That was fun. 19 straight wins for the Buckeyes. We won a National Championship. We beat Illinois, Miami, and NC State in overtime. We had College Gameday at three straight games (Michigan, Miami, Washington). We did it all. Heck, we even won an ESPY. The thrilling streak came to an end against the Badgers. The magic and charm of 19 in a row is gone, but we will always be proud of what this team has accomplished.
The past was fun, but it is time to get to work and earn a Big Ten title. It is certainly within reach. If all those Top 10 teams can lose on "Separation Saturday", then the Wisconsins, Michigan States and Iowas can lose as well. There is nothing wrong with winning a Rose Bowl. However, if we want a ring and a trip to Pasadena, we need to improve on the performance against Wisconsin.
In this day and age of wide-open, spread offenses, the old saying still holds true. "You need to be able to run the football and stop the other team from running the football to win." Wisconsin got behind Booker Stanley and rushed for a total of 141 yards. They ran successful counters and zone plays when they had to. On the flip side, we settled for 69 yards rushing. In a hostile environment against an Alvarez coached team, nothing is more comforting than watching a physical running attack chew up the clock and move the chains. We did not have that luxury.
While other games have seen more OSU penalties, I don't think any previous game had more costly flags. On the first drive, an 18 yard, second down completion to Jenkins was called back with a hold. On second and nine with OSU down by a touchdown, an 18-yard run by Krenzel was called back due to a hold. The very next play of second and 20 saw Wisconsin intercept the football as they sat back and doubled Jenkins. We talk about screens, reverses, and trickery. Many of those plays are designed for the first and ten we were setting up, not the second and 20 we were trying to bail ourselves out of. You cannot open the play calling up as well when you have that kind of strain on your offense. A defense can sit back on their heals and play for that trickery in that situation.
Another crucial penalty took place late in the game. Coach Tressel wisely punted the football on fourth and 13 with two timeouts left. It was downed at the six. We won't let them pick up ten yards in three plays. We will get the ball back with good field position. An offsides penalty threw that theory off. Wisconsin only needed five yards in three plays, and they converted.
Last year, we needed great defense, great special teams, a great running game, and an offense that didn't turn the ball over. With this year's squad (minus Clarett), we need more home runs from the offense. Yes we need the defense, kicking game, and lack of turnovers, but an inefficient running game means we need big plays from the offense. We need the ability to score in a hurry. We have lacked that. Chris Gamble is a playmaker. Hopefully, he gets some touches on offense. If fatigue is an issue, maybe add him on some three-receiver sets and take him off special teams. I still believe he is our biggest playmaker. We need him to average 4 or 5 catches a game.
Wisconsin gave us some chances. They fumbled a punt. They threw an interception. They had a costly delay of game penalty, which turned a field goal attempt into a punt on the first series. They played with their third-team tailback and second-string quarterback. They had a pass to Jenkins called incomplete when it could have been called a fumble. The Buckeyes had some chances, but could not capitalize.
Some bright spots did come out of Madison. Sander was phenomenal. Carpenter seems to get better and better each and every week. We continued to throw to the tight ends. Hawk and Smith played their usual great games. Carter made a big, clutch catch when we needed him to. In the end though, it was not enough.
As for Reynolds, it was an unfortunate incident. I know Robert and will say over and over again that he is a terrific guy off the football field. His extra-curricular activity with Sorgi was definitely over the edge, but I will not write him off for one play like that. I recall Mike Doss in the 2001 Outback Bowl tackling a player by the facemask. Mike Doss is as good a person as you will find. His character and leadership were a big factor in OSU winning the National Championship two years later. Tressel will address the incident, but we should not jump to conclusions that Tressel does not have control of the team or that we recruit dirty players. I personally hate to see pitchers that throw at someone's head or hockey players that take their sticks up high. It is literally disturbing for me to watch. In a football game, players get so keyed up and so emotional that sometimes they snap and do something regrettable. Players are often so intense and wired that tears are coming down their face as they try to inflict pain on the opponent. It is a very violent game. Twisting knees, gouging eyeballs, and attacking midsections are a harsh, unfortunate reality of football pile-ups. It happened in the Butkus-era, and we saw it is still happening today. Robert needs to keep his aggression clean and between the whistles, but I will not write off Reynolds and Tressel for this one incident just like I would not write off Doss and Cooper for the Outback incident. Tressel has as much class as any coach at any level of football. He will make this a learning experience for Robert.