It's been a wonderful run for Ohio State, and it ended tonight at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers. A stout defensive performance coupled with Ohio State mistakes on offense, defense and special teams sent the Badgers to a 17-10 win, ending the Buckeyes' 19-game winning streak. Wisconsin's defensive front, led by a dominating performance by defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne, controlled the Ohio State offensive line, while the Badger offense ground out the win behind 100+ yards by reserve running back Booker Stanley and a huge late 79-yard fourth quarter touchdown pass from backup quarterback Matt Schabert to wide receiver Lee Evans, which put Wisconsin on top for good.
A wind-driven rainstorm greeted the two teams to start the game and did not let up throughout the first half. Ohio State took the opening kickoff and was forced to punt without getting a first down. A fine 26-yard return by Wisconsin's Jim Leonhard set the ball up inside OSU territory, but Wisconsin failed to capitalize from the good field position as they moved the ball into position to attempt a 49-yard field goal, but a false start penalty forced them to punt.
Ohio State took over at their own 20, and the offense sputtered again as they were forced to go three-and-out. Wisconsin then took over at their own 36, and on the strength of the strong running by Booker Stanley (starter Anthony Davis did not play due to injury) the Badgers engineered a strong 13-play, 63-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard Stanley run to make the score 7-0.
Ohio State took over at the 20 and embarked on a strange drive that started off with a 16-yard run by Lydell Ross but was shortly after slowed by clock problems. After a delay, OSU got the ball into Wisconsin territory with the help of a nifty option-type 17-yard shovel pass to Ben Hartsock. OSU had the ball at the Wisconsin 30, but they moved backwards after a holding penalty and were soon after forced to punt.
Wisconsin opened their next drive from their own 11-yard line and promptly hit a 22-yard pass play to Jonathan Orr, but the Ohio State defense stiffened and forced a punt three plays later. Ohio State's offense would go three-and-out on the next series, but the Buckeyes would get a break as the punt deflected off the hands of return man Jim Leonhard and was recovered by Jason Bond, giving the Buckeyes the ball at the Wisconsin 19.
Ohio State moved the ball inside the ten (including a close conversion on a Craig Krenzel quarterback sneak on 4th and inches), but they could not punch it in the end zone and had to settle for a 24-yard Mike Nugent field goal to cut the lead to 7-3. The score would stand that way at halftime as the OSU defense smothered Wisconsin on the next possession, thus giving the ball back to OSU, who ran out the clock to end the half.
The second half started promisingly for Ohio State as after a big run by Booker Stanley on the opening drive, quarterback Jim Sorgi was picked off by Dustin Fox, giving OSU the ball at the Wisconsin 14. The Buckeyes could not do much offensively (and lost Lydell Ross on the drive, who went down on the first carry and was helped off), but a big punt by B.J. Sander was downed by the Buckeyes at the Wisconsin one-yard line, putting the battle of field position back in OSU's favor.
Wisconsin went three-and-out, but one of the night's biggest errors came when the Badger punt was bobbled by Chris Gamble and recovered by Wisconsin at the Buckeye 38 yard line. After a few Stanley runs, the Badgers were faced with a third down situation, and Jim Sorgi tried to scramble for the first down but was taken down and injured on the play when Robert Reynolds apparently pressed his hand on Sorgi's throat. The Badgers then got a 38-yard field goal from Mike Allen to make it 10-3, but Sorgi would not return.
The Buckeyes started the next drive on their own 20-yard line, and the drive started with a first-down completion to Michael Jenkins, but the offensive line struggled as a false start and two sacks allowed resulted in a long third down that could not be converted. B.J. Sander hit a 49-yard punt to pin Wisconsin back at their 11, and the Badger offense and back-up QB Matt Schabert did not hold on to the ball long as they were forced to punt after six plays, but the punt got a nice roll and put OSU back at their own 17.
