Ohio State – Wisconsin: notes and thoughts

Tension.

The Buckeyes had played such a competitive first half until a muffed punt by junior Jordan Hall and an Ohio State penalty put OSU in poor field position. Suddenly, a half that looked like it was about to casually end with OSU running out the clock was given new meaning as Wisconsin used time outs in the hopes of getting another chance on offense or forcing a Buckeye mistake.

Ohio State had fought to only be down 7-3, but suddenly, that score was in jeopardy. The Buck’s defense would end up holding Wisconsin. Crisis averted.

OSU received the ball to start the second half. On the first play from scrimmage, senior running back Daniel Herron busted a 57 yard run. Two plays later, Herron would have another big run, scamperring to the 2 yard line. From there, the offense tried to push the ball into the end zone. First, second, third down and they had failed to score.

On fourth and one from the one, coach Luke Fickell made a gutsy call and decided to go for it. Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller faked a hand off and stepped further into the backfield. A Wisconsin player almost wrapped him up for the tackle, but he pulled a rabbit out of his hat, and made it to the goal line. 10-3.

On the next Wisconsin possession, they struggled to move and setup to punt. But Ohio State put more pressure on the punter than they had in the first half and blocked the kick. The home crowd was in a frenzy and the Buckeyes were in easy striking distance of their second touchdown in a minute and a half. Suddenly OSU lurched to a 17-7 lead.

Wisconsin had a lightning fast 3 and out and were again forced to punt. Momentum was high but OSU came crashing back to reality when Hall fumbled the Badger punt. The second consecutive punt he had fumbled, and this time, he lost it.

Trailing 17-7, a struggling Wisconsin offense was suddenly given a second chance, and with great field position. They took the ball at the 27 and were able to take advantage of the short field, scoring to cut the lead to 17-14.

Tension.

On the next Buckeye drive, Ohio State would start with good field position but had to settle for a field goal after driving the ball inside the Wisconsin 10. A disappointing result and still just a one score game as they led 20-14.

Tension.

After a kick return to their own 39, and a first down, Wisconsin challenged for the go ahead touchdown. The OSU defense stiffened and Wisconsin faced a fourth and short at the Ohio State 37. They were stuffed for a turnover on downs.

With 8:04 remaining in the game, OSU regained possession. After driving info Wisconsin territory, on a third and short, Ohio State lined up with all of the receivers on the right side in shotgun. This created an imbalance as Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller ran an option to the left. He made the first linebacker miss, and there were no Badgers in position to make the tackle as the freshman qb galloped into the end zone. 26-14.

OSU went for two and despite a good catch by Hall, he was tackled shy of the end zone.

Throughout this game, Wisconsin: a program who is renowned for a physical running attack had struggled. On the drive following the Miller touchdown, they would have a big 40 yard run. It would be almost half of the rushing yards Wisconsin gained on the evening. It setup a 17 yard touchdown on the next play. 26-21.

OSU would respond with a quick drive in which Wisconsin burned two time outs, and where the Bucks would only be able to take about a minute off of the clock. They were forced to punt, and Wisconsin would be driving down by less than a touchdown late.

Tension.

During what has been a season with more downs than Buckeye fans are used to, Wisconsin seemed bound to score. On a second down, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson hit a wide open Jared Abbrederis who was able to sprint the rest of the way to the end zone for a demoralizing 49 yard touchdown. After a two point conversion, Wisconsin led 29-26.

It didn’t look good. The Buckeye offense had played a good game, and had ran superbly on the ground, but could they score late?

Hall helped the effort by returning the kickoff to almost midfield. The drive was struggling when Miller ran out of the pocket for what looked to be little more than a short gain when, at the last instant, he hit a wide open Devin Smith for a 40 yard touchdown. For the second time in two weeks, the Wisconsin defense allowed a late miracle as OSU regained the lead. 33-29.

There were just 20 seconds left. Wisconsin thew a couple passes to try to win, but were unable, even after a last play penalty which would give the Badgers one more play to throw a Hail Mary. The Buckeyes were able to hold on and get the upset victory over the 15th ranked Badgers.

Ohio State had a great game plan in the first half. They controlled time, and the defense was rock solid, only allowing seven first half points. It put them in a position to have a chance to win in the second half, and the Buckeyes offense caught fire in the third quarter.

Miller ran for just under 100 yards. At times, he made Wisconsin players look like they shouldn’t have even been on the field with his moves. He spun away from tackles. He was elusive. He seemed to effortlessly make defenders miss open field tackles. It was impressive to watch.

The last four games include contests with two of the worst teams in the Big Ten: Indiana and Purdue. They also have a home game against Penn State before facing archival Michigan. Given how bad things looked after the Nebraska game, this team has battled to get themselves in a position to contend for a spot in the Big Ten Championship game.

jrb

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