Saturday's Big Ten showdown between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Wisconsin Badgers went down to the wire in Camp Randall Stadium, but the Buckeyes defense proved to be the difference-maker in a 21-14 OT win over the Badgers.
The Buckeyes held Wisconsin's rushing attack to just under four yards a carry, limiting the impact of star running Montee Ball, who finished the day with 191 yards and a TD on the ground. In addition to containing Ball, Ohio State's defense also came up huge with two plays that made all the difference in a thrilling victory.
As Wisconsin lined up on the 1-yard line with 3:07 to go in the fourth quarter, Ball attempted to leap over the pile for a score but was met almost simultaneously with LB Ryan Shazier, who forced a fumble that was recovered by Ohio State safety Christian Bryant.
The Badgers would eventually get the ball back with 1:33 remaining and score off a Curt Phillips TD pass to Jacob Pedersen, but that previous stop near the goal line prevented Wisconsin from scoring twice and coming away with the win in regulation.
Then, in OT, Ohio State's defense had another game-changing moment as Bryant, who recovered the fumble in the earlier play, broke up a fourth-down pass to Pedersen on Wisconsin's last attempt of the game. Prior to that possession, the Buckeyes scored on a two-yard TD run by Carlos Hyde to put Ohio State up 21-14 in OT.
For a defense that went into Saturday's matchup allowing close to 24 points a game, this performance was one of their best this season, especially the way in which they handled Ball in OT. After breaking a six-yard run in Wisconsin's first drive, Ball had no room to run against a swarming Ohio State defense.
The Buckeyes limited the Badgers to a total of 206 yards on the ground and 154 yards through the air. On third down, Wisconsin only converted five of 19 attempts.
Along with his forced fumble in the fourth quarter, Shazier finished the game with 12 tackles, including three for a loss. DE John Simon also contributed with his four sacks on Phillips.
With the win, the Buckeyes collected the Leaders Division title and maintain their run at perfection during 2012. Next up for Ohio State is a Nov. 24 matchup with the Michigan Wolverines, who smashed an Iowa team this past Saturday, 42-17.
The Wolverines have scored an average of 30.8 points a game, but that's no indication of how poorly their offense has played. Wisconsin averages close to 190 yards passing and just about 194 yards rushing.
If Ohio State can match its defensive effort this week against the Wolverines, then a victory should come pretty easily.