Dhruv Koul shares his in-game reactions, thoughts and observations from the Northwestern-OSU Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Follow him on Twitter @DhruvKoul to continue the conversation.

INDIANAPOLIS — I grew up a University of Illinois fan. But as a Northwestern alum, my loyalties have obviously shifted. So you can imagine the roller coaster experience of a Northwestern football fan this season. They started the season with a big road win at Purdue. And then they lost consecutive home games to Duke and Akron. AKRON! And after blowing a big second half lead to Michigan, again at home, most hope for the season was lost.

And then the Wildcats went on a tear. They beat Michigan State on the road, stole wins against Nebraska and Rutgers, beat Wisconsin, and went toe-to-toe with Notre Dame in a loss that was much closer than the final score suggested. NU then upset Iowa on the road, and finished their Big Ten West schedule with wins over Minnesota and my childhood team: Illinois.

Result: Big Ten West Champions, a national ranking of 21 and a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State, the sixth-ranked team in the nation.

That was today. And though Northwestern delighted us with a fun second half, they fell short against an undoubtedly better team in Ohio State. Great overall season for Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats that will result in a pretty solid bowl game.

I shared my in-game reactions, thoughts and observations live from the game below. Enjoy!


1. Northwestern is actually in the Big Ten Championship Game. This is real, but it feels so surreal.

2. Northwestern needs to beat Ohio State. Not just because I’m a fan, but because Urban Meyer is an awful human being and doesn’t deserve this happiness or success.

3. Clayton Thorson was talked about as a potential first-round QB talent last year, which I always thought was ludicrous. He’s got a strong arm but lacks good decision making, pocket presence, accuracy and ball placement. However, there’s no better showcase for NFL scouts than this game — here’s his chance. Also, I want to take this time to praise Isaiah Bowser for stepping up all season in relief and running like a true bellcow. He’s been sensational. The Northwestern running game is in good hands (and legs) next season.


4. NU got punched in the mouth quickly by OSU’s offense, falling behind 7-0 on the first drive of the game. But after a couple of punts, NU got a big 77 yard touchdown run from John Moten IV to tie the game 7-7. As I mentioned above, Bowser has been the Wildcats’ stud runner all year. But great run by Moten IV making a few tacklers miss to get to the right sideline and run free to the end zone.

5. Other than that run by Moten IV, the Wildcats have done nothing on offense in the first half. Clayton Thorson has been poor with his accuracy (no surprise there) and has an interception and been stripped on a sack (though it didn’t seem that the refs would have enough evidence to overturn). If Ohio State gets their offense going in the later parts of the game, NU will need to find consistent answers on offense. As of right now, it’s 17-7 OSU with about six minutes left in the first half.

6. Flynn Nagel is out for the game here in the first half. Thorson’s favorite target and the Wildcats’ best receiver. Not good for an offensively challenged team. Sigh.

7. Dwayne Haskins and this OSU running game is fun to watch. Northwestern’s defense has generally performed much better this year than they have tonight. But the rush defense and their cushions given up in coverage have been uncharacteristic. Not a great time for them to play like this. On a third-and-20, Haskins went deep down the right sideline (perfect pass) for a stunning touchdown near the end of the first half. OSU up 24-7. That was likely the ballgame.

8. Clayton Thorson has been so bad. But the NU wide receivers have been unable to find any sort of separation, either. The offense has been ROUGH to watch. Thorson’s numbers at the end of the first half: 8/17, 58 yards, 1 INT. And it’s looked just as bad. Rough first half.


9. Then again, the first drive of the second half, scripted and all, was exactly what NU needed to get back in the game. Some nice runs and pass plays, finished off by a nice scramble from Thorson got the Wildcats back to 24-14. Well executed to give NU life.

10. What a turn of events! After the defense forced an OSU punt, Thorson and the Wildcats drove right down the field and capped the drive with a touchdown pass. However, two plays before, disaster almost struck. Thorson fired a nice back-shoulder throw near the five-yard line and the receiver engaged with a tackler which resulted in a fumble called on the field, recovered by OSU. Luckily, replay showed a bang-bang play where the receiver’s shin was actually down, resulting in down-by-contact. A big, big bullet dodged there. After the touchdown, it’s 24-21 OSU, but NU has all of the momentum right now!

11. Well, after trading turnovers and an NU punt, Ohio State adds to their lead thanks to a deep TD pass from Haskins to put the Buckeyes up 31-21 near the end of the third quarter. This game is fun again, certainly. But NU has plenty of work left to do.

12. After a pathetic three-and-out on offense, the NU defense bent but didn’t break, stopping OSU inside the red zone. And they blocked the field goal attempt, keeping the deficit at 10 points early in the fourth quarter. None of it means anything if NU can’t figure it out on offense (read: Thorson continues to suck), but great effort nonetheless. They aren’t going away.

13. Getting only a field goal on the ensuing possession feels like a loss to me. They were first down and goal to go thanks to some punishing running by Isaiah Bowser a play before. And then NU went on to pass three straight times with nothing coming close to resembling success. It’s a one score game at 31-24, but why not try to run it with Bowser at least once during that final set of plays? He’s a better runner than Thorson is a passer, that’s for sure. Oh well. Can’t argue with a one-score game, I suppose.

14. A few plays later, OSU scores another touchdown to put the game away at 38-24 with about half the fourth quarter left. Too much firepower against a team that’s a bit too depleted. That’s how it goes. That was a fun game despite the result!

15. Despite tonight’s tough loss at Lucas Oil Stadium at the hands of the Buckeyes, the Wildcats will be playing in a bowl game later this month. It remains to be seen which one and who their opponent will be. But as mentioned above, regardless of how it ends, this season has absolutely been a success given how poorly it started. Congrats on a weird but, overall, really good season, Northwestern! You made your alumni proud.