The Buckeye Watch — Wisconsin
by Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes got the Big Ten season started with a win over the only other threat for the Leaders Division, which now means that Ohio State will have to lose twice to be locked out of the Big Ten Championship Game. It's a strange position to be in here in September, but that's where things stand for the Buckeyes and their fellow Leaders.
Saturday night proved to be a battle between two teams who wanted to run the ball, until one team found out that they couldn't. The Badgers adjusted quite nicely, however, throwing the ball around like they were the 1993 Houston Oilers.
In the end, however, Wisconsin could just never get close enough to make the Buckeyes sweat.
4:14 I think tonight could be the third-ever 106,000+ game in the Shoe. Last year's game against Nebraska set the record, which I predicted by the way. (Cut me some slack, how often do I brag about my predictions? Yeah, you're right, I brag all the time.)
4:31 Buffalo is leading Connecticut 21-6 early in the second quarter. That game against Michigan did nothing to prepare the Huskies for Buffalo. The Connecticut athletic director should be ashamed of the non-conference schedule that he put together.
4:48 Now that I think about it, the Ohio Stadium attendance record should be shattered tonight. I forgot to include LeBron's entourage.
7:42 It has been nearly three hours since my last update. So much pulled pork since the last update. I have lost time in the pork vortex, or “porktex”.
7:44 Buckeye fans will be happy to know that I am starting Melvin Gordon tonight and keeping Carlos Hyde on the bench. You are welcome in advance for the victory tonight.
7:52 Wisconsin fans are chanting “Let's Go Badgers” during Ohio State's quick cals. Buckeye fans boo them. All is right with the world.
8:10 Time for the coin flip. Ohio State has won the toss and will defer. They want to see that Wisconsin running game right now. No sense in dancing around when it's time to get fighting.
8:15 Third and eight. Joey Bosa moves inside. Joel Stave throws a slant to Jared Abbrederis and it's knocked down by Bradley Roby. Terrific coverage. The Badgers will have to punt. This has been a perfect possession for the Buckeye defense. The punt lands out of bounds at the Ohio State 46-yard line, so things only get better for the Buckeyes.
8:16 Interesting. Carlos Hyde is starting. No fooling around for this offense. He gets the ball and picks up five yards that he had no business getting. Looks like it's Hyde's team the rest of the way out this year.
8:18 Play-action, Miller rolls out and finds a wide open Evan Spencer in the endzone. That was easy. Miller also had Chris Fields open at the bottom of the endzone. I didn't realize the Buckeyes were playing Wisconsin A&M. Ohio State leads it 7-0. Spencer said earlier in the week that Wisconsin's record of not giving up touchdown passes this season would be ended pretty quickly. He was right.
8:19 Just imagine Braxton Miller when he shakes off the rust.
8:22 Fly sweep to Melvin Gordon and Roby drops him for a loss of three yards. That's how you defend that wide stuff. Uh oh, Roby is leaving the field. He hurt his back on that hit. He looks like he compressed his entire body. Probably just a spinal squeezing.
8:23 James White gets nothing on the carry, but there's a holding penalty called. This could either make it third and 13 or second and 23. I assume Urban Meyer will decline it. Nope, he's taking it. Wait, the ref says it's declined. I'm guessing everyone was so stunned that Wisconsin was actually called for holding that nobody knew the protocol involved with assessing such a penalty to a Wisconsin offense.
8:24 Abbrederis drops the 12-yard pass on third and 13. The Badgers punt, the ball rolls to the Ohio State 30-yard line. If Ohio State wants to take away the Wisconsin running game, scoring every time they have the ball will help.
8:30 Andrew Norwell gets called for a false start on third and seven. Consider this drive killed. Braxton throws it away on third and 12. Cameron Johnston's punt is fair caught at the 10-yard line. Well, as long as they keep winning the battle of field position, you have to like the Buckeyes' chances. I know Jim Tressel does.
8:33 Ryan Shazier drops Melvin Gordon in the backfield for a loss of one. They might want to run James White a few times, and I'm not just saying that because I'm losing points every time Gordon touches the ball. Still, the fact that they started Gordon over White tonight tells you that Gary Andersen has finally decided to let everyone know which tailback he believes in more.
8:36 I'm not sure if Wisconsin has three tight ends out there, or two tight ends and a fullback, or two fullbacks and a tight end, or two tight ends and some random Wisconsonian, or three festivly-plump contractors, or what. They've got a lot of them, whatever they are. When the Badgers get off the bus, sometimes you can't distinguish between the players and the driver, even when it's a woman.
