Simon, defense key throwback win

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Last updated: 11/18/2012 9:45 AM

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Football
Simon, Defense Key Throwback Win over Familiar Foe

By Brandon Castel

MADISON, Wisc. — In a year where Urban Meyer’s offense has been the talk of the town in Columbus, it was good ol’ fashion defense and special teams that carried Ohio State to victory over Wisconsin on Saturday.

Jim Tressel would have been proud.

Meyer’s high-powered offense sputtered, his star quarterback looked out of synch and his team managed just 36 total yards in the second half, but the Buckeyes still found a way to win.

They did it primarily the backs of the defense – with some help from the special teams – and in particular captain John Simon, who turned in one of the most dominant performances of his OSU career.

John Simon
Photo by Jim Davidson
John Simon

“I'm really happy for him because he's been working hard. He's probably the hardest worker on the team,” said linebacker Ryan Shazier, who led the Buckeyes with 12 tackles.

“He's in there day in and day out, he works out almost every day. He's a 100 percent team player and he deserves the accolades he got today.”

Despite Bret Bielema’s best efforts to take Simon out of the game, the fourth-year senior out of Youngstown Cardinal Mooney tied an Ohio State record with four sacks against the Badgers. He fought through double-teams and overcame Wisconsin’s plan to roll the pocket away from No. 54, spending most of the evening making friends with the Badgers new quarterback, Curt Phillips.

Of course he wasn’t about to take any of the credit for himself.

“Our secondary gave us great coverage. Their quarterback was holding the ball for an awfully long time. They had max-protect most of the time,” Simon predictably said after the game.

“One time, he just kind of ran into me. The other time, Nathan Williams, we ran a great stunt where Nathan forced him right to me. Total team effort.”

It certainly was a team effort on defense.

Montee Ball still put up some huge numbers and he did tie the FBS touchdown record with his seven-yard run in the second quarter, but the Badgers never really found a rhythm on offense.

The Buckeyes held a Wisconsin team had just found its stride in the running game to 3.7 yards per carry on the ground, and it took Ball a career-high 39 totes to get his 191 yards on the ground.

“We knew that they had a tough run game, and we wanted to stop that as early as possible,” said Simon, who tied the OSU sack record held by Jason Simmons, Vernon Gholston and Bobby Carpenter.

“I don't think they ever really got it going. We knew how big this game was going to be and how physical, and the tougher team always wins, and fortunately, that was us today.”

A month after allowing 49 points to Indiana, a team that lost 62-14 at home to Wisconsin last week, the Buckeyes held the Badger offense to just seven points for almost 60 minutes.

Almost being the critical word there. The Buckeyes eventually did allow the game-tying touchdown with just eight seconds on the clock, but it was set up by a 34-yard punt by Ben Buchanan. That gave Wisconsin new life at the OSU 41-yard line after the defense had just force a critical turnover on the goal line.

It was linebacker Ryan Shazier, with the help of senior Etienne Sabino, who stopped Ball’s diving attempt at the end zone on 4th-and-1.

“The thing going through my mind was somebody needed to make a play,” said Shazier, who now has 110 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss this season.

“I wasn’t waiting on anybody to make a play. I watched plenty of film on him. I saw once he got around the goal line he liked to jump. When he jumped, I jumped and made the play.”

Not only did Shazier meet Ball in mid-flight, he hit him just at the moment when Wisconsin’s star running back was trying to stretch the ball across the goal line. It squirted free, flying backwards into the open arms of OSU defensive back Christian Bryant.

“We were aware that he tied the record,” Shazier added.

“I was definitely aware when he jumped over me and scored (in the second quarter). The thing is we knew he needed two to break the record. We were not going to allow him to break it on us. We gave him the tie, but we weren’t going to allow him to break it.”

Along with Shazier and Simon, the Buckeyes also got big days from defensive back C.J. Barnett, who fought through an ankle injury to record 11 tackles, and linebacker Zach Boren, who had 12 stops. Cornerback Bradley Roby also broke up what looked like a sure touchdown pass to Derek Watt on the same drive where Shazier forced the fumble.

“Our defense is really playing well,” Meyer said.

“You think about how far they’ve come and that’s a credit to a bunch of good people working as a coaching staff on a defense and a bunch of players listening. Great effort.”

The Buckeyes also got a critical 68-yard punt return for a touchdown by Corey Brown, who scored the game’s first touchdown on a day where his offense would not click into gear until overtime.

It was Sabino, playing in his first game since early October, who made the key stop on third down, setting up Bryant’s diving pass deflection on fourth down to lock up another victory for these Buckeyes.

“The quarterback got kind of rattled, I think,” Shazier said.

“He threw the ball a little bit late and Christian made a great play on it and there goes the game.”

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