EVANSTON, Ill. - The l-o-n-g losing streak is over.
It's gone. Kiss it good-bye.
Northwestern ended 33 years of frustration against Ohio State last night, shocking the seventh-ranked Buckeyes 33-27 in overtime before 47,130 fans at Ryan Field.
Noah Herron's one-yard run in the first extra session proved to be the game-winner for the Wildcats, who snapped a 24-game losing skid against the Buckeyes by beating them for the first time since 1971.
The improbable win set off a raucous celebration and came just one week after Northwestern (2-3, 1-1 Big Ten) had absorbed a 26-point pounding at Minnesota in its league opener.
The Buckeyes (3-1, 0-1) finally ran out of gas - and luck - after winning 13 of their previous 14 games decided by seven points or less.
Kicker Mike Nugent, who made two field goals earlier and had connected on 51 of his last 58 attempts since his sophomore season, missed wide right on a 40-yard field goal try from the right hash on the Buckeyes' first possession of overtime.
Herron needed just four plays to punch in the game-winning touchdown.
Ohio State lost for just the third time in its last 31 games. All three setbacks have come on the road. A year ago, the Buckeyes lost 17-10 at Wisconsin and 35-21 at Michigan.
Three minutes after throwing a crucial interception in the end zone with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Ohio State quarterback Justin Zwick marched the Buckeyes 69 yards in five plays for the tying score - a 21-yard pass to Santonio Holmes with 1:54 left.
Zwick completed 3 of 4 passes on the drive and gained 18 yards on a run that used just one minute, 29 seconds off the clock, and tied the game at 27.
On the previous possession, with the Buckeyes trailing 27-20,Zwick's errant pass for Bam Childress was picked off by Jeff Backes on a third-and-goal play from the 20.
Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez - showing no ill effects from a sore right shoulder - flooded the field with screen passes and misdirection running plays, and it spread the Buckeyes' defense thin and kept them off-balance.
Two of Basanez's screen passes went for scores - 14 yards to Herron in the second quarter and 27 yards to receiver Mark Philmore in the third - and he directed scoring drives of 78 and 80 yards in the second half. Herron's one-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter staked the Wildcats to a 27-17 lead, capping an 80-yard drive covering 12 plays.
The Buckeyes came right back and had a third-and-goal situation at the 4 with nine minutes left, but Zwick rolled out and was sacked for a seven-yard loss by Nick Roach and John Pickens.
Ohio State was forced to settle for Nugent's 29-yard field goal at 8:48, pulling them to within seven at 27-20.
The Buckeyes, down 10 early in the second half, had pulled to within 20-17 with 3:55 left in the third quarter when struggling tailback Lydell Ross - who managed just 16 yards on six carries in the first half - scored on a two-yard run off left tackle.
The key play on the drive was Zwick's 50-yard completion to Roy Hall on a third-and-12 play that gave OSU a first down at the 29.
Northwestern took the second-half kickoff and marched 78 yards on 10 plays, with the payoff coming on Basanez's 27-yard screen pass to Philmore at 11:35. Philmore's first career touchdown, which came on a third-and-11 play, put the Wildcats on top 20-10.
Brian Huffman kicked his second field goal, a 40-yarder, on the final play of the second quarter, giving the Wildcats a 13-10 halftime lead.
The field goal was set up by Zwick's fumble with 54 seconds left - the ninth turnover committed by the Buckeyes' offense this season.
Pickens got a good rush on the first-and-10 play from midfield, and he pushed running back Branden Joe into Zwick, forcing the ball loose. Pickens was credited with a sack.
Dominique Pierce recovered the ball at the OSU 47, setting up Huffman's field goal.
Huffman, who also made a 41-yarder in the first quarter to put the Wildcats up 3-0, had been 4-for-10 on field goal tries entering the game. He missed five field goals alone in Northwestern's season-opening 48-45 double-overtime loss to Texas Christian.
Ohio State, which managed just 95 yards total offense in the first half (39 rushing and 56 passing) compared to 202 for Northwestern (61 rushing and 141 passing), tied the game at 10-10 on a huge special-teams play by Holmes with 3:18 left in the second quarter.
Holmes fielded Huffman's punt, and using a key block from freshman and fellow return man, Ted Ginn, as a springboard, he raced 63 yards for a touchdown.
Holmes was the first OSU player to return a punt for a score since last season, when Michael Jenkins went 54 yards against Iowa.
The Buckeyes finished the first half with 76 yards in punt returns and 40 yards in kickoff returns.
Contact Ron Musselman at: email@example.com or 419-724-6474.
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