Wisconsin Debriefing: J.K. Dobbins Gashes Wisconsin, Bucks Stifle Badger Rushing Attack & Denzel Ward Makes a Big Time Play

By Kevin Harrish on December 3, 2017 at 8:05 am
Go Buckeye.

It wasn't 59-0, but it'll do.

Wisconsin served its greater purpose on Saturday night: a possible launching pad for Ohio State's improbable postseason run. And for that, the Buckeyes thank them.

Just like in 2014, Ohio State would have had no real hopes of making the playoff without a resume-bolstering win over a highly-ranked, hyped-up Wisconsin team – even if the hype was based mostly on smoke and mirrors.

This time, though, the Badgers showed a little more fight. Wisconsin kept it close till the end before an Alex Hornibrook interception sealed its fate (as if there was any other possible outcome).

In all honesty, this game should have been every bit as lopsided as the 2014 meeting. Ohio State turned the ball over twice inside its own 10-yard line with one of those turnovers being a pick-six, and Wisconsin didn't score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, it seemed the Buckeyes were outright refusing to score at times. Ohio State somehow left with no points on its right before the half thanks to almost unrealistically bad clock management, kicked a field goal on fourth-and-1 inside the five-yard line after going for it on fourth literally three plays and 10 yards earlier, J.K. Dobbins couldn't finish a run and no less than five deep touchdown passes were either dropped or overthrown.

Look, I'm not accusing anyone on Ohio State's coaching staff of shaving points. But I am saying there's somebody who had that magic sweet spot between Wisconsin +7 and Ohio State -3.5 thanks to some well-timed turnovers, curious clock management, uncharacteristically conservative coaching decisions, and .

But at the end of the day, the Buckeyes won and might have punched their ticket to the College Football Playoff in the process.

Let's debrief.

Quick Breakdowns


Against all odds, Ohio State only scored 27 points.

Based on how this team played, how many open receivers there were, how many deep runs J.K. Dobbins had and how many explosive plays the Buckeyes had on Saturday night, it's nothing short of a miracle that Ohio State scored only 27 points.

Aside from actually like, scoring points, the offense was pretty good. J.K. Dobbins rushed for 174 yards, the receivers were getting open with relative consistency and the Buckeyes put up nearly 450 yards of total offense.


The Buckeyes could not have played much better defensively.

The score says Wisconsin scored 21 points, but only 11 of those can really be put on the defense. Even then, the Badgers had a short field on their only touchdown drive of the game thanks to an interception.

The other points came courtesy of Ohio State turnovers deep in its own territory, one of which was a pick six. After Mike Weber fumbled on the Buckeye 10-yard line, you could argue the Silver Bullets actually accounted for four points instead of giving up three by holding Wisconsin to just a field goal.

The Buckeyes shut down Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, holding him to just 41 yards on 15 attempts, and picked off Alex Hornibrook twice while not allowing him to throw a single touchdown.

Buckeye Leafs

Offense: J.K. Dobbins

Hey, a Buckeye running back blew up against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Shades of Ezekiel Elliott's 2014 performance, J.K. Dobbins absolutely gashed Wisconsin on Saturday night, rushing for 174 yards on just 17 carries and was named the game's MVP.

Dobbins also broke Maurice Clarett's freshman rushing record, which he set during the 2002 season. Astoundingly, he did it on nearly half the carries.

Folks, he's going to be terrorizing opposing defenses for at least two more seasons.

Defense: Jerome Baker

The linebackers have come under some justifiable fire at times this season and Jerome Baker certainly has not escaped that criticism, but Saturday night he might have played his best game in an Ohio State uniform.

Baker led the team with an absurd 15 solo tackles – equalling the totals of Ohio State's next four top tacklers combined – and also had a sack and two tackles for a loss. His 16 total tackles is the most by any Buckeye this season by quite a large margin as Tuf Borland had the next most with 12 against UNLV.

Perhaps more impressive than the tackles was the way Baker and the linebackers held Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli, the Badgers' top playmaker in the passing game, to just five catches for 45 yards on 11 targets.

Plays of the Game


I'll give you your pick here.

If you're a fan of deep balls that travel for a long time through the air before being caught by a streaking wide receiver on a fly route, here. Have this one.

If you're more a yards after the catch sort of guy, this one should meet your approval. 