8:38 Third and six from the Ohio State 36-yard line. This is four-down territory. Never mind, Joel Stave just threw a strike to Abbrederis with Roby in perfect coverage. He just got his arm up a second late. Abbrederis shook off the tackle and finished up in the endzone.. Heck of a drive and a great response by Wisconsin. Badgers tie it up at 7-7 following a 90-yard drive. About that “Wisconsin A&M” thing...
8:39 Roby said he wanted Stave to throw the ball. I don't think he was expecting that kind of throw, however.
8:43 There's a huge hole for Hyde, and he picks up 12 yards. They should just keep feeding that kid because he hasn't eaten in so long. But I understand how sometimes you have to bring starving people along slowly. You can't go from months of nothing straight to Grandma's meatloaf. It's just not safe.
8:46 Split backs. We haven't seen this much. Miller finds Dontre Wilson on the wheel route for 18 yards, down to the 29-yard line. We haven't seen that this year. Anytime you can get Wilson on a linebacker, you need to do it. For one, it helps the offense. For two, it makes you look smart. It's basically the horn-rimmed glasses of play calling.
8:47 Miller throws a laser to Devin Smith in the endzone, who catches the back-shoulder pass for six. That was a rope from 26 yards out. People love to talk about what Kenny Guiton can do that Braxton can't, but that's one that Braxton can do that Kenny can't. He doesn't have that kind of zip. Buckeyes lead it 14-7.
8:49 Wow, a huge bust in the secondary as the Badgers go with another play-action, and Stave finds a wide open Abbrederis for 62 yards. Not sure whose blown coverage that was, but it was certainly somebody's. Roby will get the blame, of course.
8:57 The Buckeyes hold, forcing a 32-yard field goal which goes wide left. The Badgers are screwing up my score prediction of 37-23. I would expect Bret Bielema to pull crap like this just to make me look dumb, but I thought Gary Andersen was above such things. As an aside, that was a huge bullet dodged by the Buckeyes. A defensive bust that doesn't turn into any points, and a swing in momentum is averted.
8:58 Trainers are looking over Melvin Gordon. Buckeye fans should seriously pay me for what I have done for them tonight.
9:00 Hey, Jordan Hall is in the game. I remember that guy. Miller rolls right, gets pressured, fumbles, but gets grabbed by the facemask and the Buckeyes will actually pick up 15 yards on this abomination of a play. Miller didn't look 100% on the move there.
9:05 Fourth and two from the Wisconsin 45-yard line. The Buckeyes are showing that they're going for it, but Miller goes under center and that's now what Ohio State does, so this is obviously just a ploy to try to pull the Badgers offside. It doesn't work. Meyer calls timeout. They will punt.
9:06 Maybe this time the pinning will actually work. Nothing worse than a wasted pinning. Unless you drunkenly wrestle bears, then there is probably nothing better than a wasted pinning. The Badgers fair catch the punt at the nine-yard line. The Buckeyes have to make this field position work.
9:12 Third and 11. Noah Spence gets the pressure, but can't get to Stave. Oh my God! I don't believe what I just saw! A football referee from the Big Ten Conference has thrown a flag on a Wisconsin offensive lineman for holding a pass rusher. Just a few days ago, I thought Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter going to the mound to yank Mariano Rivera from a game was the most amazing sports scene of the year. But this...this tops that by a thousand percent. We have just witnessed a Wisconsin offensive lineman called for holding. This is something that you will tell your grandchildren about, and something that your grandparents were never able to tell you about. Sure, there are cave paintings of Wisconsin holding, but science always believed that to be symbolic of Wisconsin holding fate in its hands. Here, tonight, now, we have seen Wisconsin called for holding. Quick, pause the game, wipe your tears (and anything else), and compose yourself. The shaking will stop once your body realizes that it's in shock. You'll become very cold, so maybe find a blanket or something. Your heart will want to slow down in order to protect itself from exploding, so whatever you do, don't fall asleep. I'm just so emotional right now. All I want is to be with my family to tell them I love them.
9:13 Wisconsin will have to punt. Oy. Philly Brown goes full Jeremy Gallon and tries to pick up the rolling punt and muffs it. The Badgers recover inside the Ohio State 20-yard line. But wait, Wisconsin gets flagged for illegal formation. The Buckeyes are dodging so many Badger bullets tonight that I'm beginning to think they're playing stormtroopers.
