COLUMBUS—Wisconsin's punt team got off to an ignominious start Saturday, when freshman Ted Ginn Jr. returned Ken DeBauche's 49-yard offering 65 yards for a touchdown, giving Ohio State an early 7-0 lead.
Throughout the game, the Buckeyes dabbled with pulling their punt return sprinters down the line as if they were going to blitz. The first time, Wisconsin sprinter Scott Starks followed them down the line, then had trouble getting back out to his lane to cover the punt.
"That hurt us a lot, me coming down, because they were able to hold me down for a second and then put a guy on top of me to try to hold me," Starks said.
Wisconsin made an adjustment after the touchdown, leaving the sprinters in their normal positions and early in the fourth quarter, Starks made perhaps the game's biggest play. After Santonio Holmes muffed a punt, Starks knocked Holmes over and recovered the loose ball at the Ohio State 17-yard line. Three plays later John Stocco found Jonathan Orr in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard scoring play, giving Wisconsin its 24-13 margin of victory.
"It felt like a big momentum shift," Starks said. "We already had a slight momentum shift but giving the offense the ball right there I believe that's a huge momentum shift. [Jonathan Orr] comes in with a big catch after that, we just took it home from there."
Following Ginn's touchdown, Holmes picked up four yards on two returns, while Ginn added seven yards on one return.
"We said we wasn't going to bring the sprinters down after that [touchdown]," Starks said. "After that you saw the result. They couldn't get anything after that."
Williams provides spark on return
After injuring his shoulder late in the fourth quarter last week, Starks played Saturday at cornerback and as a sprinter on the punt team but did not return kickoffs, as he has throughout the season. Brandon Williams, Wisconsin's returner in 2002 and 2003, took over. Williams first return went for just 14 yards, but he ripped off a 46-yarder early in the second quarter to set up Wisconsin's first touchdown drive.
"B Will did a great job," Starks said. "We might be keeping him back there if he keeps doing the job like that."
Starks acknowledged he would like to return kicks but said, "B Will is great back there. It's just depending on what the coach wants to do and if he wants to take a chance again. It really doesn't matter to me."
Mehlhaff mixes it up
Before he was a kickoff specialist, Taylor Mehlhaff was a four-sport athlete who rarely, if ever, left the football field for Aberdeen Central High School. Mehlhaff had to reminisce of his days as a safety Saturday.
After Wisconsin took a 14-10 lead in the second quarter, Ohio State's Santonio Holmes returned a Mehlhaff kickoff out of the front of the end zone and found a crease, picking up 32 yards before Mehlhaff and Ben Strickland combined to make the stop.
Mehlhaff, though, got a little carried away later in the game, and was whistled for a personal foul when he made a hit on Holmes out of bounds following a 26-yard return.
Wisconsin was also called for a personal foul late hit after Ted Ginn's 7-yard punt return in the third quarter. Elliot Goode came in toward the pile late and, despite trying to ease up at the end, hit an Ohio State player after the whistle. Goode, though, actually caught the player after making contact.
Still, the pair of personal fouls gave Ohio State great field position at its 42 and 41, respectively. The Badgers' defense, though, made sure the penalties were not costly, forcing punts each time.
Punt team comes through in the end
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