Confetti rained from the roof. The Ohio State Buckeyes crowded onto a stage as coach Urban Meyer accepted the Big Ten Championship trophy and quarterback Dwayne Haskins lifted the Grange-Griffin MVP award.
It was a familiar scene for Ohio State on Saturday after a 45-24 victory against Northwestern because the Buckeyes experienced the same joy at Lucas Oil Stadium a year earlier when they beat Wisconsin 27-21 in the Big Ten final. Of course, there was little about the 2018 season — other than the one glaring blowout defeat on the resume and the annual victory over Michigan — that compared to the 2017 season.
Ohio State won this championship in a season marred by off-field drama involving coach Urban Meyer, and the players felt the relief of finding success amid all the distractions.
“The amount of work we put in, the amount of adversity we had to face this season, it’s a blessing,” said redshirt junior defensive tackle Robert Landers, a Wayne High School graduate. “Everything we’ve been through this season, God picked us to go through that. It built us up for this moment. Everything we had to overcome, everything we had to achieve, it wasn’t easy.”
Big game: Ohio State senior wide receiver Terry McLaurin had another impressive performance in his hometown. The Indianapolis Cathedral High School graduate caught two passes for 92 yards and a touchdown against Wisconsin in 2017 and caught three passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first half, against Northwestern.
McLaurin now ranks tied for sixth in Ohio State history with 19 career touchdown catches.
“It’s a matter of us getting him the ball,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “He actually could have had more today. He broke loose a couple times. But Terry will go down as a Buckeye great. And there’s so many unselfish things he does for this program and team. Him and Parris (Campbell) gave the pregame talk today. That’s how powerful those two guys are.”
Indy debut: In its first Big Ten Championship appearance, Northwestern (8-5) fought back from a 24-7 deficit in the third quarter. An 18-yard touchdown run by Clayton Thorson and a 2-yard touchdown pass from Thorson to Cameron Green cut Ohio State’s lead to 24-21.
However, the comeback stalled there. The Wildcats failed to pick up a first down on their next three drives.
“Looking at the game, I tip my hat off to coach Meyer, his staff and his players,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “They are Big Ten Champions for a reason. They earned it here tonight and made a whole bunch of explosive plays, and we knew we had to limit that. I thought we had a pretty good job at that for the most part, but a couple plays got away from us. When they execute the way they did, we have to be flawless, and obviously we weren’t.”
Odds and ends: Ohio State won its 37th Big Ten title. Michigan leads the conference with 42 championships. … Ohio State has won seven straight games against Northwestern. … Campbell caught seven passes for 89 yards. He’s six away from tying David Boston’s school record, set in 1998, of 85 receptions. … Ohio State defensive end Chase Young tied a Big Ten Championship record with three sacks. … Meyer improved to 3-1 in the Big Ten Championship. He’s the first coach to win the game three times.