Three and Out: Thoughts From OSU's 31-24 Win Over Wisconsin
by Tony Gerdeman
The Buckeyes opened up Big Ten play with a victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, but the loss of senior captain Christian Bryant will be the lasting memory from this game. It could also be the lasting memory of the entire 2013 season.
Braxton Miller returned and threw four touchdown passes against a defense that had allowed exactly zero in their first four games. The Buckeye defense held up against the grinding Wisconsin rushing attack, and the bounces found themselves leaning Ohio State's way for the majority of the game.
The Buckeyes never seemed to be in danger, but that didn't keep the Badgers from scraping and clawing (and holding) every step of the way.
Running the clock out against Wisconsin has not gone well the last two seasons. Urban Meyer spoke early last week about his disappointment in the Buckeyes' inability to run the clock out last year against the Badgers, and how it led to Wisconsin scoring a touchdown and getting the game into overtime. But that pales in comparison to the Buckeyes not being able to run the clock out on Saturday night, and it cost them Christian Bryant. Had the Ohio State offense been able to get a first down, the OSU defense never steps out on the field again, and Bryant never suffers a broken ankle. Injuries are part of the game, but actions (or lack of actions) have consequences, and the loss of Bryant is an absolutely devastating consequence.
The run defense stepped up and answered the unknown. Before the Wisconsin game, we didn't really know what the Buckeyes had in terms of a run defense. However, after seeing what they did on Saturday night – holding the Badgers to 27 rushes for 104 yards (3.9 ypc) – those doubts can slink away for a while. That being said, next week will pose another run defense test with Northwestern and quarterback Kain Colter. But for now, the Buckeyes emphatically answered the question at hand. Melvin Gordon, the nation's leading rusher, was held to just 74 yards rushing, which was 82 yards under his 156-yard average. James White was held 80 yards under his average. The Ohio State starting linebackers combined for 23 tackles and they were involved throughout. The defensive line penetrated the line of scrimmage, and essentially negated the Badgers' explosive jet sweep action.
Will the offense in the second half ever resemble the offense in the first half? I thought that this might be the game where the Buckeyes unleash their offense for an entire game, much like they did against Nebraska last year. Instead, after an almost overly-aggressive first half, they dialed it back markedly in the second half and relied solely on Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde to burn the clock. It was as Tresselian as anything we have seen in the last decade plus. The clock could not spin fast enough for Tom Herman and Urban Meyer. Winning the surest way is always the best idea, but it's just such a contrast from the mantra in the first half. Miller threw for 162 yards in the first half and 36 in the second. This isn't new, in fact it's the norm. I think the only way we see a complete game on offense is if the Buckeyes get involved in a shootout, like they did with the Huskers a year ago. Also, Jordan Hall getting just one carry is puzzling, but Hyde having many more carries than him is not. Hyde is the team's number one running back. We learned that on Saturday. If they want to get Hall involved, then it's time to move him to H-back like they had planned all along. Perhaps then, with Hyde at running back, Hall at H-back and Miller pulling the strings, this offense can finally become what the coaches have always envisioned, and maybe then it will become a four-quarter offense.
It's been a rough few months for Bradley Roby. First there was the scrape in Bloomington, then the run in with Bryce Treggs from California, and now the nightmare against Jared Abbrederis. Roby has had better months. In fact, I'm guessing every other month has been better than these last two. And even on Saturday night, in the worst game of his career, he still finished with eight tackles (a team-high six solo), a punishing tackle for loss, three pass breakups and an interception. Yes, Abbrederis caught 10 passes for 207 yards, and that's unacceptable, but that's the life of a cornerback. The Buckeyes were geared to stop the run in this game, and Roby was no different. The Buckeyes talked during the week about just how difficult it is to focus so much on the running game and not get burned in the passing game. There's a reason why play-action works, after all. There has never been a perfect cornerback at Ohio State, and there's been five first-team All-American Buckeye cornerbacks since 1996, including Roby. Bad games happen, but a bad game doesn't made Roby a bad player. He's got way too much equity built up to have the fans turn on him like they have with so many others.
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