The Way I Saw It: Wisconsin

Posted by Michael in Buckeye Football |

The Way I Saw It

Have you come down from your Saturday high yet? I haven’t. Since I couldn’t be in Columbus for the game, I watched more footbaw and then rode the Twitter waves until about 2:30 in the morning. And even then I had to force myself to go to bed. I didn’t want the feeling to end. Ohio State’s 33-29 win over Wisconsin was a better roller coaster than anything you’ll find at Cedar Point or Disney World. Going from comfortable lead, into what seemed like a sure loss, then back into an improbable win was the perfect example of the greatness of college football. I love this game. It’s faaaaan-tastic! (And other assorted slogans.)

The Buckeyes were in beast mode defensively all night long. A year after being abused like Quagmire’s sister on Sunday night’s episode of Family Guy, the Ohio State defensive line stepped into manhood and shut down the much-ballyhooed Wisconsin running game. (Note: I’m not even sure how to ballyhoo something, but every member of the national sports media figured out a way to ballyhoo the Badgers’ running attack.) After a tense, defensive first half, the Buckeyes built a second-half lead and continued to shut down the Wisky attack until a couple of breakdowns late helped the Badgers make life difficult. That’s when Braxton Miller turned on the magic. You know the rest. How did I see it? Well, read on.

Stuffing, instead of potatoes: To me, the biggest key of the game was the defensive line stuffing Wisconsin and abusing Bucky’s big, bad offensive line. John Simon, Jonathan Hankins, Adam Bellamy, Garrett Goebel and sometimes Michael Bennett did what last year’s defensive line couldn’t do. The D-line blew up the stretch play, smothered everything up the middle and brought multiple hats to the ball nearly every time Wisconsin ran. Then they collapsed the pocket on passing downs and forced Russell Wilson to throw the ball early or out of rhythm. The defensive squeeze by the Buckeyes kept the game close throughout the first half, allowing the offense time to catch up. Until the intermission, Ohio State mostly just moved the chains enough to flip the field behind Ben Buchanan’s booming punts. They didn’t force any turnovers, but the defense – especially the line – was responsible for keeping the Buckeyes in the hunt.

Run, Runaway: The offensive line played like it didn’t want to be upstaged by its defensive counterpart. Ohio State’s O-line, including the bulldozer named Zach Boren that’s been masquerading as a fullback, knocked the Badgers around and allowed Boom Herron to do his thing. Herron piled up 160 yards on 33 carries against a defense that knew he was coming every time. They stacked the box but it mostly didn’t matter. And when Herron galloped for 57 yards to open the second half, the game started to change for the Buckeye offense. Even if you take away that long run, Herron still rushed for more than 100 yards against a team that knew he was getting the ball. That’s impressive. By being able to run the ball, Ohio State moved the chains, ran clock and kept Wisconsin’s offense on the sideline. The Buckeye offense allowed the defense to rest and the D responded by being relentless on every down. To put things in perspective, if someone told you before the game that the rushing yards would be 268-89, which team would you assume had the 268? Exactly.

Chain gang: The Buckeyes were an impressive 11-of-20 on third down against Wisconsin. Not all of those were gimmies, either. Braxton Miller made some plays with his feet and his arm, and the Buckeyes converted time and again, wearing out the Badgers on defense. Who can forget the effort of Miller stretching the ball out as he was tackled, getting just enough yardage to move the chains? The Buckeyes played with urgency on important downs and it paid off in the end.

Rejected: There are few plays in sports that can change momentum as suddenly as a blocked kick. Ryan Shazier slashed to the ball and practically took it off of punter Brad Nortman’s foot. Curtis Grant fell on it and slid into the end zone for an apparent touchdown, which was later spotted at the 1-yard line. Jordan Hall carried in from there and the Buckeyes had a two-score lead in the third quarter. Wisconsin managed to answer, but only because Hall muffed the punt that Ohio State’s defense forced. Regardless, the cushion of that score made life a lot more difficult for Wisconsin.

Devin Smith catches both a pass and a new lease on the 2011 season. (the-ozone.net)

“The Pass”: Braxton Miller grew up on Saturday night. A true freshman quarterback, Miller is only a few months removed from high school. But there he was on national television in a game that could decide the fate of Ohio State’s entire season. After Hall atoned for his muffed punt with a kickoff return to the OSU 48, the offense needed three plays to eke out a first down, then set up on the Wisconsin 40. Miller dropped back, eluded pressure to his right and then had a decision to make. With his speed, Miller could have picked up a good chunk of yards before scampering out of bounds and setting up Drew Basil with a chance to tie the game. But Miller kept looking for a receiver and he eventually spotted Devin Smith, who had slipped behind a blown coverage. While running at full speed to his right, Miller launched the ball back across his body, off of one foot, side armed. That ball seemed to hang forever, but in actuality it was about three and a half seconds. Eventually it came down in the waiting arms of Smith, five yards deep in the end zone. The strength and accuracy it took to get the ball to Smith was amazing. Buckeye euphoria ensued, and then the defense closed it out. Miller was very good in that game, hitting 7-of-12, but he was not helped by a couple of drops. He also ran for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Our boy became a man right before our eyes, and it was glorious.

