Northwestern ends 33-year losing streak vs. Ohio State
Oct. 3, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports
EVANSTON, Ill. -- The Northwestern players piled on top of each other in the corner of the end zone while students rushed the field, turning it into a purple mosh pit.
They partied into the night long after Noah Herron's 1-yard touchdown run gave Northwestern a 33-27 upset of No. 7 Ohio State on Saturday night, not even caring when the north goal post held firm. This party was 33 years in the making, and they weren't about to go home early.
"It's hard to put into words," said safety Jeff Backes, an Ohio native. "I came here with a dream to beat the Buckeyes and it's been 33 years. This is one I will never forget."
Herron scored three touchdowns, including the winner in overtime, and Northwestern (2-3, 1-1 Big Ten) backed up its pregame trash talk with its first victory over Ohio State (3-1, 0-1) since 1971. The win snapped the Buckeyes' 24-game winning streak in the series, and handed them their first loss in Evanston since 1958.
"Thirty-three years was long enough," said Northwestern coach Randy Walker, an Ohio native.
It also was Northwestern's first victory over a top-10 team since beating then-No. 7 Wisconsin in double overtime in Madison on Sept. 23, 2000.
Ohio State has made it a habit of pulling out the close wins, winning 13 of its last 15 games that were decided by seven points or less. The Buckeyes beat Marshall earlier this season on Mike Nugent's field goal as time expired, and Nugent tied a school record with five field goals to beat North Carolina State two weeks ago.
It looked as if the Buckeyes' luck might hold again Saturday after they rallied to score 10 points in the final nine minutes and force overtime. But the normally automatic Nugent misfired, with his 40-yard field-goal attempt sailing wide right on the first overtime possession.
"It was probably one of the best balls I hit tonight," Nugent said. "I thought it was going to be dead-center."
Instead, the Wildcats got a second chance to put the Buckeyes away and they made the most of it. On the second play, quarterback Brett Basanez scrambled to the left and up the sideline for a 21-yard gain. Two plays later, Herron bulldozed his way into the end zone for the winning score, setting off pandemonium at the stadium.
"I wouldn't have requested to be at the end of (the streak)," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "But we are. Unfortunately, that's the case. We have to start trying to get better, starting tomorrow."
Herron ran for 113 yards, rushed for two 1-yard scores and also caught a 12-yard TD pass. Mark Philmore had 134 yards receiving and a touchdown, the first of his career. Brett Basanez was 24-of-44 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Ohio State's offense had another shaky night, not finding its groove until the fourth quarter. Justin Zwick was 18-of-38 for 211 yards, but 90 yards came in the final period. Santonio Holmes had 99 yards receiving and a score.
But the Buckeyes had just 97 yards rushing. Lydell Ross had 31 yards on 11 carries.
Northwestern defensive tackle Luis Castillo had set bulletin boards aflame all over Columbus earlier in the week when he said Ohio State had a "mediocre" offense. And Philmore -- an Ohio native -- said the Buckeyes were "kids just like you out there."
The Wildcats showed they can do more than yap, though, controlling the game almost the entire night. They outgained the Buckeyes 444-308, and the defense came up with big plays time and again in the final quarter.
"It sure didn't hurt," Castillo said of his boast. "(Winning) was the greatest feeling in the world."
But there's a reason the Buckeyes are one of the country's top teams. They rallied in the fourth quarter, with Zwick moving them to the Northwestern 4 on their first drive. On third-and-goal, though, Nick Roach and John Pickens swarmed Zwick, taking him down for a 7-yard loss and forcing Ohio State to settle for Nugent's 29-yard field goal. The Buckeyes' defense gave Zwick another chance when linebacker Bobby Carpenter picked off Basanez's pass at the Northwestern 28 and returned it 6 yards.
Zwick connected with Bam Childress on a 15-yard pass, putting Ohio State at the Northwestern 4. But Antonio Pittman was stopped for a 3-yard loss, and Pickens chased Zwick deep into the backfield, sacking him for a 13-yard loss on second down.
Jeff Backes then picked off what would have been the game-tying pass, intercepting Zwick in the end zone.
But the Buckeyes finally got it right on their third try. Moving 69 yards in just five plays and 90 seconds, Zwick rushed for 18 yards, then had completions of 11 yards and 19 yards before finding Holmes deep in the end zone for the 21-yard score to force overtime.
"I thought we had it," offensive tackle Rob Sims said. "Around here we just feel when it's close like that, we feel like we can pull it out. I guess today we were wrong."
The Associated Press News Service
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