Staying undefeated in November is a tough task. Just ask the Ohio State Buckeyes, who needed overtime to take care of business in Madison, Wisconsin against the Badgers on Saturday. Credit the Badgers for fighting to the end. Credit the Buckeyes for overcoming adversity and making plays to keep the dream alive.
Bert and the boys
It really seemed early on that the Buckeyes were going to run away with the game against Bert Bielema and his Wisconsin Badger boys. When Cory Brown’s punt return for a touchdown put the Buckeyes up 7 followed by a machine-like high tempo drive early in the second quarter that resulted in a Carlos Hyde touchdown giving the Bucks a 14 point lead, the Camp Randall crowd seemed uninterested and it looked like the good guys were going to have their way. We certainly didn’t see the dramatic ending that put this game in line with the recent history of classic endings in Wisconsin-Ohio State games on the horizon.
Both teams showed great perseverance and battled through the highs and lows of the game. For the Badgers it was facing a 14 point hole. For the Buckeyes, it was a stalling second half offense that couldn’t get things going. For the first time this season, Braxton Miller was contained.
Bielema and his staff devised a great scheme that slowed up Miller: Set the edge and force him to show his hand early on as to where he was going along with spying him with a corner and a safety. It is similar to what we saw Stanford due to Oregon later that night. They are daring the quarterback to stay in the pocket and beat them with his arm. They are also running the risk their spy’s can make a tackle one-on-one with one of the most elusive players in college football. The Badgers I’m sure are aware he hasn’t earned the name “XBrax360” because he lacks shake and spin. Bert’s gamble paid off and Wisconsin held Miller to his lowest yardage totals of the season and kept the Buckeye offense stammering to the end result of (even with overtime) a mere 21 points.
Fortunately in the overtime he offense got on track. Better late than never, I guess. Carlos Hyde’s seemingly easy touchdown gave the Buckeyes the coveted overtime edge of 7 points and put it on the shoulders of their defense. Four plays later, the Buckeyes were 11-0.
Last week we spotlighted the Wisconsin-Ohio State rivalry and how it was blossoming into a true “second tier” rivalry for the Buckeyes. Saturday’s game added to the burgeoning legacy. It was definitely one for the ages.
Ryan to the rescue
As is becoming the norm, Ryan Shazier was everywhere making plays on the Badger offense. He was once again named Big Ten Defensive Player Of The Week on Monday for his efforts. No play was bigger than his stuff of Badger running back Montee Ball on fourth and goal at the end of regulation. Shazier said he knew Ball was going airborne from watching game film on him. When Ball left the ground, seeing Shazier’s number 10 flash in and meet him midair, popping the ball out into the surprised but waiting hands of Christian Bryant, was like seeing something in a movie.
We’ve all been watching Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and some even feel he should be getting serious Heisman consideration. For the record, I can be counted in the category of people who feel he’s a Heisman candidate and maybe even the leader. But that was until the other evening when someone said to me “You realize Shazier beats Te’o in every statistical category expect interceptions, right?” And I was shocked! But it is in fact true. Shazier leads him intackles (110/98) huge in tackles for loss (14.5/5.5) sacks (4/1.5) forced fumbles (3/0) and even pass break ups (11/4).
I’m not saying Shazier is a Heisman candidate, but I’ve definitely soured on my opinion of Te’o. But is that fair? Te’o is a monster and anyone who’s watched the Irish defense knows he is the heart and soul of it. Maybe realizing that Ryan Shazier is having perhaps the most underrated season of anyone in the country is what I should be focused on in light of the new information provided. We’ve got a pretty good one here for the next two years at the real “Linebacker U”. (stats provided by both universities official websites)
I’m like you, I don’t understand why they weren’t running Carlos Hyde early and often against Wisconsin. He was gashing them through the line of scrimmage and was dragging defenders on his way down. Clearly the Badgers were selling out to stop Braxton Miller. Why the lack of confidence in a guy who has proven all season he can and wants to carry the mail?
