(Image courtesy of ohiostatebuckeyes.com, game information courtesy ohiostatebuckeyes.com, cleveland.com, espn.com, cfbstats.com)
To start, I want to compliment Wisconsin for a very solid first half game plan and execution. I’m not going too deep into this, since I’ll bet my firstborn (sorry, son) but not his firstborn (again, son, sorry) that you watched this game.
The Buckeyes owe this win to a couple things. The first was a dominant second half defense that stabilized the situation until the offense could power up. The second was the determination in the second half to turn the game over to J.K. (All Day) Dobbins and the offensive line. Of All Day’s 33 carry/172 yard game, he was 18/97 in the 2nd half. It ate clock, opened up passing game and gassed the Badger defense.
Ohio State’s coaching a play was concerning in the first half, but the performance in the second half was extraordinary.
The Buckeyes struggled in the first quarter to get anything going. At less than 3 yards per play and going 1-4 on 3rd down conversions, the Wisconsin puzzle was nowhere near being solved. They frantically (10 plays, 71 yards, 2:26) just before the half to at least not get blanked in the first half.
With the defense “stabilizing the patient” in the second half, the offense got back to basics (run the damned ball!) to overtake Wisconsin. In the second half, the offense accounted for 260 yards at a 6.8 YPP clip, but more importantly put up a Buckeye-like 24 points.
A 16 yard TD pass to KJ Hill on Ohio State’s last possession of the 3rd quarter finally pit OSU in the lead, 24-21 and a 13 yard TD pass to KJ Hill in OSU’s opening 4th quarter drive gave the Buckeyes some cushion, 31-21. A soul crushing ~5 minute drive ending with a Blake Haubeil field goal with 4:39 remaining put OSU up 34-21 and effectively iced the game for the Buckeyes.
The defense gave up an opening drive TD to the Badgers, not unexpected, and seemed to be out of sorts throughout the first half, particularly in Wisconsin’s brief scoring drive just before halftime. In the first half, the Silver Bullets allowed 294 yards at 8.65 YPP and 21 points. Not good.
The Buckeyes clearly made some adjustments at the half to completely shut down Wisconsin’s offense in the 3rd quarter (16 plays, 23 yards, 0 points) and limit them to a stat-padding 115 yards but 0 points in the 4th quarter.
Far be it from me to question a coaches thought process (not really) but Paul Chryst’s decision to use Garrett Groshek in their next-to-last series baffles. Wisconsin was down 31-21 with 4:39 to play. Groshek is a very capable player – but he’s no Jonathan Taylor. In the nine play drive, Groshek had 3 carries for net 7 yards and a pass (incomplete) thrown his way. Finally, on 4th and 6, JT is inserted into the game and loses 6 yards on a sweep that didn’t surprise anyone, except Taylor.
Jonathan Taylor finished with 148 yards, gaining 135 of them in the first half.
Buffalonian Blake Haubeil another efficient game. He was 4-4 on extra points, 2-2 on FGs and averaged a net 42.6 yards on kickoffs.
Drue Chrisman had a god day by averaging 43 yards on two punts. However, he may have ignited a QB controversy with a 4th down 21 yard completion to Luke Farrell in OSU’s first possession of the second half.
Another tense OSU-PSU game eventually came to a satisfactory end with a double-digit win for the Buckeyes. The win locks up the B1G East prior to The Game. Not to look ahead, but Ohio State will play the winner of next week’s Minnesota-Wisconsin game for the Big Ten Championship.
Below is a table of quarter-by-quarter activity for both teams.
This table summarizes the game fairly well. Ohio State was completely outplayed and out-coached in the first half. Keyed by a dominant defense, and a determined running game they took control of the game in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the defense gave up garbage time yardage, but no scores.
The Buckeyes travel to the desert for the Fiesta Bowl against #3 Clemson (13-0, 8-0) out of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Saturday, December 28th. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 pm ET. You’ll be able to watch it on ESPN or TuneIn. Or both.