By Noah Wolfgang | @NoahWolfgang44
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — Coming into the biggest game of his career, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. knew the stakes, and boy did he deliver.
While guiding the Buckeyes to their third Big Ten Championship in five years on Saturday, Haskins, a sophomore, broke four championship game passing records. Haskins’ 499 yards in Ohio State’s 45-24 victory over Northwestern vaulted him past the previous record of 384 set by Penn State’s Trace McSorley in 2016.
Haskins was extremely efficient, going 34-for-41 for a .829 completion percentage, good enough to beat the record of .733 set by Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins in 2011. Haskins’ total of 34 completions also set a record, passing the 24 of Michigan State’s Connor Cook in 2013. Haskins’ total of five touchdown passes surpassed the four thrown by McSorley in 2016.
Haskins did not dwell on the records, however. He was focused on Ohio State’s victory and Big Ten championship. “I could have thrown for 80 yards or 600 yards, all we needed to do was win the game,” Haskins said.
With one game to play – in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year’s Day – Haskins became the Big Ten single-season leader in total offensive yards with 4,702, surpassing the record of 4,272 held by Michigan’s Denard Robinson in 2010. Haskins extended his Big Ten records for a season in passing yards (4,580) and touchdowns (47).
Haskins could have taken credit for propelling his Buckeyes to the victory, but he chose to make his achievement sound simple. “The thing I had to do was give the ball to the playmakers and let them make the plays,” Haskins said. “I’m just the distributor.” He wasn’t lying. Haskins found ten different targets over the course of the game, completing seven passes to both Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon. He also distributed his five touchdowns to four different targets, two of which were caught by senior Terry McLaurin from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. McLaurin hauled in three receptions for 78 yards.
Haskins and McLaurin were involved in two of the game’s highlight plays for Ohio State. The first came during the game’s opening drive on third down and 11 at Northwestern’s 16-yard line. Soon after Haskins took the snap in the shotgun, he was under pressure from Northwestern’s defensive line. Haskins bobbed in and out of the pocket before rolling out to his right and throwing a dart on the run to a wide-open McLaurin in the end zone. “Terry was there for me, made a clutch play on third-and-11,” Haskins said of McLaurin. This is the play that set the tone for the game, with Haskins dominating the Northwestern defense.
The second of these plays came on a third and 20 at Northwestern’s 42-yard line late in the first half. The Buckeyes were looking to extend their 17-7 lead. Haskins took the snap from the shotgun, took three steps and delivered a beautiful pass downfield to McLaurin, who had a step on Northwestern freshman Greg Newsome II. McLaurin hauled in the pass for his second touchdown of the day and a 24-7 lead with 1:21 to go in the half.
Campbell was impressed with Haskins’ leadership skills. “We just got behind him, followed him, listened to him,” Campbell said. He never had any doubts that his quarterback would deliver.
“Once he’s done one thing you think, ‘He can’t do that again,’” Campbell said, “but he proves you wrong every time.”