You’re supposed to save your best for last, but Ohio State saved its worst game of the season for the Big Ten Championship Game, falling behind 21-7 in the first half before rallying with 27 consecutive points in the second half. There was a lot to be grumpy about, but I’m just going to hit the highlights (lowlights?) because otherwise you’d be reading this column for several days. Let’s get to the stuff that would have had a much richer version of me shooting my television.
Big Play to Open the Game
The Buckeyes wasted no time showing they weren’t ready for Wisconsin’s best shot. Wisconsin opened the game with a 27-yard completion on the first play and it set the tone for the Badger offense and the Buckeye defense. Ohio State seemed to struggle to recover, looking unsure, missing tackles, and generally appearing unsettled and on their heels.
After being held in check the first two times he faced Ohio State, Jonathan Taylor came into this game wanting to make a statement and did that early. He had a 44-yard touchdown run to open the scoring, further giving Wisconsin life and belief. Jeff Okudah was the last guy to have a shot at him but made an awful attempt to bring down the runner and just like that Taylor practically ran for more yards in one play than he did in Columbus during the first meeting.
Your Weekly Reminder that Chrisman is Broken
Tired: Drue Chrisman booting his punts into the end zone.
Wired: Drue Chrisman going back to doing what he used to do. He hasn’t done that much since before the first Wisconsin game.
I’ve been riding this particular gripe train ever since the first Wisconsin game, but once again Chrisman had an opportunity to pin back an opponent and booted a punt into the end zone. However, he might have gotten his groove back with a perfect pass on a fake punt (even if the Buckeyes didn’t finish the drive). Late in the game he actually did force a fair catch inside the 20, so let’s hope he’s finally back.
Jashon Cornell missed what looked like a sure sack on third-and-9 on second Wisconsin scoring drive, getting his hands on Jack Coan deep in the backfield, but he lost his grip and allowed a long scramble for a first down. Just a couple of plays later, Coan walked into the end zone with no trouble on a zone read keeper that fooled everyone in a white jersey. Making that sack probably saves the Buckeyes a touchdown.
Trying To Do Too Much Can Be Costly
Ohio State had a third down play in the red zone and Wisconsin got pressure that forced Justin Fields to run. But once he was wrapped up, he tried to fight through the entire Badger defense and lost the ball. That cost Ohio State points as Fields could simply have gone down and taken the field goal. By trying to make what was just about an impossible play — even if he had two healthy knees — it cost the Buckeyes and helped the Badgers.
Ohio State finally scored a touchdown to get back into the game and Wisconsin seemed OK with taking their touchdown lead to the half. But then the Buckeyes gave up a 45-yard rush by Taylor on a simple run play right before the half that led to a third Wisconsin touchdown. The Badgers weren’t even trying to score necessarily. But when Ohio State gave up the big play, the Badgers got aggressive, picked on backup cornerback Cameron Brown and then made it 21-7 just before the break. It was the most demoralizing 32-second sequence of the entire season. If the Buckeyes had simply made a tackle for an average three to five yards on that run, they’d have gone to the half down just seven points.
Failing to Take Full Advantage
Ohio State scored a touchdown to start the third quarter and then got a huge sack of Coan on third down on the ensuing drive. Things looked even better when Wisconsin’s punter dropped the snap and set up the Buckeyes in the red zone. But then the Buckeyes went with a gadget play on first down, a run, and then should have at least converted for a first down — if not a touchdown — when Fields misfired to a wide open tight end in the flat with a lot of green in front of him. Instead of seven points, Ohio State settled for three and that was a big win for the Badgers.
Wint’s Dumb Penalty; Arnette’s Dumb Penalty
The Buckeyes handed Wisconsin 30 yards for free on the same drive in the form of a couple of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Jahsen Wint’s came on the kickoff after Ohio State had climbed back into the game and Damon Arnette’s was a few plays later. The defense eventually got a stop and the Badgers missed a field goal on the drive, but that was not a good time for some discipline issues, whether the calls were soft or not.
Suplex is for Wrestling Only
K.J. Hill got picked up and slammed down on an overhead suplex move that would have made Hulk Hogan proud. That is supposed to be illegal and could have ended Hill’s season. Thankfully, he was OK and set the school record for career receptions and then later scored a go-ahead touchdown on a play where Garrett Wilson got away with not being set at the snap. I’ll take the no-call on Wilson since there was no call on the Hill suplex.
Those are the main things. There were a few other items that kind of cropped up from time to time, such as some calls not made or poor tackling at times, and a few play calls were curious, but those are more general and less specific. In the end, Fields remembered he was Fields (one leg or not), the Buckeyes fed J.K. Dobbins, and the defense showed up and made plays to get off the field. The second half was much less aggravating than the first, and once Ohio State got momentum, the Buckeyes pretty much seemed normal, despite Fields’ limitations.
That’s it for the Big Ten season. We’ll find out the next opponent and location today and until then, get some rest and stay hydrated.