History or not, Wisconsin turned its fortunes against Ohio State once again on a single play in the second quarter.
The Buckeyes were set to punt — with the wind and a comfortable 17-0 lead — from their own 22-yard line.
It was to be OSU punter Andy Groom’s first kick of the game. Ohio State had scored its first three possessions, two touchdowns and a field goal. After picking off Badger quarterback Brooks Bollinger, the Buckeyes were driving for more on their fourth when Michael Broussard reached up and snagged a Steve Bellisari pass at the 31-yard line.
But Groom still had not punted.
Then, with his team facing a fourth-and-20 and 53 seconds left before halftime, the 190-pound junior decided to save his leg some more, scrambling for a one-yard gain and turning the ball over on downs. The next play, UW freshman Anthony Davis took a handoff and went 23 yards for a score to bring the Badgers within 10.
“They made a mistake and we were able to capitalize on it,” Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez said. “And it really gave us a lot of momentum going into the half.”
The momentum piled up. Ohio State gained just 64 yards after halftime as UW went on to grind out 217 more and score 20 unanswered points for the victory.
It could have been entirely different. Just a play before Groom’s debacle, Bellisari had aired a ball deep down the middle of the field that went just over the head of split end Michael Jenkins. Jenkins was alone behind the secondary, and another touchdown may have put the Badgers out of the game for good.
Instead, it opened the door as Groom stepped out of bounds on fourth down.
With less than a minute remaining and UW’s offense yet to get on the scoreboard, any kind of punt may have kept the shutout intact. But Groom perceived some pressure and took matters into his own hands.
“I didn’t think [we had it blocked],” Badgers head coach Barry Alvarez said. “It looked like the ball just sprayed right and we had the punt block coming from that side. So he probably saw it coming and felt that he couldn’t get it off.”
“I was pretty shocked that he actually decided to run,” said backup Wisconsin receiver David Braun, who was on the punt block team. “I thought that he was going to choke it up and punt it.”
Braun, along with special-teamers Chris Catalano and Jim Leonhard, had broken through the right side of OSU’s offensive line as Groom was spun around so as not to miss the bad snap. Reacting quickly, Groom took off, dipping back about five yards before squaring his shoulders as if to get a kick off and eventually sprinting to the sideline.
“I think he panicked,” Braun said. “I really didn’t see the look in his eyes. I was watching his feet and I know they started moving pretty quick.”
Groom punted three times in the second half.