Other random thoughts/observations:

  • Though he made up for it on his last touch, Jordan Hall seemed a bit off to me. His running was largely snuffed out, aside from the determined third-down touchdown run, but what troubled me most was his play on punt returns. Hall seemed to make the wrong choice on whether to call for a fair catch every time. His muff threw the Badgers a lifeline and nearly proved fatal in the end. Let’s hope a good week with Doc Tressel fixes that.
  •  Etienne Sabino made a huge play on Wisconsin’s fourth-and-two play, and credit to analyst Todd Blackledge for pointing it out on the broadcast. Sabino kept outside leverage on the stretch play and forced it back inside, where Andrew Sweat helped him clean up. It was a huge play at the OSU 37, with the Buckeyes holding onto a 20-14 lead. A score there for Wisconsin changes everything. Instead, Miller bolted for a 44-yard touchdown six plays later. Huge swing.
  • We’ll see if it sticks, but the Buckeyes looked to have their swagger back. The body language on the field and on the sidelines was good all night, even when plays weren’t working. I love watching the players on the sideline bouncing along to the music with their helmets held high. Confidence is a huge part of the game, especially for a young team.
  • Seriously, how good was Ben Buchanan? He averaged almost 42 yards on his punts and still pinned three of them inside the 20. Our punter is doing work.
  • A lot has been made about rushing the field, including a whiny tweet from Bucky’s Fifth Quarter. Ordinarily, an OSU crowd would obviously not rush the field after beating the #15 team. But this was different. First of all, Ohio State had to endure watching Badger fans rush the field and the basketball court last year. Yes, Ohio State was top ranked both times. But Saturday’s game transcended rankings. It was the first time all year that it didn’t feel like the shadows Jim Tressel, Terrelle Pryor and forthcoming NCAA sanctions were hanging over the field. It felt like a real game day for maybe the first time all year. The joy was real and needed to be expressed. I approve the field rushing. Nobody who hasn’t gone through what Ohio State fans have gone through would understand, so maybe the whining is forgiveable. Then again, they can deal with it.

This is what joy looks like. And it has less to do with beating the nation's #15 team than the realization that a potential special season is back on the table. (the-ozone.net)

 

Written by: Michael Citro | full bio

Michael is Director of OHD's Shooty Hoops Program, as well as an OSU grad and progressive rock enthusiast.

 

9 Responses to “The Way I Saw It: Wisconsin”

  1. 1 Ron

    I think you nailed the sentiment there Michael. It’s not Jim Tressel’s team anymore. They have their own identity now and we all see the potential. I guess they call that “Hope.” Hope, BTW, is that thing we like to rip out of the carcasses of wolverine fans every year.

  2. 2 Brandon

    Bucky fans can complain and moan all they want. At least our fans didn’t chant class-less garbage like “over-rated” or foul language at them like the Wisconsin fans do to everyone. Welcome to class, Wisconsin fans. Take your Napolean complex and go back to Madison and mediocrity.

  3. 3 Nick M

    I don’t agree at all with the up and down making it great. Woody Hayes didn’t know anything about strategy, but he did know you don’t take your foot off the gas pedal. Nick Saban, Pete Carrol, and Urban Meyer know. Even Bob Stoops.

  4. 4 Nick M

    Yeah, little Boren abused those linebackers. They were put on their backs several times courtesy of his blocking.

  5. 5 Ken

    Good post, Michael, thanks. First, the field rush by the students was gret to see. Not nearly all the demons have been exorcised, but a lot of joy and happiness in Columbus on Saturday. Glad to see the celebration.

    I thought the defense looked sharp all night long, except for the brain-cramps with coverage in the last couple minutes. I’m not sure that we can count on an 11 minute TOP edge every game, but I’m sure the defense was appreciative and they still had some energy for the last couple of defensive stops. Whew.

    I agree that JHall just looked out of sorts, or at least played that way. The punt returns were way too adventuresome for me, but he did manage to redeem himself with the KO return.

    I have two questions. Did we every identify who the facemask penalty was called on during Wisky’s last time play? What the heck was going on with Basil and the duck-hook KO? Please tell me it wasn’t intentional.

    For my moment of snark; in retrospect, I now appreciate the genius of Bollman’s playcalling. After Shazier’s punt block, we farted round with JHall by taking three plays to run 1 yard for the TD. Rather than use Hyde to punch it in on the 1st play, that extra minute of burned game timemay have made the difference.

  6. 6 Vico

    I see what you did there, Michael.

  7. 7 Vico

    I’ve been thinking about weighing in on the rushing the field thing. The Wisconsin blog wasn’t the only one to make a petty comment about it. An Ann Arbor beat writer, Angelique Chengelis, did too.

