COLUMBUS - The standards you have to meet to be competitive in the Big Ten are not foreign to Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. He was the motor behind the 1995 Northwestern team that went to the Rose Bowl, and a big part of the success as the Wildcats won back to back Big Ten titles in his time there.
Now in his second season as head coach at Northwestern, the former two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year was blunt in his assessment of how his team failed to have an answer for just about everything Ohio State offered in yesterday's 58-7 rout by the Buckeyes.
"Ohio State came out and looked like a championship team," Fitzgerald said after watching the Buckeyes storm to a 45-0 halftime advantage.
The Buckeyes averaged better than six yards a play while scoring on nine of their first 12 possessions. Defensively, Ohio State stuffed Northwestern's spread offense, allowing less than two yards per play and forcing nine punts and three turnovers.
"Ohio State's offense is always going to come after you with a balanced attack," Fitzgerald said after the Buckeyes had 191 rushing yards and 205 passing yards.
"On defense, it is not like they are reinventing of the wheel, but for some reason we were just not ready for it."
Northwestern junior wide receiver Eric Peterman said Ohio State's speed and pursuit on the defensive side prevented the Wildcats from ever establishing any offensive rhythm.
"You can't simulate speed on film or in practice, especially to play out to game day," Peterman said. "They just confused our offense and their speed really helped that. They have very fast defense."
Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman, who had a major role in the pressure that produced five sacks, said the Buckeyes have placed an emphasis on making game-changing plays.
"Any time you are out on the field, you try and make big plays because you know how much impact those can have," Freeman said. "As a defense, we want to help this team win games in as many ways as we can."
"They have won two Big Ten championships," Fitzgerald said, "so they know how to win Big Ten games."
WELLS II: Most of the rushing load for Ohio State this season has been carried by sophomore Chris Wells from Akron, but while he was nursing a tender ankle he tweaked in the first half of yesterday's win over Northwestern, and the Buckeyes were sitting on a huge lead, junior Maurice Wells took over.
The Florida product, who has been in a backup role the past couple of seasons, carried the ball 15 times yesterday for 44 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"It was definitely a confidence-builder for me and for this team," he said. "We were fired up and we feel like we came out and executed the way we had hoped to. There's definitely a confidence element there when you move the ball that well and put up that many points."
500 DOWN: Yesterday's 58-7 win over Northwestern marked the 500th game played in Ohio Stadium. Ohio State has won 77 percent of its games in the Horseshoe - 376-104-20.
In the first game played in the stadium in 1922, Ohio State beat Ohio Wesleyan 5-0. Script Ohio was performed there for the first time in 1936, while the first night game in Ohio Stadium took place in 1985.
Ohio Stadium was built at a cost of about $1,500,000, and it originally had permanent seating for about 60,000. A three-year stadium renovation project completed in 2001 had a price tag of $194 million.
RECORD WINS: Ohio State has now won 22 straight regular season games - a school record.