Dienhart: Defense wins this one for Ohio State
Yes, that same defense that at times has been maligned this season—and allowed 206 yards rushing today–took this opportunity to stand and deliver when it mattered most, turning back Wisconsin in overtime to secure a 21-14 win.
“I’m honored to be the coach of an 11-0 Ohio State team, especially one that’s very deserving,” said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. “We have a saying and I just shared it with them that a team that refuses to be beat won’t be beat.”
Led by end John Simon and his four sacks, Ohio State needed its defense to step up, given how the Buckeye offense was being bottled up by Wisconsin on this day. Ohio State had just 236 yards—and notched just one offensive touchdown in regulation, as the other came on a 68-yard punt return by Philly Brown in the first quarter that opened the scoring.
Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller was contained most of the game. He completed just 10-of-18 passes for 97 yards and ran 23 times for 48 yards, hurting his faint Heisman hopes. So, again, some key plays by the defense were needed for the Buckeyes to escape Madison unbeaten.
The win allowed Meyer to continue his run of success coming off a bye week. His teams are now 33-2 following an off week. He also joined Earle Bruce for the second-best start by an Ohio State coach to open their career.
Before coming to Wisconsin, Meyer admitted he has thought about not being able to play in the Big Ten championship game or a bowl because of NCAA probation.
“You know, I could lie to you and say that I don’t (think about it),” said Meyer. “Every once in a while, but not as much as I thought. I’ll hear it and read it once in a while, and I have good friends in the profession that will make a comment and I’ll think for a second.
“But then I go back to knowing exactly who we are, and you go back to how we’ve won and who we are right now, and we’re pretty fortunate where we are.”
Well, after this spine-tingling win at Wisconsin, Meyer has to really like where his Buckeyes are: Ohio State is 11-0 with a chance to cap a perfect season next week at home vs. Michigan.
That’s, well, perfect. In fact, it doesn’t get any better than that.
The Buckeyes’ run to perfection has caused some to wonder if Ohio State could somehow claim a share of the AP national championship if it finishes 12-0 and the other unbeatens—Oregon, Kansas State, Notre Dame–lose down the stretch.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The fact Ohio State is standing here at 11-0 in Meyer’s first season is amazing. And today was perhaps the Buckeyes’ best effort yet, as the victory allowed Ohio State to claim the outright Leaders Division title.
The Big Ten has said it will award the Buckeyes a trophy for the accomplishment, despite the probation for violations that occurred on Jim Tressel’s watch. And after the game, Meyer said the players would get rings to commemorate the event, too.
Wisconsin was 10-0 at home in November under Bielema. Make that 10-1. While the loss stings, the Badgers can take solace in the fact they still are headed to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game for a second season in a row.
But the trip to the title game rings a bit hallow, since the Badgers won’t have the top record in the Leaders. Wisconsin didn’t want to “back in” to the title game. It wanted to forge a tie, which would have meant beating Ohio State and then winning at Penn State next season, as well as Ohio State falling to the Wolverines. Well, it won’t happen. Still, Wisconsin will move on with a shot to get to a third Rose Bowl in a row. The last team to do that was Michigan from 1976-78 seasons.
And Montee Ball will get another shot to set the NCAA career record for touchdowns. He tied it today with his 78th career score (Watch the TD). And he came inches from setting the record in the fourth quarter before fumbling at the goal line (Watch play) on a day when he ran for 191 yards.
The Badgers also had to be encouraged by the play of fifth-year senior quarterback Curt Phillips, who was making just his second career start. He hit 14-of-25 passes for 154 yards and a score. Now, he must help get Wisconsin back on the winning mark at Penn State so the Badgers (7-4 overall, 4-3 in the Big Ten) have some momentum going to the Big Ten title game.
There is still a lot for both teams to play for.
|BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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