Cory “Philly” Brown is getting scary good. Urban Meyer made light of his touchdown catch and run against Nebraska saying it was only “what he is supposed to do.” Brown got the message and has been electric ever since. Expect him to be a big part of the game plan against TTUN.
John Simon appears bound and determined to make a lasting impression on Buckeye Nation in his final appearances in the scarlet and grey. Simon got to Wisconsin’s quarterback four times Saturday and appears to be hitting his stride right in time for you know who. Simon has had a great career at Ohio State and we’re all going to miss him. Athletes with a work ethic like his, an attitude like his and the desire that he has doesn’t come around very often. I think we’ll see one last shining moment from 54 on Saturday.
The offensive line play this season has been outstanding. They’ll need to be for one more week if the perfect season is to remain. We can look at this later on, but I have to ask again: How badly was Jim Bollman hurting the Buckeye offense in recent years?
After the Buckeyes won Saturday, twitter was flooded with comments about Gene Smith, Terrelle Pryor, Jim Tressel and rehashing the bowl ban and sanctions. With their team sitting at 11-0 and watching the SEC have no undefeated teams followed up by the Oregon Ducks and Kansas State Wildcats both losing, Buckeye fans were livid about the “what could be” possibilities. And while I agree it would be nice to see the Buckeyes in the BCS rankings, playing in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title and staring down Notre Dame for a shot at the national championship, it just isn’t a reality this season and we all know why.
My point is this: This is Hate Week. The Buckeyes are 11-0. The seniors who stayed despite the bowl ban are playing in their last game as Buckeyes. Don’t let all this be glossed over or somehow tarnished by people’s actions and judgments that are at this point out of anyone’s control and cannot and will not be changed.
There will be plenty of time over the holidays and the bowl season to complain about Gene, Jim and Terrelle. But right now, this week, right in front of your face, is an achievement and a rivalry that deserve your undivided attention and devotion.
Speaking of that rivalry…
You said to the ABC sideline reporter “We gonna eat today” during warm-up for last years matchup. You taunted us by simulating that you were spooning food from a bowl into your mouth every time you scored. Your team finally stopped a streak that was a statewide (nationwide?) embarrassment for your program. And you, Denard Robinson, did it with little to no class. Well guess what? Now the bill has come due and it is time for The Reckoning.
I said last year that I wouldn’t allow and refused to allow any of you to forget the way Robinson acted that afternoon. That I’d do everything I could to keep the terrible taste in your mouth and make you seething for his arrival. Well, it is here. The Reckoning is upon us.
Last season was a nightmare: Impending sanctions were looming, we battled with and supported a lame duck interim head coach, players were suspended and then some suspensions extended. On top of it all, we were kicked while we were down by a team that we hate so dearly. This hurt perhaps most of all. Rise up my friends, The Reckoning is here.
While it has stayed off the lips of the players and coaches, all efforts to this point in the season have been directly aimed at this one singular moment. Everything has led to this one opportunity to right the biggest wrong of 2011.
Saturday at noon in Ohio Stadium, in front of 105,000+ with millions more watching on television, The Reckoning is due. On this day we will celebrate our senior’s commitment to the university we all love. We revel in and cherish the final act of an undefeated season. Most importantly, we will put our rivals back in their place and restore order to our world.
There is nothing like this rivalry. There is nothing like The Game.
Wrap it up
Even Bo Schembechler himself would have grabbed Robinson by the facemask and put an end to his antics. Celebrate and be happy of your accomplishment, but win with class. I can’t wait for Saturday, but in the interim: Have a very Happy Thanksgiving! And until next week, Go Bucks!
Metallica track of the week
One game remains to perfection, one chance at payback from last season’s biggest fault. There’s only one dot on the “i” in Script Ohio and one Tunnel of Pride to show our seniors appreciation. Everything comes down to one. See where I’m going here… Let’s go back to Orion Music and More in Atlantic City this past June for the incomparable One!
(I’d swear my ears are still ringing from the pyro blasts!)