions.
Now, they’re eyeing a championship. The problem is that their out-of-conference schedule lacks a marquee opponent, and it’s not easy to turn heads playing in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes cleared two of their biggest hurdles by beating Wisconsin and Northwestern the past two weeks and have home games against Iowa and Penn State coming next. They don’t play another team currently ranked until the regular-season finale against Michigan.
The Big Ten championship comes a week later, and they could go into the bowl season unbeaten.
“You’d sit next to a guy who’s throwing a no-hitter and say, ‘Hey, dude, you’ve got a no-hitter going,’” Meyer said. “No, I’m not even thinking about that. We’re just going to get ready for the stretch run.”
The Buckeyes certainly looked like a team that could use some fine-tuning on Saturday, and they might have fallen if not for Carlos Hyde.
All he did was run for a career-high 168 yards and three second-half touchdowns to lift Ohio State on a rainy night with a primetime audience watching.
Northwestern, a team trying to show it can beat the Big Ten’s best, looked like it just might do that with a 23-13 lead in the third quarter.
Hyde, who was suspended the first three games for an alleged conflict with a woman in a bar this summer, made sure it didn’t happen.
He scored on a 4-yard run late in the third and added two more touchdowns in the fourth to put Ohio State up by four. When Kain Colter got stopped on a fourth-and-1 at the Buckeyes’ 34 after recovering his own fumble in the closing minutes, that ended a scoring threat for Northwestern. And the game ended with Joey Bosa recovering a fumble in the end zone after the Wildcats lateralled.
So it was enough for the Buckeyes. They’ll need more.
They wasted two big opportunities in the first half, settling for field goals after driving inside the 10. There was also a fake punt that resulted in a 2-yard loss, giving Northwestern possession on the Buckeyes’ 30, and led to a field goal late in the second quarter.
And there was Miller, not quite playing to the level he did a week earlier. He threw for 203 yards but also had an interception and two fumbles after matching a career-high with four touchdown passes against Wisconsin.
On the plus side for the Buckeyes, Hyde came through in a big way with Jordan Hall nursing a knee injury. Corey Brown added 127 yards receiving, and the Buckeyes pulled one out when things were going wrong.
They showed a gutsy side, rallying down the stretch, after they hadn’t trailed all season.
“Right now we just refuse to lose. It’s a good thing. I like how this team handles adversity,” Brown said.