Ohio State holds on to beat Northwestern 24-20

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 29:  Dontre Wilson #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is tripped up by Nate Hall #32 of the Northwestern Wildcats in the second quarter at Ohio Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 29: Dontre Wilson #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is tripped up by Nate Hall #32 of the Northwestern Wildcats in the second quarter at Ohio Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, Ohio  — Curtis Samuel ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 9:43 left to give Ohio State a lead and J.T. Barrett converted two key third downs on a game-sealing drive to give the sixth-ranked Buckeyes a 24-20 victory against Northwestern on Saturday.

After being upset by Penn State last week, the Buckeyes’ offense struggled against another multi-touchdown underdog. The Buckeyes (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) punted on five straight drives in one stretch, but responded to Northwestern tying it at 17 with a touchdown drive, capped by Samuel.

Northwestern (4-4, 3-2 Big Ten) then got to the Ohio State 3, but settled for a 33-yard Jack Mitchell field goal to close to 24-20 with 3:31 left. The Buckeyes mounted a final clock-eating drive. Barrett hit Noah Brown for 16 yards on third-and-8 and then took off on a 35-yard run to convert a third-and-10 to put the Buckeyes in the clear.

Barrett was 21 for 32 for 223 yards, but didn’t complete a pass over 19 yards until the fourth quarter. Mike Weber rushed 14 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

Clayton Thorson was 25 for 42 for 256 yards with a touchdown and a first-quarter interception. Austin Carr, the Big Ten’s leading receiver, caught eight passes for 158 yards.

THE TAKEAWAY

Northwestern: The Wildcats continue to improve and showed their Big Ten wins weren’t a fluke. They nearly pulled off another one in Ohio Stadium. Still, the Wildcats have not won in Columbus since 1971.

Ohio State: Smarting from last week’s upset, the Buckeyes at least escaped with a win over a big underdog. But problems with their passing game persist, and they need to improve to get through the rest of the schedule unscathed.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Ohio State’s effort might cost it a spot or two in the AP Top 25.

UP NEXT

Northwestern: The Wildcats return home to play No. 11 Wisconsin.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes host No. 7 Nebraska.