    I was there (obviously, WOOO) when said field rushing occurred and was about 33 rows back from the field in 5A. When the fans started piling forward to rush the field, I remember having the same reaction they did. “Really, Wisconsin? Really?” If I could have held them all back then and there, I would. It’s preposterous for a program like Ohio State that has clearly “been there before”, numerous times even, to celebrate a victory over the 15th ranked team in the country, even if that team was favored to win by 85% of sports fans on ESPN. When Wisconsin beats Ohio State, we all call it an upset. When Ohio State beats Wisconsin, what do we as fans call it? Just another conference win and business as usual. Wisconsin isn’t Michigan and never will be. We are only about halfway through the season and I don’t want this to be considered our swan song for 2011, not when we could still win the whatever-division-we’re-in.

    But, after watching the students actually make good on their threat to bum rush the field, it became impossible to not think about it differently. There’s humor in even having this conversation. Is that Wisconsin blogger not admitting that the Badgers are still essentially the same nobody we routinely devoured throughout much of the preceding decades? Whether he likes it or not, he is. By stating Ohio State should not be rushing the field after beating the 15th ranked team in college football, he admits that is the modal position — at its very best — for his program. A program that had such high aspirations for this season, reduced to a mid-level top 25 ranking that no one should celebrate — not the ranking, not the program. So, no, we as Buckeyes should not celebrate such a victory over Wisconsin — says the Wisconsin blogger — because the victory was inconsequential. Much like Wisconsin.

    More substantively, for this Buckeye fan at least, saying Ohio State students should not rush the field is somewhat of a petty means of depriving Buckeye fans of the moment. The Buckeyes this year are a ghost of what they were in the preceding years. The coach is gone. The star quarterback is gone. The interim coach is desperately trying to remove the interim tag while his players try to pick up the pieces of what once was. Think of the seniors even. Michael Brewster had few field-rushing moments — if any (I forget if we did against Iowa in 2009) — in a career that he hoped would result in multiple national championships. His recruiting class in 2008 — the one he took ownership of and the one that carries his name — would be the one that would put Tressel over the top. But Tressel’s gone, as are the dreams and lofty goals he had in the fall of 2007 and early winter of 2008.

    This team is not great. This team is not particularly good, either. Still, it is our team. It is our team for this year in 2011 and we, as fans, should still want the players to know that we love them and care deeply about the success we hope they have. Under these circumstances, rushing the field for this type of moment is not only appropriate, but probably even necessary. You’ve seen the pictures by now from Josh Winslow. You’ve seen Boom Herron and Mike Adams in tears, singing “Carmen Ohio” and momentarily forgetting their names are attached to the scandal that brought much of this into fruition. You’ve seen Mike Brewster, de facto team captain, at a loss for words as he is surrounded by thousands of his best friends. We still groan over the losses we have on our schedule. We still think they could and should be wins. We don’t want them to think, for that particular moment at least, that the thrilling win is overshadowed and consumed by our visions of what should have been. In a calendar year full of so many horrible things for Buckeye football, that team, at that particular moment, rose above it and did good. Considering the circumstances, we needed to let them know that.

    Beyond that, rushing the field is a not-so-subtle “fuck you” to everyone else. We rushed the field (the students did, at least) because we weren’t supposed to rush the field. When the students started marching forward, the cops initially there to stop them gave way, protecting only the goalposts so the students would not hurt themselves climbing the goalposts when they eventually did storm the field. The fuzz (can I call them that?) understood giving the fans the moment, even if other beat writers and fans didn’t and still don’t. Rushing the field was as much a celebratory measure for the team as it was an act of defiance to college football writ large. We will rush the field when you tell us not to do so. We will not lie down and die when you expect us to do so. We won’t let you try to deprive us of the moment. This is Ohio State. We do what we want, not what you want.

    Deal with it.

  8. 8 mike

    any other year, I agree with them. I was at the game, and I was thinking that it was really borderline to rush after that game. But after all we and the team have been through, after that finish, after absolutely no one thought we had a chance in the

  9. 9 Lily

    I was at the game as well in the student section. It definitely was one of the most filled games we’ve had up there with no open spots. How people can blame us rushing the field is a mystery to me for three main reasons:

    1) The media has been beating us to the ground since last December. Opposing fans, with little knowledge of what’s going on, drag our name across the mud, because they have a reason. It’s been hard being a buckeye the past year.

    2) We haven’t had anything to celebrate about. Hell, we don’t even know if we’ll be banned from post season bowl games! We lost three games early, on the road and at home, and our offensive has looked abismal for most of that stretch (only bright spot was the two and a-half quarters at Nebraska before Braxton got injured).

    3) The game itself. We weren’t supposed to win, and the way that it finished was an adrenaline rush. We beat the team that was supposed to steam roll through us at home in a spectacular fashion.

    So, while many “fans” and writers can say what they want, I’m glad you understand. It was a crazy atmosphere, though. Absolutely energizing to be at that game, and it became an intant Big Ten classic.

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