Ohio State Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Buckeyes' Win vs. Wisconsin
When Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Curt Phillips found Jacob Pedersen in the end zone for the tying score late in the fourth quarter, it felt like the Ohio State Buckeyes' perfect season was destined to end in overtime.
The Buckeyes had been outplayed by the Badgers for much of the game, and a ferocious crowd had been given new life when Wisconsin snagged the momentum from Ohio State heading into OT.
Like so many times this season, the Buckeyes stepped up.
Ohio State scored after just four plays on the first possession in overtime, and the Buckeyes surrendered just six yards to the Badgers to escape Madison with a 21-14 victory.
It officially became "Michigan Week" the moment Christian Bryant batted down Curt Phillip's fourth-down pass attempt, but before we look ahead to the Wolverines, here are 10 things we learned from Ohio State's overtime victory over Wisconsin.
1. Ohio State is good at winning games it has no business winning.
This wasn't the first time the Buckeyes had been outplayed this year before eventually winning in overtime.
In its Week 8 matchup against Purdue, Ohio State was in a world of hurt down eight points with just 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, filling in for the injured Braxton Miller, drove the Buckeyes 61 yards in 44 seconds for a touchdown, then converted the two-point conversion to force overtime. Ohio State went on to win that game, 29-22, despite being outclassed by Purdue for much of the game.
The Badgers outgained Ohio State by 124 total yards on Saturday night while controlling field position and dominating time of possession (Ohio State 22:43, Wisconsin 37:17).
In the end, the Buckeyes made enough plays to overcome all of that for a tough road win.
2. Above all else, this coaching staff trusts the running game.
Going into the overtime period, Wisconsin's defense had held Ohio State to just 211 yards of total offense. Braxton Miller had been completely shut down, rushing for just 36 yards on 21 carries. The running game in general had been completely held in check as the Badgers limited Ohio State to 117 yards below its season average.
So what did Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman do in overtime?
They ran the ball. On four straight plays, the Buckeyes ran it right at Wisconsin. Braxton Miller picked up 12 yards on two carries, and Carlos Hyde added 13 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.
3. Ohio State's defense is hitting its stride.
Excluding Wisconsin's 41-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, Ohio State's defense was once again up to the task after starting the season in embarrassing fashion.
The Buckeyes opened the year giving up an average of 400 yards per game through seven weeks, but since then, the unit has really stepped up. The silver bullets did give up 360 yards to Wisconsin, but holding the Badgers to just 14 points despite the number of opportunities Wisconsin had to score points was incredible.
4. Bret Bielema really, really wanted to beat the Buckeyes.
It's no secret that these two teams don't like each other, and that was clearly evident when they met on the field Saturday night.
Bret Bielema desperately wanted this win, though. He has admitted in the past that he hates losing to Ohio State, and after he and Urban Meyer butted heads on the recruiting trail last February, there certainly isn't any love lost between the two.
Bielema was reportedly very upset after the game:
Bret Bielema was choked up after the game when reporters asked him how tough this loss was for him. You could hear it in his voice.— Brandon Castel (@BCastOZone) November 18, 2012
It's not hard to imagine how badly Bielema wanted to hand Ohio State its first loss this year.
5. Corey Brown is becoming a legitimate playmaker.
At the beginning of the year, it was sophomore Devin Smith who was making all the plays for Ohio State's receiving corps.
As of late, though, Corey Brown has made his share of plays for the Buckeyes.
Two weeks ago, Brown caught a short pass and spun his way through multiple tackles for a 37-yard touchdown against Illinois.
His game-breaking play against Wisconsin was even bigger. In a scoreless game in the first quarter, Brown took a punt right up the middle 68 yards for a touchdown. The junior receiver broke through a wall of defenders before embarrassing Wisconsin's punter on his way to the end zone.
Urban Meyer is still recruiting playmakers on the perimeter, but he has two developing talents in Corey Brown and Devin Smith.
6. Ryan Shazier is a candidate to win the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award.
Is there a defender in the Big Ten playing better football than Ryan Shazier right now?
The sophomore outside linebacker turned in another dominant performance against the Badgers, registering a game-high 12 tackles, three tackles for loss and a pass breakup.
The biggest play he made, though, came late in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin was on Ohio State's 2-yard line, going for it on fourth down to try and tie the game at 14. Wisconsin's Montee Ball got the handoff and dove over the line of scrimmage for what should have been the tying score, but Shazier was having none of it.
Shazier met Ball in the year, halting his forward movement while popping the ball out of his hands. Christian Bryant caught the ball mid-air as the Buckeyes turned the Badgers away.
On the year, Shazier has 110 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, 11 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
7. Simon desperately needed that bye week.
Ohio State's late-season bye week couldn't have come sooner for John Simon.
The senior defensive end has battled a lingering shoulder injury all year long, preventing him from playing at the dominant level many expected of him coming into the year.
After some much-needed rest, he played the best game of his collegiate career. Simon absolutely abused Wisconsin's offensive tackles on his way to registering a career-high and school-tying four sacks against the Badgers. He finished the game with six total tackles.
8. The bye week wasn't so good for the rest of the team.
On his call in show earlier this week, Urban Meyer said that bye weeks usually help a team that's struggling and hurt a team that might be playing well (h/t 971thefan.com).
Ohio State entered its bye week playing the best football of the year following impressive wins over Penn State and Illinois. And like Meyer said, the bye week appeared to hurt the momentum Ohio State had built over the last few weeks.
Miller looked utterly flustered by Wisconsin's defense, holding on to the ball for far too long during pass plays and looking hesitant running the zone read or QB runs.
9. Ohio State is the real Leaders Division champion.
Because of Ohio State's postseason ban, Wisconsin will represent the Leaders Division in the Big Ten title game. Saturday's game in Madison proved that the Buckeyes are the real division winners.
Wisconsin is truly fortunate that Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible for postseason play this year. In any other year, the Badgers would currently be in third place in the division standings behind the 7-0* Buckeyes and 5-2* Nittany Lions.
10. Wisconsin may have given Michigan a blue print for shutting Braxton Miller down.
Without linebacker Chris Borland, Wisconsin played a soft nickel zone for much of the game against the Buckeyes. This defense confused Braxton, and the sophomore quarterback turned in his worst performance of the year with 145 total yards and no touchdowns.
With so few teams finding success limiting Braxton, it's not hard to imagine Greg Mattison and Michigan's defense adopting some of Wisconsin's scheme to try and confuse Braxton next week in The Game.
Follow David on Twitter @davidreg412.
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