However you look at it, it just does not seem to add up.
Wisconsin outplayed Ohio State in nearly every statistical aspect of the game Saturday, yet came out on the losing end in Ohio Stadium.
The reason? Ohio State’s defense and special teams capitalized on Wisconsin’s mistakes and scored 21 points while the UW defense was forced to watch on the sideline.
“That’s the way the game goes sometimes; they made plays and they had plays that scored points,” safety Chris Maragos said of the Buckeyes. “I felt like we were on the sideline forever … I mean, (it was) unreal; it felt like we weren’t even on [the field].”
Wisconsin won the time of possession battle 42:47 to 17:13. The Badgers also outgained the Buckeyes 368 yards to 184 yards, ran 49 more plays than their opponents and picked up 22 first downs to just eight for OSU.
UW quarterback Scott Tolzien led his team down the field on several drives that appeared ready to turn the momentum in the Badgers’ favor. Yet, many of those ended when Wisconsin either turned the ball over or was forced to settle for a long field goal attempt.
On a day when the defense played one of its best games of the season — holding the Buckeyes to just 10 points offensively — it was the Wisconsin offense, the Big Ten’s leading scoring attack entering the weekend, that was to blame for the loss.
“We saw it on film, we knew what we could do and we did it,” defensive end O’Brien Schofield said of the defense. “One or two mental busts allowed them to score (and) we gave up a touchdown on defense, but other than that I felt like we played pretty well.”
That touchdown was scored as the first half wound down, when the Buckeyes drove 88 yards in 72 seconds of play to take a 14-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The drive began and ended on big plays, with the touchdown being scored on an impressive 32-yard pass from quarterback Terrelle Pryor to wide receiver DeVier Posey. It was the first play of the drive that was the big mistake for the defense.
“The big run [Pryor] had at the end of the first half, I had contain (and) I lost contain on that,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. “I didn’t get deep enough to the level of the ball and with an athlete like that, you can’t have one technique flaw. So that one’s on me.”
Though the defense was strong in holding the Buckeyes to under 200 yards of offense and just 10 points, something that had fueled the Badgers’ success through five games was missing: takeaways.
Wisconsin added another seven points to its season total of 42 points off turnovers, but it simply was not as opportunistic defensively as it has been so far in 2009. As a result, the offense was required to do more work in creating opportunities to score.
“The reason our offense has been so successful this year has been the turnover margin,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “We didn’t get the turnovers today, which we had been getting. … We’ve got to try to set our offense up better.”
Most of the crucial mistakes for the Badgers came offensively, however.
Tolzien, who led the Big Ten in passing efficiency entering the game, threw a pair of interceptions, both returned for touchdowns. More importantly, though, his mistakes seemed to come because of an inability on the offensive line’s part to give him the same protection he’s enjoyed up until Saturday.
And while the Badgers’ offensive front allowed six sacks in Columbus after giving up just two through the first five games, some of the credit can be given to the Ohio State defensive line.
“They were a good ‘D’ line,” offensive lineman John Moffitt said. “I think our level of play was not up to par either, which I think made them look a lot better.”
Bielema, of course, was not happy with the way his team played at Ohio State. With Saturday’s result, Bielema’s record is 0-3 in his career against the Buckeyes, with all three being games the Badgers felt they could have won had they minimized their mistakes.
And with the Buckeyes having been the conference’s best team over that stretch, Bielema knows how much a win over Ohio State could do for his team, especially in 2009.
“This team is flying home disappointed,” Bielema said. “I know as a head coach, I hate losing to these guys. It absolutely is something I can’t stand for whatever reason.”