Ohio State looked primed to slam the door early in the fourth quarter when Hilliard recovered a Ramsey fumble at the Northwestern 40, but the Buckeyes had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Blake Haubeil with 12:07 left.
After forcing a Northwestern punt, Ohio State effectively put the game away on its ensuing possession as the Buckeyes drove 80 yards for a touchdown.
That drive was also heavy on Sermon as he carried seven times for 54 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown.
He broke Eddie George’s Ohio State single-game rushing record of 314 yards on the final drive for the Buckeyes, who let the clock run out after getting to the Northwestern 2-yard line.
FIRST HALF RECAP
Northwestern stopped Ohio State late in the second half to preserve a 10-6 lead in the first half of the Big Ten Championship game Saturday.
The fourth-ranked Buckeyes took the opening kickoff and drained nearly 8 1/2 minutes off the clock but had to settle for a 41-yard field goal by Blake Haubeil.
A touchdown run by Justin Fields was called back on a holding penalty on Harry Miller, and a sack of Fields on third down forced the field goal try.
The 14th-ranked Wildcats responded by shredding the Ohio State defense with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that took only 2:32.
After Cam Porter scored from nine yards out, Charlie Kuhbander’s PAT kick gave Northwestern a 7-3 lead with 4:02 left in the first quarter.
Kuhbander connected on a 47-yard field goal with 8:46 left in the second quarter to extend Northwestern’s lead to 10-3. That capped a 14-play, 65-yard drive for the Wildcats.
Ohio State got those three points back on a Haubeil field goal from 43 yards out with 5:23 left in the second quarter.
The Buckeyes looked close to taking the lead or at least drawing within a point late in the quarter but Brandon Joseph made a spectacular one-handed interception in the end zone to snuff out the drive with 28 seconds left.
Fields, who completed only 9 of 20 passes in the first half, was trying to get the ball to Garrett Wilson in the end zone.
The Buckeyes took the field without more than 20 players who were inactive either because of injury, positive COVID-19 tests or contact tracing.