9:21 Third and two. This has Hyde all over it. Nope, it's a play-action and Miller has Philly but it's broken up because Philly was being pulled down from his shoulder pads. No biggie, just some horseplay. Buckeyes will kick a field goal. Interesting twist with Meyer going conservative while Herman has been aggressive all game long.
9:22 Timeout Wisconsin. It's really a give and take. If you're going to get the holding calls against Wisconsin, you're not going to get the pass interference.
9:23 Drew Basil bangs the 45-yard field goal right down the middle. Nice draw. Buckeyes lead it 17-7. I think they still need more Hyde because he's going to wear them down and bust one.
9:28 Two tight ends and one receiver. Stave rolls out and finds Abbrederis again, as he beats Roby badly once again. He gets dropped at the 11-yard line. Roby might have to come back for his senior season after all.
9:30 Third and 10 from the 11-yard line. Big, big down. Buckeyes have a three-man front, but rush just two and Stave finds Sam Arneson in the back of the endzone for the touchdown. They dropped nine and Stave still found the middle of the field wide open. That was pretty easy. Buckeyes lead it 17-14.
9:33 Maybe they're saving Hyde for the second half where he'll have 20 carries. Miller drops back, it's a quarterback draw and he picks up 14 yards. That was the best he's moved so far. And he is finally the all-time quarterback rusher for the Buckeyes. A record that everybody expected to fall against Buffalo, finally drops in game five.
9:37 Braxton has to feel pretty confident about his knee right now. It seems to be holding up. Could see more of he and Hyde in the second half.
938 Third and seven from the Wisconsin 40-yard line. Miller drops back and throws a bad one up for grabs, and it's dropped by Sojourn Shelton. Just 10 seconds to play in the half. That was a very awkward throw. No arm strength.
9:39 Fourth and seven. Miller drops back and, oh geez, finds a wide open Philly Brown in the endzone having slipped through the secondary. How does a defense do that? Touchdown Buckeyes. Philly has now made up for the muff that never happened. Man, that's another huge break for the Buckeyes. Shelton drops the interception and one play later the Buckeyes are dancing in the endzone like everybody brought their own cardboard dance floor. Buckeyes lead it 24-14.
9:41 What is it with Wisconsin and losing Ohio State receivers in the endzone? Is it the red jersey disappearing in the red endzone? We have reached the end of the half. Buckeyes by 10 points.
9:42 Ohio State got a ton of breaks, but at least they did something with them.
9:44 Braxton Miller is 11-17 for 162 yards passing and three touchdowns. He also has seven rushes for 39 yards. He is currently on pace for a career night, but we know things will be dialed back in the second half because that's how things work.
9:52 TBDBITL is playing Johnny Cash. This is my joint!
9:53 The Buckeyes have held the Badgers to just 50 yards rushing. (They've given up 210 yards through the air, but look at those rushing numbers again, eh!)
9:54 Braxton is on pace for his first 300-yard passing game. Never happen.
10:03 Game on. Let's see how fast the Buckeyes can make this next 30 minutes fly by.
10:06 Miller keeps it on the speed option, as he generally does. That dude pitches less than a right fielder. Still got five yards though.
10:11 Third and six from the 38-yard line. Miller drops back and throws it to Devin Smith down the field, and it's incomplete. Tons of hand fighting. I really don't understand all of these deep shots, but the ball hit his hands, so what do I know. (Don't send me emails answering this question.) Cameron Johnston's punt is downed at the four-yard line.
10:17 The Badgers go three and out and the Buckeyes have turned the field in their favor once again. The punt is fair caught at the Badger 47-yard line.
10:22 Fourth and one from the 37-yard line. The Buckeyes are going for it...and they don't even get it to the line of scrimmage. I'm betting this drives Urban Meyer completely mad. So much for flipping the field.
10:23 The crowd is announced as 105,826. It's the third-largest crowd ever. I fell short of my 106,000 prediction, but it's not my fault, it's the fault of the terrible Wisconsin fans who can't travel.
10:25 There's a huge sack by Curtis Grant coming through on the blitz. I think that's the biggest play of his career to this point.
10:26 Stave is pressured and hit by Adolphus Washington. The ball is thrown right to Bradley Roby, who picks it off and returns it to the Wisconsin 32-yard line. Time to finish this game right now.
10:27 Two backs as Dontre Wilson motions in. Miller gives him the ball, and he's nearly dropped in the backfield before reversing his field and picking up 15 yards thanks to a nice block from Braxton. By the way, we have yet to see Miller stay down in pain even once this game. I don't know what it means, but I thought I'd mention it.
