October 4, 2004

Bucking the Odds

It took more than four quarters to undo 33 years of history for Northwestern on Saturday night at sold-out Ryan Field. The Cats (2-3, 1-1) had to go to overtime to finish off Ohio State, 33-27, ending their 24-game losing streak against the Buckeyes (3-1, 0-1).

Noah Herron scored on a one-yard touchdown run - blowing through a massive hole in the Ohio State line - to give Northwestern the victory on the Cats' first possession in overtime. Herron's plunge was set up by a 21-yard Brett Basanez run to the Ohio State three-yard line.

Soon afterward, fans spilled onto Ryan Field to celebrate the historic win with the NU players.

Ohio State tied the game by scoring 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Justin Zwick threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with less than two minutes left to knot the score at 27.

In the Buckeyes' first possession in overtime, the normally automatic Mike Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal attempt.

Northwestern drew first blood on this clear, crisp evening, scoring on a Brian Huffman 41-yard field goal with 9:24 remaining in the first quarter. Ohio State answered with a 34-yard Nugent kick to tie the game at three.

In the second quarter, Northwestern capped a 10-play, 52-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown strike from Basanez to Herron. Holmes evened the score for Ohio State with a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown with 3:18 left in the half. On the Buckeyes' next possession, Zwick fumbled and Dominique Price recovered for the Wildcats on the Ohio State 47-yard line. The Cats converted the turnover into points as Huffman hit a 40-yard field goal on the last play of the half to take a 13-10 lead in the locker room.

In the third quarter, the Cats and Buckeyes traded touchdowns. Northwestern opened the half with a 10-play, 78-yard march that ended with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Basanez to Mark Philmore. It was Philmore's first career touchdown catch and it put the Cats in front 20-10.

After the teams each punted, Ohio State answered with a 62-yard drive and a two-yard Lydell Ross touchdown run to pull within 20-17.

But the Cats came right back, driving 80 yards on 12 plays to push the lead back to 10 at 27-17. The Wildcats scored on a one-yard touchdown run by Herron on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Buckeyes then reeled off their 10 consecutive points - first scoring on a 29-yard field goal by Nugent. On the Cats' ensuing possession, Basanez was intercepted by linebacker Bobby Carpenter and the Buckeyes took over at the Wildcat 22-yard line. However, Jeff Backes intercepted a Zwick pass at the goal line five plays later to snuff the threat.

For the game, Northwestern outgained the Buckeyes 444 yards to 308, and they converted on 12 of their 20 third down plays.

Basanez was 24-for-44 for 278 yards. He threw two touchdown strikes and two interceptions. Philmore was Basanez's favorite target, catching 11 balls for 134 yards and a touchdown.

Herron was the workhorse for the Cats, leading all rushers with 113 yards on 33 carries and two touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass. Basanez carried the ball six times for 53 yards.

For the Buckeyes, Zwick finished 18-of-31 for 211 yards. He threw one touchdown and one interception. Holmes caught 10 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State could manage only 97 yards rushing, and Antonio Pittman led the Bucks with 35 yards on 11 carries. Ross tallied 33 yards on his 11 rushes.

"I'm really proud of our kids," Northwestern head coach Randy Walker said after the game. "Tonight reminds me of two great heavyweights going 15 rounds and I'm glad we got the last punch. Thirty-three years is long enough."

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