Well I'm a steamroller, baby... I'm bound to roll all over you.
Last night Ohio State fans saw something they are not accustomed to seeing: an opposing team pushing their defense all over the field. During the reign of James Patrick Tressel as head coach at Ohio State, it is extremely rare to see an opposing team top 30 points; it's even more rare to see it done in the simplest manner possible, with mostly running between the tackles. The last time that any Big Ten team scored more than 30 points against Ohio State was the 42-39 win over Michigan in 2006. But Wisconsin accomplished the feat last night with the help of some special teams magic and a lot of muscle on their way to a 31-18 spanking of the Buckeyes.
The evening began ominously for OSU, as the special teams bug jumped up and bit them yet again. This time it was Wisconsin's speedy WR David Gilreath burning them for a 97-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff. Gilreath started right but then cut left and zoomed through the middle of the coverage as a Badger blocker obliterated kicker Drew Basil. The Buckeye coverage squad opened up like the Red Sea for Moses and Gilreath ran untouched for the score. After a 29-yard return of the ensuing kickoff by Jamaal Berry, Ohio State seemed to be set up in good position after Terrelle Pryor completed a 14-yard pass to Devier Posey on 1st down. But on the next play, Pryor ran the option left and his pitch to Dan Herron was high, causing a fumble that OSU recovered resulting in a 12-yard loss. Unable to overcome that blunder on the next two downs, the Buckeyes punted back to Wisconsin and they went to work on the ground.
Starting at their own 42 after a 13-yard punt return by Gilreath, the Badgers went to their bread-and-butter, running John Clay between the tackles. Clay carried 3 times for 21 yards, then QB Scott Tolzien threw to Nick Toon for 7 yards and a first down at the OSU 30. From there, Clay carried again for 16 yards to 14, and then took it in on the next play for a 14-yard touchdown. The drive went for 58 yards in only 6 plays, and suddenly OSU trailed Wisconsin 14-0. After Jordan Hall took the ensuing kickoff 22 yards to the 25, Pryor got OSU started on the right foot with a 22-yard run on first down to the 47. Pryor then completed a 4-yard pass to Dane Sanzenbacher and, after an incompletion on 2nd down, he ran for 6 yards and another first down at the Wisconsin 43. But three straight incompletions followed, and the Buckeyes were forced to punt again. Included in that series was a long pass down the left sideline intended for Corey "Philly" Brown. But the ball was under-thrown, allowing the Badger defender to
hold defend Brown and break up the pass. Gilreath made a fair catch on the subsequent punt at the Badger 11.
Not surprisingly, Wisconsin went back to work on the ground, but with a small wrinkle. After Clay was stopped for only 1 yard on the first carry, Badger coach Brett Bielema brought in change-of-pace back James White. White carried for 10 yards on the next two plays to get Wisconson out of bad field position and give them a first down at their own 22. From there, Tolzien threw for 9 yards to Nick Toon, and then White gained another first down with a 2-yard carry to the 33. After 2 more White carries sandwiched around a 10-yard Tolzien completion to Isaac Anderson, Clay returned to the game and carried for 13 yards to the OSU 40. Two more Clay rushes and another pass to Anderson left the Badgers staring at a 4th and inches at the OSU 31. Bielema went for it and Tolzien's QB sneak gained 2 yards and a first down. White carried to the 25, then was stopped for no gain as the 1st quarter ended. Starting the 2nd quarter with a 3rd and 6 from the OSU 25, Tolzien avoided pressure from OSU DE Nathan Williams and delivered an 18-yard strike to Gilreath for a 1st down at the 7. Williams was called for nudging the passer on the play, giving Wisconsin a first and goal at the 3. From there, Clay ran three times and scored from 1 yard out on 3rd down to put UW up 21-0.
At this point, the Ohio State offense seemed to wake up from their slumber and the running game began to click. Pryor converted a 3rd and 9 from the OSU 33 with a 17-yard scramble to midfield. From there, Pryor hit Herron with a 6-yard pass and then Herron carried on the ground for 6 yards and a first down to the Wisconsin 38. Next Pryor ran for 5 yards, then Herron carried for 14 yards to the Wisconsin 19. On the next play, Herron made a nice cut to the middle for a 16 yard gain to the Wisconsin 3. But then the Buckeyes' red zone demons returned. Pryor was stopped for a yard loss on a designed run, then Herron ran to the left on a zone read but was held to only a 1-yard gain. On 3rd down, Tressel called another Pryor run and he was again stopped for a loss of one. As a result, OSU had to settle for a Devin Barclay field goal to cut the score to 21-3.
