Crazy. Pandemonius. Ridonkulous.
Real or made-up, it seems like there should be a multitude of words to describe Wisconsin’s Saturday night triumph over Ohio State. Yet, maybe there isn’t because people seem to be struggling to pinpoint a specific one. At least I am.
After all, what the Badgers did at Camp Randall under the lights really was nothing short of amazing. The atmosphere was electric. The student section – you know, the one with the penchant for showing up too late and not caring enough – had Buckeyes calling it the best in the nation once the game was over. Even on the field, the football was great. Say what you will about Ohio State not playing its best game, but the two teams on the field Saturday night combined for only two turnovers and five penalties. The Buckeyes even gained one more first down than the Badgers and won the time of possession battle – by a whole six seconds.
That’s what I call phenomenal football.
So while a characterization or summation of the game may be difficult to express, here’s what you can take from Bucky-Brutus ’10.
The Badgers got off to a shocking start…
Looking at the scoreboard at halftime, two things came to mind. First was, “How in the world is UW up 21-3”? Then, “How long does it take OSU to mount a comeback”?
Well, Wisconsin found itself up 18 at the half due to a potent combination of the Camp Randall environment and total shock and awe. Electric really is the best way to put it, and it wasn’t even just the student section – it was all 81,194 in attendance (minus the very limited Buckeye faithful) that absolutely justified ESPN’s decision to send College Gameday to Madison. On the field, then, is where the shock and awe came in to play.
Ohio State knew the game would be hard fought and tightly contested. They’ve played Wisconsin before, been to Camp Randall before and, after all, this is a Jim Tressel-coached team.
What they probably didn’t expect, though, was to have only 93 yards and three points at halftime. The Buckeyes probably didn’t expect to hold the ball for almost seven minutes less than the Badgers did (18:14-11:46), and probably didn’t expect Heisman hopeful Terrelle Pryor to be 4-11 with 25 passing yards. Perhaps most significantly, Ohio State also probably didn’t expect David Gilreath to take the opening kickoff 97 yards to the house.
… and they didn’t crumble.
So then, how long would it take OSU to rebound? Well if there was one quarter Wisconsin lost, it was the third. The Buckeyes finally scored a touchdown while the Badgers were held scoreless, and they held the ball for nearly 12 minutes while UW had it for less than four. Consequently, Ohio State picked up 10 first downs while Wisconsin gained only one. Pryor finally heated up, going 7-7 and passing for 86 yards. By the end of the quarter, OSU was actually outgaining UW 254-220.
How in the world did Wisconsin hang on to win this game?
It’s actually fairly simple, and it goes back to the simplest, most important statistic in football – points. Despite being outgained, outplayed, out-whatevered in the third quarter, the Badgers surrendered only seven points. That touchdown came on a 13-yard Dan Herron run with 10:08 remaining in the quarter, and was the result of a 10-play, 77-yard drive that consumed 4:48. The damage was minimal, and it was contained to one drive. On the heels of a raucous Jump Around, Wisconsin entered the final quarter up 21-10, knowing that they had just withstood Ohio State’s best shot.
Finally… a complete game.
For all the surprise and astonishment that permeated the college football world after No. 1 lost for a second consecutive week, the Badgers won because they did what everyone said they had to do – play a truly complete game for the first time this season.
Gilreath’s game-opening score would typically be sufficient production from the special teams unit, but kicker Phillip Welch, punter Brad Nortman and the coverage unit (perhaps most significant, given OSU’s prowess in the return game) all did their jobs. All Welch had to do was ice the game with a 41-yard field goal with 2:15 left in the game – and he did just that. Nortman only had to punt twice, but he averaged 50.5 yards as he landed one inside the 20 and had the other result in a touchback – Ohio State didn’t get a chance to return a punt all game. On kickoffs, Welch was fine, and the Buckeyes’ longest kick return was 29 yards.
On offense, Tolzien did throw a bad pick, but redeemed himself in the second half with some absolutely huge throws, especially to Nick Toon. However, the star of the UW offense – and arguably the entire team – was the offensive line. Facing a very stout Buckeye front seven, the Badgers’ o-line was absolutely stellar. OSU’s best defensive player, Cameron Heyward, was held to only four tackles and one for loss (no sacks). Tolzien was never sacked en route to 13-16 passing, and John Clay and James White combined for 181 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, UW limited an offense run by a Heisman candidate.
Three phases of the game, three spectacular performances. That’s how Wisconsin won this game, thrust itself back into the Big Ten title picture and sent the Badger faithful storming onto the Camp Randall turf in a night of revelry they’ll never, ever forget.
Mike is a junior majoring in journalism and communication arts. Why do you think the Badgers were able to upset the Buckeyes? Let him know at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @mikefiammetta.