Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, playing in his first game since week two, threw for four touchdown passes to three different receivers, as the fourth-ranked Buckeyes took advantage of seemingly every Wisconsin mistake to hold off a later Badgers charge for a 31-24 victory at Ohio Stadium Saturday night.
Winning its 17th straight game, the Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) picked routinely on Wisconsin's inexperienced secondary with great dividends, earning the coveted tiebreaker in the race for December's Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. Of the four passing touchdowns, three were wide-open catches by the Ohio State receivers, taking advantage of miscommunication in the secondary to lead 24-14 at halftime.
Wisconsin (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) tried to fight its way back into the game off the arm of Joel Stave. With the rushing game stiffened by Ohio State's defense (Wisconsin ran for only 104 yards on 27 attempts), Stave completed 11 of 16 passes in the first half for 210 yards and two touchdowns, finishing with a career-high 295 yards.
Problem was Ohio State kept coming back, answering Stave's second touchdown pass with 1:30 remaining by scoring on a 40-yard strike to Corey Brown with one second remaining in the half. Instead of trailing 17-14, Wisconsin was down 10 and never got closer than seven.
Melvin Gordon led Wisconsin in rushing with 74 yards on 15 carries, but went down in pain holding his left knee after it was landed on by an Ohio State defense. Gordon was helped off the field and didn't return.
Jared Abbrederis did his best to pick up the slack with career highs in receptions (10) and yards (207) while senior and Ohio –native Chris Borland tied a career high with 16 tackles. Unfortunately it wasn't enough. Wisconsin cut the lead with 2:04 left and got the ball with 1:29 remaining with no timeouts, but the Badgers' drive went backwards and a fourth-down pass went incomplete.
The banged-up Badgers will have a week off before taking on Northwestern (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten).
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7-0 Ohio State
4 plays, 55 yards, 1:07 TOP, 12:18 left
Evan Spencer 25-yard pass from Braxton Miller (Drew Basil kick)
Key Play: Faking the dive on a quick snap, Sojourn Shelton got turned around in coverage and drifted to the wrong players, resulting in Spencer getting the inside track on him and catching the easy touchdown.
8 plays, 90 yards, 4:54 TOP, 3:52 left
Jared Abbrederis 36-yard pass from Joel Stave (Kyle French kick)
Key Play: Bradley Roby never saw a perfectly thrown ball by Stave, as Abbrederis utilized outstanding hand-eye coordinator to haul in the pass at the 14 and run untouched into the end zone.
14-7 Ohio State
6 plays, 73 yards, 2:57 TOP, :44 left
Devin Smith 26-yard pass from Braxton Miller (Drew Basil kick)
Key Play: It's hard to pick which play was worse. Marcus Trotter allowed Donte Wilson to beat him out of the backfield, which allowed a 21-yard gain down to the 26. On the next play, Jean was beaten for the touchdown.
17-7 Ohio State
6 plays, 20 yards, 2:45 TOP, 4:33 left
FG Drew Basil 45
Key Play: Wisconsin looked to get the special teams momentum shift it needed after Ohio State returner Jordan Hall bobbled a rugby pick and UW recovered inside the OSU 20. An illegal formation penalty wiped out the play, forcing UW to rekick and allow the Buckeyes to get the ball on UW's 47.
17-14 Ohio State
7 plays, 76 yards, 3:03 TOP, 1:30 left
Sam Arneson 11-yard pass from Joel Stave (Kyle French kick)
Key Play: Jared Abbrederis set a new career high in receiving yards with an unbelievable catch at the Ohio State 11, elevation and holding on to the ball for a 33-yard gain despite cornerback Bradley Roby inadvertently taking his legs out, causing Abbrederis to fall hard on the turf.
24-14 Ohio State
8 plays, 71 yards, 1:23 TOP, :01 left
Corey Brown 40-yard pass from Braxton Miller (Drew Basil kick)
Key Play: Sojourn Shelton dropped an easy interception on third down, giving the Buckeyes one more shot at the end zone. They didn't miss, as Peniel Jean got beat for the second time this half on a go-route for a touchdown.
31-14 Ohio State
7 plays, 32 yards, 3:05 TOP, 2:18 left
Corey Brown 1-yard pass from Braxton Miller (Drew Basil kick)
Key Play: Whether it was miscommunication or trying to make a play, Stave was hit by Adolphus Washington, who bowled over Tyler Marz, resulting in a pass that was an easy interception for Bradley Roby. OSU took over at the UW 32.
31-21 Ohio State
9 plays, 75 yards, 3:31 TOP, 13:47 left
James White 17-yard run (Kyle French kick)
Key Play: On a fourth-and-two Wisconsin needed to have, the Badgers handed it off to James White, who ran to the right side and picked up the first down by inches at the OSU 27.
31-24 Ohio State
11 plays, 62 yards, 2:33 TOP, 2:05 left
FG Kyle French 42
Key Play: Stave and Abbrederis have helped each other reach career highs, as a 23-yard completion got Wisconsin to the Ohio State 35-yard line.
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