The Ohio State offense was all things for all people on Saturday night, at least in the first half.


Wisconsin was driving, and it looked like the Badgers were going to hop out to a quick lead over the Buckeyes early in Indianapolis.

Then the Badgers decided to throw at Denzel Ward.

Ward was lockdown all night, finishing with this interception along with two other pass breakups.

Biggest Surprise

Ohio State forgot how to score in the second half.

After the high-powered first half where the Buckeyes got big play after big play, they couldn't find the end zone, much less move the ball consistently, in the second half. Ohio State managed just six points after the half, but it was still enough for a six-point victory.

Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment

After a long Saturday spent at his yodeling club's winter retreat, Jim Tressel was excited to get home to watch his Buckeyes take home a Big Ten Championship.

One thing made him nervous, though. With the postseason implications, Tressel was very concerned Urban Meyer would look for style points and run up the score with the game well at hand.

Early on, it seemed Tressel's concern's were met with reality. Ohio State was up big, and kept going for points with big play after big play. But a few mistakes and some offensive stalls later, Wisconsin made it a game again. The Badgers scored with just over 12 minutes left to cut the Buckeye lead to just three points.

"This is where you run the clock out," Tressel thought to himself, knowing Meyer would never do such a thing.

The Buckeyes moved the ball, slowly but surely into Badger territory before Wisconsin stopped them on third down on the 12-yard line, presumably forcing a field goal. But Meyer sent his offense back out on the field.

"This is going to cost them the game," Tressel thought, burying his head into his hands.

Sure enough, Barrett was stuffed at the line. But then he pulled back, shifted right and got the first down on a second effort. Once again, Meyer's negligence was rewarded.

Three plays later, Ohio State was in nearly the same position, this time at the Wisconsin three-yard line. Tressel knew what was going to happen, and was already emotionally preparing himself.

What he saw shocked him: the field goal unit came out on the field and Ohio State tacked up three points, kicking a field goal from inside the Wisconsin five-yard line with just a yard to go for the first down.

Tressel was grinning ear-to-ear. He just watched his beloved Buckeyes go on a 15-play, 72-yard drive that spanned over seven minutes and resulted in a field goal inside the five yard line.

"We just won the game," he said aloud to himself, full of smug.

Biggest Blunder

Two Ohio State turnovers deep in its own territory allowed this game to be as close as it was. The Buckeyes had a pick six and a fumble inside their own 10-yard line, resulting in 10 points for Wisconsin – its only 10 points of the first half.

Without those turnovers, the Badgers at worst don't score, and at best, Ohio State scores on those drives as well, as the Buckeyes seemed to be moving the ball at will.

If Ohio State would have simply protected the ball on those plays, there's a chance they enter halftime with a 28-point or 35-point lead instead of an 11-point lead.

Underrated Things

Jeffrey Okudah Dominates Special Teams

Special teams effort and success as a freshman is typically a good indicator of future success at Ohio State.

Given that, Buckeye fans should be very excited about Jeffrey Okudah, because he's made quite a few splendid special teams plays this year, and he added a few more to his highlight tape on Saturday.

Okudah was also on the field late in the game during Wisconsin's final drive after Kendall Sheffield left with an injury.

The Spot Was Good Again!

J.T. Barrett got a clutch fourth down conversion late in the game.

At first, he was stacked up short at the line, but he had the awareness to bounce it outside and narrowly get the first down.

This play triggered two bad memories: Braxton Miller's failed fourth-down run against Michigan State in 2013 Big Ten Championship game, and Terrelle Pryor's fumble when he tried to bounce a quarterback sneak outside against Penn State.

But this time, it was all fine and Barrett got the first down.

Schiano Smirkin'

Arguably the best moment of the game had absolutely nothing to do with said game:

At the rate Tennessee's coaching search is going, I fully expect the Vols to pay a high school quarterbacks coach $5 million to coach their team. And even he would have serious reservations.

It Was Over When...

Alex Hornibrook tossed a deep duck into the waiting arms of Damon Webb. Realistically, there was no chance Wisconsin was scoring on that drive, with such a short amount of time left. But the interception sealed it.

Biggest Question Going Forward

Will Ohio State make the playoff? And if they do, will the Buckeyes have more success this season, as the opponent would likely be Clemson?

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