10:29 Braxton runs all over the place for no gain. He thinks he's Dontre.
10:31 Third and goal from the one. Play-action and Miller somehow slings it to Philly Brown with a sidearm “dice roll” type of motion. That's some quick thinking and a quick trigger. Miller now has four touchdown passes, which is just two short of his backup's record. Buckeyes lead it 31-14.
10:38 The Badgers are moving the ball, but we've reached the end of the quarter, so they'll need to start moving it better. Buckeyes go to the fourth with a 31-14 lead.
10:43 Third and 10. The Badgers bring in the heavy lineup. And I think to myself, “”THE HEAVY LINEUP?!?” Stave dumps to Jeff Duckworth for nine yards.
10:44 Fourth and two. No wide receivers. James White gets the ball and picks up three yards. That's actually pretty close and I'm not sure he got it as easily as the refs say. Curtis Grant was right there. Earle Bruce is right behind me. You can guess how he feels about that one.
10:47 James White scoots down the right side for the 17-yard touchdown with 13:47 to play. Buckeyes now lead it 31-21. And now it's the Buckeyes' turn to add a score.
10:50 Do you think the first two-and-a-half quarters of this game will be the first time Buckeye fans have ever complained that a game plan has been too aggressive?
10:56 The Buckeyes have been held. Rather than take a crack at a 52-yard field goal, Meyer will accept a delay of game penalty and they'll try to pin the Badgers again. Johnston does his job and puts the ball inside the 10-yard line for a fourth time tonight. His average is terrible, but the results are not.
10:59 By the way, how have you been enjoying Tresselball this half? Are you hating it?
11:02 The Badgers punt. Time to head down to the field.
11:08 There is 4:38 to play and the Buckeyes are punting. Let me guess, it was Braxton left, Braxton right, Braxton fight, fight, fight?
11:09 Mike Vrabel is talking to his defensive linemen. “Kill them. Kill them until they are dead.” I'm paraphrasing.
11:10 Noah Spence was just held so tightly that if this game was taking place in Utah, he and right tackle Rob Havenstein would be legally married right now. Oh, and I like how the ref just watched it happen. Probably reminiscing about the first time he was ever hugged around the neck.
11:19 I'll be honest, I can't read my writing. Something about a left-handed lizard head and Ohio State calling a timeout in a treetop.
11:20 Wisconsin kicks a field goal to make it 31-24 with 2:05 left. The refs tell us that Ryan Shazier and Christian Bryant are changing jerseys so that they can be on the hands team with Philly Brown and Jordan Hall. I've never seen that before. These double numbers are ruining everything!
11:22 The kickoff goes out of bounds as Roby watches it bounce for some reason. Wisconsin has three timeouts left, so the Buckeyes need to get a first down to end this one.
11:23 I am standing in the very same spot as I was in 2011 when I watched Russell Wilson constantly find an open Jared Abbrederis down the field in the closing moments, only to see each pass fall to the ground with a thud.
11:24 Second and five. The snap goes through Miller's chest and he recovers it for a loss of three. This isn't going to end well.
11:27 The Buckeyes punt, and it's a booming kick inside the 10-yard line and Abbrederis returns it for three yards to the 10. That's the first punt return the Buckeyes have given up this year, and it was only returned because the Badgers are desperate.
11:29 There's a near sack, Stave dumps it to James White who gets leveled and fumbles it backwards about 10 yards. The crowd is getting pretty amped right now.
11:30 Another dump off to White for about 13 yards on third and 17. There's a Buckeye down. Can't see who it is. Corey Brown comes into the game, and I see C.J. Barnett still out there, so it must be Christian Bryant.
11:31 Fourth and four. There's some pressure and Stave's pass is incomplete. The Buckeyes win it 31-24 and the Badgers continue their three-year streak of not losing by more than seven points. What an amazing record of moral victories. Wisconsin is undefeated when it comes to not being blown out!
12:33 Well, the Buckeyes just cleared their first of three hurdles this season, and I can't tell if it was easy or a little too difficult. That was the best game Joel Stave has ever played, but was it because he played well, or was it because of the Ohio State secondary?
12:34 Maybe we don't know everything about this team yet. One thing we do know is that the offense is only going to get better, and this defense showed that they can stop the run. They'll get an entirely different test next week, however, when they face Northwestern's dual-quarterback system.
12:35 The Buckeyes are going to be a popular pick to lose at Northwestern next week, and if Meyer can use it as motivation, you can bet they'll know about those picks throughout the week.
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