There are plenty of fingers to point after Ohio State’s 31-18 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday night. It was a loss that was disappointing as well as stunning in the way that the Badgers dominated.
Wisconsin had a great game plan with outstanding execution and were more than deserving of the victory. However, there is always going to be blame on the other side, and there is no shortage of it for OSU.
Only Dan Herron, who ran hard on his way to 91 yards and two touchdowns, can escape any responsibility for the letdown by the No. 1 team in the nation going in. Here are the main perpetrators:
Wisconsin’s offense ran the ball whenever and wherever they wanted and that started in the trenches, where Ohio State’s defensive line looked completely overmatched.
Yes, the Badgers offensive line weighs in at about 1,600 pounds and is very effective. But the Buckeyes certainly have a capable line on the other side that didn’t do their job. They were manhandled all night, allowing open running lanes for John Clay and James White.
The OSU defense allowed 184 yards on the ground and Clay was the first 100-yard rusher against the Bucks in 29 games.
Nathan Williams, Dexter Larimore, John Simon and Cameron Heyward are thought to be a strong defensive line with a mix of speed and power. Larimore and Heyward were both starters in 2009 when the Buckeyes held John Clay to 59 rushing yards in the Horseshoe.
While the linebackers and secondary certainly didn’t do anything to help the issue, the Wisconsin offensive line’s domination up front was a key to upsetting the Buckeyes.
The Badgers’ second touchdown was on a six play, 58-yard drive with five running plays for 51 yards. The demoralizing 19 play, 89 yard drive in a dominant ten minute stretch included 15 running plays for 45 yards. Not exactly flashy, but they produced when they needed to.
The opening kick return touchdown was a big momentum boost for Wisconsin, but Ohio State’s inability to stop that momentum afterwards in the running game cost them dearly.
Pryor was made a fraud on Saturday night. His Heisman campaign didn’t just take a hit—it was given a redshirt.
He spent the first six games of the season with plenty of time to go through his progressions and pick apart inferior defenses. His relative struggles in the passing game against Miami and Illinois were forgotten due to passing yardage and wind, respectively.
There is no doubting that he has improved as a passer, but Wisconsin showed him just how far he still has to go.
Pryor felt a real pass rush in Camp Randall and failed to adjust to the pressure. He scrambled around with a deer in the headlights look as he saw real coverage downfield that kept his receivers from running wild on the green acres as they had against Indiana the week before.
Those factors made Pryor panic, as he threw high, low, wide and late. He often locked in on his primary receiver and failed to go through his progressions.
Pryor even made a couple of dangerous throws back across the middle of the field that left his receivers out to dry, although Dane Sanzenbacher did make an incredible third down catch on that type of throw in the third quarter.
Pryor’s final passing numbers: 14-for-28, 156 yards and an interception.
He ran somewhat effectively but often was too late to take off, resulting in three sacks for a combined loss of 21 yards.
The Buckeyes needed the confident passer who tore apart Indiana last week, but he never got back on the bus in Bloomington.
The Vest certainly needs to shoulder the blame for a lot of the negatives that have already been discussed.
Let’s just take it from the top. Special teams play is supposed to be Tressel’s bread-and-butter, but it’s hardly amounting to crumbs at this point. The opening kickoff is on the players, but the team’s difficulties on kick coverage all season fall on Tressel.
It was the worry of many OSU fans that a kick return would bite the Buckeyes at a crucial time this season, and it did on Saturday night. No Buckeyes were even in the same zip code as returner David Gilreath.
On the Buckeyes first offensive possession, The Vest called for the pistol formation, and it resulted in a fumble and big loss of yardage on a botched option attempt. OSU hasn’t run the pistol since Pryor’s freshman year and the first drive against the Badgers certainly wasn’t the right time to dust it off.
The play-calling on the Bucks first scoring drive was head-scratching at best. With first-and-goal at the 3-yard line, Pryor carried twice on designed runs and Dan Herron ran on a direct snap as OSU settled for a field goal. There were no opportunities for Pryor to be a dual threat or for Herron to run out of the I-formation.
Tressel then called for his favorite play, a punt with the Buckeyes trailing by 10 and 6:29 left to go in the game. At that situation in the game and with the way his defense was playing, that was more of a white flag than a percentage play.
Special Teams: Nobody got within throwing distance of Gilreath on the opening kickoff.
Pass Protection: Tackles Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts aided Pryor’s disaster by letting the pressure flood in. On one play in the fourth quarter, Shugarts flat-out whiffed on a block that allowed a sack of Pryor.
Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock: His defense surrendered 24 points and 336 yards. Wisconsin was the first team to score 30 on the Bucks since Michigan in 2006.