David Boston had a record-setting day with two touchdown catches, Joe Germaine threw for another 300 yards and the Ohio State defense stopped Northwestern's running game cold.
"Maybe we didn't play the best ballgame we've ever played, but I didn't think we played a bad ballgame," coach John Cooper said after Ohio State's 36-10 victory Saturday over Northwestern.
"I've been in it long enough that I appreciate a victory. It may be ugly, it may not be as one-sided as some people would have liked for it to have been, but I'll take it any day of the week."
Boston broke Cris Carter's school record with his 27th and 28th career touchdowns, and Germaine threw for 342 yards and three TDs, extending his school record streak of 300-yard games to five. Backup tailback Joe Montgomery, who grew up in suburban Chicago, rushed for 100 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries.
The Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) continued their defensive domination, holding Northwestern (2-6, 0-5) to just 48 yards rushing and 11 first downs. Ohio State has held its last four opponents to 80 or fewer rushing yards.
Na'il Diggs had 11 tackles and Andy Katzenmoyer seven, including a bone-crunching takedown of Brian Marshall for a 7-yard loss.
Ohio State has won its last 21 games against Northwestern, with its last loss in Evanston coming in 1958.
"I don't vote," Northwestern coach Gary Barnett said, when asked if OhiState should be No. 1. "They were the best team out there today, I know that."
Ohio State is still nursing a grudge for what it feels was excessive celebration over the Buckeyes' 1995 loss to Michigan, even if it did send Northwestern to the Rose Bowl. It was a dirty game, with plenty of trash-talking, pushing and shoving, and the teams combined for 152 yards in penalties.
"A lot of guys had a lot of extra motivation," Montgomery said. "A couple of years ago, when those guys were laughing at us when we didn't go to the Rose Bowl, a few of the guys felt offended."
Maybe the grudge is settled now. The Buckeyes disrupted Northwestern's offense, holding the Wildcats to 238 yards. Northwestern got into Ohio State territory just once in the third quarter.
Gavin Hoffman was 15-of-39 for 173 yards and was intercepted twice. D'Wayne Bates was the lone bright spot on offense, catching seven passes for 95 yards and Northwestern's only touchdown.
Bates' 60-yard catch was the longest play from scrimmage against the Buckeyes this year, and the first touchdown given up by Ohio State in the first quarter. It was one of the few things Northwestern fans, looking like visitors in a sea of Ohio State red, had to cheer all day.
"There's nothing we can say," Bates said. "We didn't perform the way we should have, we didn't execute our game plan and it cost us."
Ohio State's offense had its shaky moments, too. After taking a 17-7 lead into the second quarter, Germaine seemed rattled by Northwestern's pesky defense. He repeatedly overthrew his receivers and completed just three of eight passes in the period.
Ohio State punted on it's first three possessions, and turned the ball over on downs on its fourth. Northwestern, meanwhile, cut the lead to 17-10 on Brian Gowins' 39-yard field goal.
"We didn't move the ball as well as we wanted to, and we definitely had to pick it up in the second half," Germaine said. "Northwestern did a great job. They did the job for the most part."
Clinton Wayne's interception set up the key score. Germaine rolled out and ran left, spotting tight end John Lumpkin near the end zone. He threw up a 35-yard jump ball and Lumpkin hauled it down with Northwestern cornerback Josh Barnes falling at his feet.
But Lumpkin Drew a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when he taunted Barnes. Backed up 15 yards, Dan Stultz missed the extra point and Ohio State settled for the 23-10 lead with 1:46 left in the half.
"It was very big," Germaine said of the score. "That's something that gave us momentum and kind of got the ball rolling a little bit."
The second half belonged to Boston. With 2:31 left in the third quarter, he tied Carter's record on a 38-yard score. As Northwestern cornerback Gerald Conoway turned around to look for the ball, Boston scooted by him on the right and caught the ball as he crossed the goal line.
The 2-point conversio attempt failed, giving Ohio State a 29-10 lead.
Boston scored again on a 31-yard pass with 8:11 left in the game for the final margin.
"It's a great feeling," Boston said. "Cris Carter is a great athlete and a great player who's made plays all his life. It feels good to be associated with him."
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