On Saturday night, No. 4/3 Ohio State defeated No. 23/24 Wisconsin 31-24 in front of 105,826 Scarlet-clad fans at Ohio Stadium. The victory extended the Buckeyes’ winning streak to 17 games, the longest in the nation, while moving OSU to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in Big Ten play.
Ohio State jumped out to an early 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game and never trailed. The Buckeyes led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, held a 24-14 advantage at halftime, and claimed its biggest lead of the contest at 31-14 with 2:18 left in third quarter.
After stopping Wisconsin in the first series of the game as the Badgers gained just two yards on three plays, Ohio State began its first possession at the OSU 45.
It took the Buckeyes just four plays to cover the 55 yards that was capped off on a 25-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Braxton Miller to junior wide receiver Evan Spencer.
The Badgers tied the game at 7-all, the only time the contest was deadlocked, as Wisconsin went 90 yards in eight plays and scored on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Joel Stave to Jared Abbrederis with 3:52 to go in the opening period.
Ohio State responded with a six play, 73 yard scoring drive that took only 2:57 off the clock as Miller threw his second TD pass of the game, this time to Devin Smith with 44 ticks left in the first quarter that made the score 14-7 in favor of the Buckeyes.
After Drew Basil’s 45-yard field goal at the 4:33 mark of the second stanza that put OSU up 17-7, UW went 76 yards in seven plays the resulted in 11-yard TD pass from Stave to tight end Sam Arneson with 1:30 to play before intermission.
Not to be outdone, Ohio State engineered a scoring drive in the final 90 seconds. On the fourth play of the drive, the Buckeyes faced a third-and-6 at the OSU 47 as Miller ran up the middle for a gain of 10 yards and a first down. Three plays later on a third-and-7 from the UW 40, Miller’s deep pass to Devin Smith was nearly intercepted. On the very next play, Miller connected with Philly Brown on a perfectly thrown ball in the corner of the end zone with :01 left on the clock to give Ohio State a 24-14 lead.
At the break, Ohio State held a slight advantage in first downs (14-10) and total yards (269-260).
The only scoring in the third quarter was a 1-yard TD pass from Miller to Philly Brown with 2:18 remaining in the period that gave the Buckeyes’ its biggest lead of the game at 31-14.
The fourth quarter was all Wisconsin as the Badgers scored 10 points and outgained Ohio State 107-37.
Sure, Wisconsin was trailing by 17 points in the last frame, but some of it was the play-calling by head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman, which became Tressel-like in the final 15 minutes.
But more on that later.
Let’s take a look at “The Good:”
– Miller, playing for the first time since he left very early in the first quarter against San Diego State with an MCL sprain in his left knee three weeks ago, was 17-of-25 passing for 198 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Miller also rushed for 83 yards on 22 carries.
He didn’t show any signs of rust, though I’m sure there’s a pass or two he’d like back.
– Senior running back Carlos Hyde toted the rock 17 times for 85 yards, and as a team, the Buckeyes netted 192 yards on 43 attempts for an average of 4.5 yards per carry.
– Senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown notched eight receptions for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
– Entering the game, Wisconsin ranked third in the nation in rushing offense averaging 349.5 yards per game. Against Ohio State, the Badgers were limited 104 yards on 27 carries, and average of 3.9 yards per rushing attempt.
– Wisconsin was 3-of-12 in third down conversions.
– Special Teams: Senior place-kicker Drew Basil was 1-for-1 in field goal attempts and made all four of his PATs. Two of his six kickoffs were touchbacks. Punter Cameron Johnston, a freshman from Geelong, Australia, was named the Big Ten’s Special Teams Player of the Week. Johnston, a 21-year old former Australian Rules Football player, punted six times and had an average of 39.8 yards per boot with a net average of 38.8 yards. All six punts landed inside the 20 and Johnston’s longest of 55 yards pinned Wisconsin deep at their own 10 yard line with 1:29 left in the fourth quarter.
Now let’s take a look at “The Bad:”
– Pass Defense: Prior to Saturday’s game, the most passing yards this season Stave had was 219 yards against Tennessee State. Granted, the Badgers won that game 48-0, but Stave only threw for 187 yards on 15-of-30 passing in UW’s loss to Arizona State.
Abbrederis, who came into the game with 23 receptions, 17 more than the next receiver for the Badgers, had 10 catches for 207 yards and there were several times that he beat first-team All-American (ESPN) Bradley Roby like a drum. If Roby is a lockdown corner and a projected first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, he didn’t show that on Saturday.
– Play-calling: After going up 31-14 in the third quarter, Ohio State attempted just two passes and ran the ball 14 times in 16 total plays in the final 15 minutes. Like I said earlier, it was Tressel-like. In the final quarter, Wisconsin outscored Ohio State 10-0 and outgained the Buckeyes 107-37. The Badgers also ran off 20 offensive plays.
The most surprising stat of the game is that Miller ran the ball 22 times! 22! And his longest run from the line of scrimmage was 15 yards. I get it that Meyer wants to know that Miller is healthy, but that’s way too many rushing attempts.
– Jordan Hall, who entered the game as Ohio State’s leading rusher with 422 yards on 68 carries, ran just once for five yards.
Pathetic! No more one score wins over weaker opponents!
Look, this writer was unimpressed with Ohio State’s win. If the Buckeyes want to advance to the National Championship game, the offense, defense, special teams and play-calling has to get better.
Up next, Ohio State travels to Evanston to take on No. 16/15 Northwestern (4-0), this Saturday. Kickoff at Ryan Field is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET, and it will be televised on you local ABC affiliate.