With the Buckeye offense stuck in neutral most of the afternoon, the defense had to dig deep to withstand the powerful Wisconsin offense.
The Buckeyes yielded a lot of yardage – 360 overall, including 206 on the ground – but they came up with timely stops as the Badgers threatened, none bigger than at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter when linebacker Ryan Shazier punched the ball free from Montee Ball as he reached for a first down and a touchdown.
It was far from a perfect day for a unit that has seen its ups and downs, but the Ohio State defense redeemed itself with the shutout in overtime after yielding a tying touchdown late in regulation.
Shazier had a game-high 12 tackles, including three of the team's nine for loss, and end John Simon produced four sacks to tie a school record for a single game.
"We played a great defense in a great environment and their offense, to keep that running back somewhat in check, I thought our defense did a fantastic job," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. "That one drive was painful to watch at the end where they got a score to the tying touchdown. Another overtime win and that's good to see from the Buckeyes."
2. Will the real Wisconsin offense stand up?
The Badgers showed their improvement on offense since the start of the season is for real with by far their best rushing day against a team that has stopped the run well on the season.
Ball ran for 191 yards on 39 carries, including a touchdown, and the Badgers eclipsed 200 yards rushing as a team against Ohio State for the first time since at least the turn of the century.
The Buckeyes entered the game second in the Big Ten in rushing defense at 107.9 yards per game.
"I think Montee played tremendous today," center Travis Frederick said. "He did a really great job. He was running as hard as I've ever seen him run today, and I think he was doing that for several reasons. Hopefully he can continue to run that well. I think our offensive line played a little bit better today, but not where we needed to be. We need to continue to improve."
3. Will either team be able to throw?
Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips was inconsistent, going 14 for 25 passing for 15 yards. He was clutch in leading a last-minute drive to tie the game and made an outstanding throw into a tight spot for a touchdown with time winding down but missed a couple of early throws that could have led to big plays.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller rarely looked comfortable whether dropping to throw or reading the option. He was 10 for 18 for 97 yards and did not complete a pass of more than 18 yards as the Badgers took away the deep part of the field. He also took three sacks, all of which appeared to be a result of him holding the ball too long when he was unable to find anyone open.
Miller ran 23 times for a net of only 48 yards.
4. Will there be a game-changing play on special teams?
Corey "Philly" Brown was not only Ohio State's leading receiver on the day but also produced the first scoring play.
He fielded a Drew Meyer punt at his own 32, made a coverage man miss then sprinted straight up the field for a 68-yard touchdown that gave the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. He had only Meyer to dodge after passing the first wave of Badgers.
It was Brown's second punt return for a touchdown this season.
After Denzel Doe went 36 yards with The Opening kickoff, Ohio State kept Wisconsin's return game in check as only two of Ben Buchanan's nine punts were returned.
"I thought our punt team did a heck of a job covering punts," Meyer said. "Our punter probably had his best day, his last one wasn't very good, but our punter had an excellent day as well."
Buchanan averaged 37.3 yards per punt and had two downed inside the 20 with another going into the end zone.
His last punt was only 34 yards and gave Wisconsin the ball at the Ohio State 41-yard line to set up the game-tying touchdown drive.
5. Which team wins the first quarter?
Ohio State finally achieved a positive scoring differential for the season in the first quarter thanks to Brown's punt return for a touchdown.
That represented the only points of the first 15 minutes for either team.
Two of Ohio State's three best drives on offense came in the first quarter, but that is not saying a lot.
After the defense forced a three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, the Buckeyes took the ball at their own 16 and marched 48 yards. The drive fizzled after Jake Stoneburner appeared to lose a Miller pass in the sun and Miller was stopped on a third down run.
They picked up 38 yards on their only other drive of the first quarter and finished the quarter with five first downs and 86 yards on 16 plays.
They gained only 150 yards the rest of the way, including 25 in overtime.