Another opportunity arrived on Wisconsin's next possession, as Tolzien threw late over the middle and was intercepted by OSU linebacker Andrew Sweat. Sweat was playing in Ross Homan's position after Homan left the game with an apparent leg injury. Sweat returned the INT to the Wisconsin 38 and, as he was going out of bounds on the OSU sideline, he was upended but OSU DT John Simon who had been trying to block. The officials apparently thought it was a Badger player who hit Sweat, and they tacked on a 15-yard roughing penalty to the run-back. But two plays yielded only a yard, and Pryor was sacked for a 6-yard loss on 3rd down. The resulting 45-yard field goal was wide left and the Buckeyes had squandered the opportunity. Wisconsin drained most of the remaining time from the clock and OSU went into the halftime break trailing 21-3.
At the start of the 2nd half, Ohio State came out with a renewed zeal and made a game of it. Receiving the opening kickoff, OSU drove the length of the field mostly on the ground with "Boom" Herron covering the last 13 yards from the "wildcat" formation for the Buckeyes' first touchdown. On the drive, Pryor was 2-2 passing for 38 yards, but the running game clicked for 39 yards on 8 carries. On the ensuing Wisconsin possession, the OSU defense gave up one first down, but then held on downs and forced a punt. The punt came to rest on the Buckeye 6-yard line with no return. Undaunted, Pryor and the Buckeyes went on a 19-play march covering 9:56 on the clock to score their 2nd touchdown. Pryor was 5-5 on the drive for 51 yards and they rushed for 53 (overcoming a 10-yard holding penalty) yards as the 3rd quarter ended and moving into the 4th. After Herron carried for the score from the 1-yard line, Tressel elected to go for 2. Pryor dropped back and rolled slightly to the right. He then turned and threw back to the left and hit reserve TE Reid Fragel for the conversion. The lead was cut to 21-18 with just under 12 minutes to go in the game.
Unfortunately, the rally ended there. Wisconsin took the ensuing kickoff and, beginning from their 27, drove 73 yards for a clinching TD. Tolzien was 4-5 on the drive for 45 yards, and James White covered the last 23 yards on three carries with the last one a 12-yard touchdown run. The OSU defense was obviously worn down from the beating they had taken for much of the game, but in truth they didn't play any better when they were fresh and so I'm not sure what difference that made. The score put Wisconsin up 28-18 with just over 7 minutes to play, and put the Buckeyes firmly up against the wall. The extra score seemed to invigorate the Wisconsin defense, as they forced three straight incompletions on OSU's next possession. After receiving the ensuing punt, the Badgers began the drive that would put the final nail in Ohio State's coffin. From his own 32 on first down, Tolzein dropped back to pass and rolled to his right. Avoiding pressure, he spotted TE Jacob Pederson running down the field and hit him on the run for a 33-yard gain. Five running plays forced Ohio State to use their timeouts, and then Philip Welch hit a 41-yard field goal to put the Badgers up 31-18.
Needing a score in the most desperate way, OSU began to drive into Wisconsin territory. Pryor completed a 15-yard pass to Brandon Saine, then converted a 4th down with a 4-yard completion to Devier Posey. After losing 11-yards on a sack by Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt, Pryor hit Sanzenbacher for 26 yards to the Badger 33. But on 3rd and 14 from the UW 37, Terrelle Pryor was intercepted by Blake Sorensen and that effectively ended the game.
- Bielema notched his first ever win against Ohio State, having lost on his first three tries.
- John Clay rushed for 104 yards on 21 carries, breaking Ohio State's streak of 29 games not allowing a 100-yard rusher.
- Terrelle Pryor was intercepted for only the 4th time this season, but he has now been sacked 14 times.
- Scott Tolzien was intercepted for only the 3rd time this season; he was not sacked in the game and has been sacked only 5 times this season.
- Ohio State lost for the third straight time as the #1 ranked team in both polls; the last two were part of the 2007 season.
- Despite the offensive struggles, Ohio State finished 6-13 on 3rd down conversions and 1-1 on 4th down conversions.