The Buckeye offense looked to have a spark on that drive though as Craig Krenzel hit Drew Carter for a 31-yard completion on second down to give OSU their biggest offensive play of the night, but shortly after, a big Krenzel run was negated by a hold, and a Krenzel deep pass intended for Michael Jenkins was intercepted by Jim Leonhard, giving Wisconsin the ball at their own 23. The Bagers would move the ball out past the 40 on the drive but had to punt back to Ohio State, giving the Buckeyes the ball at the 24.
OSU started with a 13-yard pass to Drew Carter from Krenzel, and after an incompletion and a short Krenzel run, Michael Jenkins was hit for a first down pass. Krenzel (14 of 26, 202 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) then hit Drew Carter with a 46-yard bomb that Carter (3 catches, 90 yards) grabbed with a nifty diving catch, and shortly after, the Buckeyes punched it in on a Krenzel-to-Michael Jenkins TD pass. The Mike Nugent PAT made it 10-10.
Momentum seemed to be in Ohio State's favor, but it was crushed on the following drive. Wisconsin took over on their own 20, and after a one-yard run by Booker Stanley, Schabert hit a wide-open Lee Evans -- who had been quiet all night -- for a 79-yard touchdown strike. The Badgers took the 17-10 lead on the point after.
Ohio State took over on their own 16 on the next play, and a 15-yard pass to Santonio Holmes and an 18-yard run by Craig Krenzel got things moving in a hurry. Shortly after though, a hold and two incomplete passes forced OSU to punt with 3:40 left and give the defense one last try to get OSU the ball back.
The defense couldn't hold. After an illegal contact penalty and two short Booker Stanley runs, a bootleg by Matt Schabert gave Wisconsin the first down. Shortly after, a 24-yard run by Booker Stanley clinched the win for the Badgers and put the Buckeyes' hopes of continuing their win streak to rest.
It was a night when Ohio State couldn't overcome mistakes. Key penalties (7 for 50 yards) and turnovers were instrumental in the Buckeye defeat, and as previously mentioned, the Badger defense did an excellent job against the OSU offensive line. OSU was also unable to establish the rush as Wisconsin held the Buckeyes to under 70 yards on the ground, while Wisconsin's Booker Stanley became the first running back to run for over 100 yards (31 carries, 125 yards, 1 TD) on Ohio State's defense since Wisconsin's Anthony Davis accomplished the feat last year.
"I think the first thing we have to do is give Wisconsin credit for making the plays they needed to make to win a big game," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "I thought they did an excellent job with their plan and the execution of their plan.
"As we look at ourselves, we didn't do the things we needed to do to win a big game on the road. That includes superior special teams. We had a couple errors that were costly, and number two, we had to do a good job of running the football, and we did not get that done."
Tressel has no doubt that the team will be able to rebound from this loss.
"I have a lot of confidence in our guys," he said. "People have been asking since spring practice what is the quality of our senior leadership and the quality of our football team. Sometimes you don't know that until you're in some adverse conditions. They're hurt, no question."
The touchdown strike to Lee Evans was something that stunned Ohio State.
"The late touchdown, it was like a punch in the stomach," punter B.J. Sander said. "We weren't expecting that at all. It is a sick feeling, but we have to learn from it and get better."
Cornerback Dustin Fox was understanding of the play, on which Chris Gamble bit on an out run by Lee Evans only to have Evans run by him.
"It happens man, it really does, as a cornerback," Fox said. "It's tough. You have to be really disciplined, and sometimes they get you."
Tim Anderson may have summed up everyone's feelings the best.
"It sucks," Anderson said. "We fought hard the whole game. Our offense got that score, we tied it up. Unfortunately, we couldn't keep it. It sucks, but there's really nothing we can do about it right now."
Congratulations to the Buckeyes on a wonderful run and a terrific win streak. The Buckeyes drop to 5-1 on the season (1-1 in the Big Ten) while Wisconsin moves to 6-1, with a 3-0 record in the Big Ten.