I have no idea how to do that game justice, but here goes. Ohio State’s defense quite simply played out of their minds and kept the game manageable. The offense made just enough plays, including the last one, and the Buckeyes came away with a 33-29 win over #15 Wisconsin at the Shoe in front of Vico, Margie and 105,000+ other assorted paying guests. For the second straight week, the Badgers got their hearts ripped right out of their chests a la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on a late bomb. This time they still had 20 seconds remaining to strike back, which was a little more nervy than it had to be thanks to Drew Basil’s out-of-bounds kickoff and a facemask penalty on [unidentified Buckeye]. But in the end, the defense (Andrew Sweat) made one last play to alter Russell Wilson’s Hail Mary attempt, giving Braxton Miller’s improbable side-armed, back-foot heave to Devin Smith the distinction of winning the game.
The Buckeyes, as usual, did things the hard way. Ohio State blew a two-score lead in the last five minutes of the game. The Badgers seemed poised for a comeback victory when no one bothered covering Jared Abbrederis and he hauled in a 49-yard pass from #AllRussellWilsonEverything for the apparent winning touchdown with 1:18 to play. At that point, Ohio State had thrown all of two second-half passes and had two timeouts. Jordan Hall, who had allowed Wisconsin back into the game with a muffed punt, put the Buckeyes in a good spot with a long kickoff return to the OSU 48. The Buckeyes squeaked out a first down on three plays, setting up a first down at the Wisconsin 40. On the next play, Miller felt the Wisconsin pressure and rolled right. As he approached the sideline, he heaved the ball deep to a wide-open Smith, who hauled it in for the winning score with just 20 seconds to play.
Miller played well, completing 7-of-12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 99 yards and two more touchdowns. Without a doubt it was the freshman’s biggest performance of the season. Miller’s 44-yard touchdown run seemed to seal the win for Ohio State with 4:39 to play, but the defense made some mistakes and threw the Badgers a lifeline. It is forgivable because the defense played outstanding football throughout most of the game. John Simon and Jonathan Hankins were beasts as usual, but everyone made plays.
The Buckeye defense set the tone on the first Wisconsin possession, forcing a three-and-out. The Badgers got on the board with a third-down pass to Montee Ball on which Adam Bellamy practically got undressed on the end of the line. Holding on Wisconsin? Don’t be silly. The Badgers are permitted to hold as part of Ohio State’s self-imposed NCAA sanctions. Regardless, Wisconsin had the early lead. The defenses took center stage throughout the first half, but Ohio State finally got close enough for Drew Basil to bank in a 39-yard field goal off the left upright with 2:39 to play in the first half.
The Buckeyes then did what no team has done this season—they scored on Wisconsin to open a half. Boom Herron’s 57-yard run to the Wisconsin 18 set Ohio State up in scoring position, but the Buckeyes needed a Miller bootleg on fourth down at the one to take a 10-7 lead. Boom ran for 160 yards on a career high 33 carries and the Buckeyes outrushed the Badgers 268-89. That is not a misprint. Following the kickoff, the defense forced a three and out. Then Ryan Shazier trolled Wisconsin hard with a blocked punt that was recovered on the Badgers’ 1. Jordan Hall scored from there to make it 17-7.
Hall giveth and then Hall taketh away. The D forced another three-and-out on Wisconsin’s next possession, but Hall muffed Brad Nortman’s punt and Jon Budmayr recovered to give the Badgers new life. Six plays later, Montee Ball plowed in to make it 17-14 after three quarters.
The defense forced a punt from deep in Wisconsin territory and Hall returned 12 yards to the Wisconsin 34. Boom Herron did the rest on a 28-yard drive that ended in a short Basil field goal. Wisconsin looked to answer on its next possession, but the defense stopped Ball on fourth-and-two, protecting the lead. Six plays later, Miller kept the ball on the option left and went 44 yards untouched to make it 26-14 after the two-point try failed. You know the rest. The Badgers rallied but Miller’s downfield vision and strong arm bailed out a defense that had been excellent for 55 minutes.
Fans stormed the field just to rub it in a little bit. After all the ESPN replays of Wisconsin fans rushing the football field and basketball court last year, a little fun is allowed. The Buckeyes are in a great position now. If they can run the table and Penn State loses one other game, Ohio State would be an improbable combatant in the inaugural B1G championship game, where it might get another shot at Nebraska. This team is young, and the challenge for them will be handling the success of the last two games. There is a lot that can still be fixed. Enjoy it for now.