Five Things: Wisconsin

By Chris Lauderback on October 5, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Defense Comes Up Big After Halftime
I know the Wisconsin offense isn't exactly a juggernaut but the OSU defense deserves some props for their performance in the second half.

The unit stopped the Badgers on four of five possessions helping change momentum surrendered at the end of the first half thanks to a 77 yard drive resulting in a field goal and a 10-7 Wisconsin lead. Of course, the D wouldn't even have had to take the field for that drive if not for Tressel's poor play calling on OSU's last series. I'll get to that later.

Back to the Bullets, their clutch play shaped up like this:

  • Taking the field to start the second half, the Buckeyes held Wisconsin to 16 yards on 6 plays, 3 of them Evridge incompletions. Considering how mentally fragile this team can be, the hold was huge in that it kept the deficit at three and the fans in their seats. The offense then responded with a 10 play, 77 yard drive ending in a field goal and a 10-10 tie.
  • Following the OSU FG, the defense again asserted itself forcing the Badgers to punt after a 6 play, 11 yard drive that started on the Wisc 35 thanks to a late hit by Torrence. The big play was Freeman's 6 yard sack on 1st down at the OSU 48 pushing Wisconsin back to their side of the field and into an obvious passing situation. Evridge responded with back to back incompletions ending the possession.
  • On the third defensive series of the half, the Bullets backed up a booming punt from Trapasso (to Wisc 24) with a huge three and out. The Buckeyes gave up zero yards allowing a shift in field position that gave OSU the ball at their own 41. The big play was a sack by Heyward on 3rd and 5 after the Bucks stuffed PJ Hill on 2nd and 5. The offense then responded with a 10 play, 43 yard drive capped by 34 yard Pretorious FG and a 13-10 lead with 4:54 left in the third.
  • The fourth series was the lone stinker as the Buckeyes gave up the lead thanks to a 10 play, 63 yard drive in which the Badgers peeled off runs of 14, 9, 17, and 15 yards before PJ Hill punched it in from 2 yards out making it 17-13 Wisky with 6:31 to play. Not pretty. At all.
  • Taking the field with 1:08 left and a 3 point lead, the fifth and final defensive series was a quick one as Jenkins picked off Evridge at the Wisc 34 on 1st down to seal the deal. Huge. Especially because the D did what it couldn't do at the end of the first half - get a stop.

In total, the D gave up just 90 second half yards after hemorrhaging 236 in the first. Throwing out the TD drive, OSU held Wisconsin to 16 plays and 27 yards with an INT. Good stuff. Sure, they can still be hard to watch but the players and coaches on that side of the ball deserve some credit for the second half. No crumbling under the road pressure on this night. I'll take that baby step.

Beanie is the Best Player in College Football
I don't know that I think he can get back in Heisman contention, but there's no doubting who is the best player in college football.

Last night's performance was just the latest example of what he means to this team. After going for 169 against Wisky last year, Beanie put up a 22 carry, 168 yard night featuring numerous game changing plays. Certainly, the 33 yard touchdown to get things started was beautiful but I think the 54 yard gallop early in the 3rd quarter moving the ball from the OSU 20 to the Wisconsin 26 was his biggest contribution. The run changed the field and essentially assured the Bucks of at least a field goal trailing 10-7. Again, as mentally fragile as this team can be, the run helped stave off any offensive collapse that might allow Wisconsin to extend the lead.

On the season, Beanie is averaging nearly 8 yards a pop (7.9) and his presence in the backfield makes things that much more comfortable for Pryor. Look at the clinching TD, the safety committed to Wells in fear of the pitch which left TP with a huge lane to paydirt. A complete back, he also continues to provide fantastic pass blocking and seems to be the voice in Pryor's head helping push him to greatness.

Have You Seen a More Physical Game?
Wow. I know the SEC has the speed, blah blah blah but last night's game was one of those throwback smash-mouth Big Ten games that make your body hurt just by watching.

I think no less than four players needed help off the field and at least one (Boom) was knocked out cold. The hit on Boom was questionable in that he was actually a receiver on the play. The replay wasn't a wide enough shot to see exactly if Pryor was already being tackled but if he wasn't that should've been a penalty because Boom was running a route. To me, that's why he was prone and not looking for contact - he was running an adjusted route due the the scramble and got clocked. Anyone have thoughts on this?

Either way, Wisconsin's Jay Valai is one of those players I love to hate but would love him on my team. He not only put out Boom but he also punished Sanzenbacher causing the fumble. The Buckeye defense could use a guy that plays with the same "I'm not just gonna tackle you, I'm gonna destroy you" tenacity - we haven't seen it since Doss.

The Buckeyes did get in some licks of their own most notably Sabino laying some wood and Heyward dropping dude on Jenkins' INT return.

Overall, just a fun game to watch. Even the routine plays featured slobber knockers with both teams LB's stepping in to take on big RB's. Definitely won't see the same next week against Purdue's finesse team.

Pryor's Final Drive
I found it interesting the game winning drive engineered by TP was a microcosm of his overall performance which was a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. I'm not complaining because I expect it with his unreal gifts combined with a lack of experience. It's just wild how he can make a mind blowing play out of nothing then take a 20 yard sack. Knowing he'll have it all figured out by season's end, they better make space over at the WHAC for his 2009 Heisman Trophy.

Back to the final drive..The first play was an incomplete pass to Hartline. Catchable, but needed to be thrown lower and with more zip. After a Beanie run, he threw a 3rd down strike over the middle to Hartline for 19 yards and a first down.

On first down, he fumbled a fake handoff to Beanie putting OSU in a 2nd and 15 hole. So, what's he do? He finds Hartline again over the middle (great protection) for 22 yards. Great look. A little "floaty" but still a good pass.

He scared the crap out of me on the next play flipping a dangerous option to Beanie for 9 yards. Following a 2 yard run from Wells, he dropped back and though the pocket didn't collapse he stepped up and slipped for a four yard loss making it 2nd and 14.

Again, he responded buying some time before hitting Small over the middle setting up 3rd and 1. Ho hum. Two plays later, he ran the option keeper to perfection as Wisconsin got caught trying to get into their formation.

Clutch drive from a true freshman with tons of expectations, hype and pressure on his shoulders. Of course, he's so calm I'm sure he sees it as just another step toward greatness.

Quick Thoughts on Coaching
A few items on the coaching last night..First, I was admittedly upset that OSU won the toss and elected to receive on the road. Shows you what I know as the Bucks marched down the field to quiet the crowd. Pretty ballsy by Tress to take the ball considering a poor opening possession would have created a short field. I would've put the D out there to start but maybe it just comes down to Tressel trusting TP more than he trusts the D. What do you think?

One thing I know I disagree with was the play calling on the last series of the first half. I loved the attempt to hit Robo on a bomb on 1st down but I felt, with just over a minute on the clock at their own 29, he should have called running plays on both 2nd and 3rd down to run the clock down.

The offense had been terrible since the opening drive, generating just 50 yards of offense in almost two full quarters, so throwing on 2nd down was foolish. The offense ended up running just 22 seconds off the clock forcing Wisconsin to take just one timeout instead of two, which would've given them 0 timeouts upon taking possession.

Instead, Tressel made his defense go out there again, just 3 game minutes removed from giving up an 8 minute, 15 play, 91 yard TD drive. Plus, Wisconsin was able to save the timeout to set up the field goal. I'll never understand what Tress was thinking on that sequence.