Ohio State traveled to the hostile confines of Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin to take on the Badgers. Unfortunately, the Special Teams demons came back to haunt the Bucks as they fell to Wisconsin 31-18. Pryor had an off day, hitting only 14/27 for 156 yards and an interception.
The game started out in poor fashion. On the opening kickoff David Gilreath took the kickoff return for a touchdown. The score put the Badgers up 7 a mere 12 seconds into the game and set the tone for the game to come.
On the ensuing Buckeye drive, the woes seemed to continue. The second play from scrimmage saw Pryor pitch an option to Dan Herron which bounced off his hands and went out of bound 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The next play was an errant pass from Pryor that was almost intercepted. Thankfully the defender fell out of bounds, but the play forced the Buckeyes to punt. The Badgers were firmly in the driver’s seat with the ball in great field position.
With their first offensive possession, the Badgers came out doing what they do best – running the football. Two straight runs to Clay gave them a first down and moved into Buckeye territory. With the Buckeyes struggling to stop the power running game, the Badgers simply kept plowing away until Clay finally broke a 12 yard run for a touchdown.
The Buckeyes began to find some room to move the football, particularly on Quarterback runs. Pryor gained first down yardage on a pair of long 3rd down runs. One was a great scramble for the first after none of the receivers broke open. Unfortunately, the drive stalled on a pass to Jake Stoneburner that was ruled an incompletion on replay. The Buckeyes were again forced to punt, but things were no-where near desperate yet.
With a 14 point lead, the Badgers were entirely comfortable keeping the ball on the ground. The strategy continued to work as the Buckeyes were entirely unable to stop the running attack. The drive consumed the remainder of the quarter and ended in an early second quarter touchdown. Absolutely nothing the Buckeyes were doing defensively was having any success on the Badger’s gameplan.
The Buckeye offense finally got themselves going. Pryor rescued the drive on several occasions with great running, but as the Buckeyes closed on the endzone, they were carried on the legs of Dan Herron down to the 3 yard line. The Badgers clamped down on the Buckeyes close in to the endzone and prevented 3 straight runs to force the Buckeyes to kick a field goal. However, simply getting points was a win for the Bucks this early and gave the Defense something to work for.
The Defense finally managed to get some momentum in the game. On a second down near midfield, Andrew Sweat picked off a Tolzien pass over the middle and gave the Buckeyes good field position for the ensuing drive, especially after a late hit out of bounds on the play. The Buckeye offense, however, was completely impotent and gained almost no yardage on a 3 and out drive. The field goal was missed, and all of the momentum gained by the Buckeyes evaporated in 4 quick plays.
The stats were not pretty at the half. Wisconsin had 197 yards to the Buckeyes 94. Pryor had a 4/11 completion percentage for 25 yards compared to Tolzien’s 7/9 for 59 yards. Clay was having the biggest day of anyone, hitting 13 carries for 88 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Buckeyes best, Dan Herron, only had 5 carries for 38 yards – though the 7.6 average is better than Clay’s 6.8.
Admittedly, Wisconsin had a fantastic gameplan going into this game. No-one the Buckeyes had faced all season had challenged the defensive line with a power running game. Also, no-one had yet forced the Buckeyes to try to run the football. By taking away the Buckeye passing game and focusing on running the football up the gut Wisconsin found all sorts of success.
Ohio State came out of the gate in the second half with the ball, and began to move the football again. A great play from Pryor (and a great block from Brewster) to hit Sanzenbacher over the middle saved the drive early. Tressel followed that up with a steady dose of Dan Herron up the gut, which found surprisingly large holes up the middle – again due to great blocking from Brewster. The end of the drive was the best to that point in the game, as a Dan Herron “Boomcat” formation (Buckeye Wildcat) resulted in a massive stiffarm to get Herron into the endzone for six.
The Buckeyes finally got a stop on 3rd and short on the Badgers next possession. With the Linebackers staying to help against the run, the Wisconsin offense found it difficult to punch the ball up the middle – even with running back John Clay in the backfield. The Wisconsin punt left the Buckeyes on their own 6 yardline deperately needing points as the 3rd quarter was wearing away.
The OSU offense began moving the ball with authority. Despite a holding call on a great first down run, the Buckeyes managed to quickly move the ball into Wisconsin territory. The drive showed great balance in the run and pass which seemed to have the Badgers completely confused.
Boom Herron had a fantastic game in this one. Despite some early struggles – especially from the offensive line – Herron finally found some holes opened up by the line. He quickly turned into a guaranteed 3 yards every time he had the ball. The Bucks kept giving the ball back to him and soon had Herron into the endzone for a touchdown.
Impressively, Tressel went for the 2 point conversion. Pryor converted it with a rollout to the right and toss back to the left to Reid Fragel.
The Badgers weren’t going to go away easily. They quickly set up a drive and picked apart the Buckeye defense to get down into the redzone. As earlier in the game, the Buckeye defense was completely impotent in stopping the Wisconsin attack. The Badgers wasted absolutely no time in putting another touchdown on the board to put the score back up to 10 with only 7 minutes left in the game.
The Buckeyes got the ball back but were entirely unable to make anything happen with the ball, going three and out quickly. All three plays were passes that should have been catchable but were either slightly over or under thrown, or simply were not hauled in. Even more questionably, Tressel chose to punt the ball away despite his defense’s complete and utter inability to stop anything today.
The Badgers didn’t play into the Buckeye’s hands. They quickly threw the ball for a huge gain over the middle and followed it up with a healthy dose of running plays up the middle. The drive ended in a field goal that gave Wisconsin the first 30 point game against a Buckeye team since the 2008 USC game.
The Buckeyes had nothing left in the tank. Pryor tried hard to bring the Buckeyes back, but down 13 it was simply too much for him to make things happen.
Dan Herron just missed having a 100 yard day with 20 carries for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Pryor had one of his worst passing days of the season with 14/27 for 156 yards.
Tolzien did everything he had to in order to beat the Buckeyes. He hit 13/16 for 152 yards and threw a pick – though it didn’t cost his team much. John Clay was the first runningback since 2008 to have a 100 yard game against the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes next face Purdue at home in a rematch of last year’s loss. That game will air at Noon.