Thoughts To Bank On: Indiana

Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 31-13 Saturday in a game that was nothing like the score indicates. The Buckeyes scored two defensive touchdowns and added another on a kickoff return, overshadowing a poor offensive performance. Bill Greene has more in his feature "Thoughts to Bank on."

The Ohio State 31-13 victory at home over Wisconsin featured dominating defense and great special teams play wrapped around a poor offensive showing. Several players recorded outstanding performances as the Buckeyes continued their march to another Big Ten title.

QUARTERBACK: Terrelle Pryor played poorly against Wisconsin, maybe his worst game as a starter at Ohio State. But Pryor showed exactly who he is with a minute left in the first half. Pryor drove the Buckeyes 88 yards for a touchdown, running for 27 yards on the first play and throwing a 32-yard touchdown pass to Devier Posey six plays later, giving Ohio State a much-needed boost before halftime. Pryor will never be a high-percentage passer, or a quarterback that will put up huge yardage numbers, but he will be a playmaker. This learning experience is going to have ups and downs, and you have to hope the highs outnumber the lows at the end of the day. Pryor was not helped by the numerous two-receiver patterns the Buckeyes ran, preferring to use maximum pass protection. They also didn't run a true zone read option, instead using a pre-determined play selection. Basically, this was the old offense wrapped around a shotgun formation. Although Pryor wasn't good against Wisconsin, it's doubtful Sam Bradford is envious of this Buckeye offensive scheme. GRADE: D.

RUNNING BACKS: Brandon Saine carried the running load against Wisconsin, with Dan Herron injured and the coaches not trusting freshman Jordan Hall. Saine received 14 carries as the Buckeyes only ran 40 offensive plays. Saine rushed for 55 yards, with a long run of 31 yards, and ran hard throughout the game, often into a steel wall. The running backs were not involved in the passing game as they were used mostly in pass protection. GRADE: C.

WIDE RECEIVERS: This group used the Wisconsin game to work on down-field blocking, as Ohio State only attempted 13 passes, completing five. Posey caught the big one before halftime, giving the Buckeyes the lead they never lost. Ray Small was on the field at receiver more than at any time this year. Dane Sanzenbacher and Duron Carter also played extensively, with Flash Thomas and Jake Stoneburner not being used. GRADE: INCOMPLETE.

OFFENSIVE LINE: The offensive line never seized control of the line of scrimmage against the Badgers' front four. Sophomore tackles Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts received an education in big-time college football, soon realizing this wasn't Indiana they were opposing. This experience is exactly what they need, and will benefit them greatly in the future, but it didn't help in this game. Pryor was sacked twice and hurried often, unless Ohio State used more than five players to protect him. Score this battle as a "WIN" for the Wisconsin defensive front. This group needs cohesiveness and consistency, and that only happens by playing together over time. They will also be bolstered by the return of Andy Miller and Jim Cordle. GRADE: C-.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Thank you for winning the game. This is where the game was won by Ohio State as every single player was excellent. I hate to single out individuals because all of them were so good, but Nathan Williams had his best game as a Buckeye. Williams is a playmaker, and has a knack for rushing the quarterback that is going to make him a very rich young man in the near future. Thad Gibson had his best game of 2009 and was a force on the edge. Cam Heyward lined up everywhere on the line, allowing each Badger lineman the opportunity to not be able to block him. Johnny Simon, Todd Denlinger and Robert Rose stoned the running game and pressured the quarterback up the middle. This was a physical beating and that doesn't happen too often to the Wisconsin offensive line. GRADE: A++.

LINEBACKERS: This was the Ross Homan show, as the underrated star of this unit was superb, possibly playing his best game as a Buckeye. Austin Spitler wasn't as good as Homan, but he was close. Anyone still questioning Spitler's speed? Didn't think so. Brian Rolle faced his toughest test since USC and more than met the challenge. The linebackers were needed to make plays both in space and at the line of scrimmage, and they did both. Understand there was little substituting for these players, with Rolle and Homan playing nearly every snap. Homan gets the Buckeye MVP of the game. GRADE: A+.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: A fine performance under the circumstances. The defensive backs allowed a lot of small completions, but only one play of more than 20 yards. They were sure tacklers and never allowed the big play, while facing the Wisconsin offense for nearly NINETY plays. Repeat, NINETY snaps, with little substituting, and these guys pitched a shutout. Captain Kurt Coleman returned after a one-game suspension and played a great game. Coleman had one of the two interceptions that was returned for a touchdown, with Jermale Hines having the other. Hines' acrobatic interception and return for a score was the play of the day. Anderson Russell has found a home in the nickel look and played extremely well. Devon Torrence is the most improved football player on this team and was excellent once again. How can you lose a player like Malcolm Jenkins and not miss him? Because of the play of Devon Torrence. Chimdi Chekwa and Andre Amos contributed to this group's winning performance as well. GRADE: A+.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Several new players were featured on the kickoff return team and the moves paid off as the longest return was 21 yards. Ray Small iced the game by returning a kickoff 96 yards for a score. Jon Thoma's punting was excellent once again and Aaron Petrey's kickoffs were high and deep, allowing the coverage team time to get down the field. Special teams play was a huge plus for Ohio State. GRADE: A.

COACHING: The defensive staff under Jim Heacock was brilliant and deserves all the credit for the victory over Wisconsin. Heacock's schemes were varied and effective, and continually kept the Wisconsin offense out of the end zone, even though they were on the field all day long. Offensively, it was definitely a step back following three encouraging performances. They couldn't run the football very well and the passing game was non-existent. I'm going to chalk this up as a blip in the road, and probably not unexpected, as Ohio State tries to re-shape this offense on the fly. Should this type of offensive performance become habitual the Buckeyes will have no shot at winning the rest of their games. GRADES: Defense: A+. Offense: D.

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