Wednesday, November 21

Buckeyes slip by Wisconsin in OT on shoulders of defense/special teams

Seven weeks into the season, Ohio St's defense was getting lit up by sub-par teams on a regular basis and their special teams was committing blunder after blunder. Then Urban Meyer took a special interest in the unit, and they improved dramatically over a month's time. That all culminated in the Buckeyes' 21-14 overtime victory over Wisconsin last Saturday.

In a game where the Bucks could only manage 15 first downs, 236 total yards, and seven points offensively, the defense and special teams came through in a big way. Philly Brown returned a punt for a touchdown early on, a score that we later found out was desperately needed, and LB Ryan Shazier and DE John Simon led a tenacious defense all game long.

Some may be quick to point out that Montee Ball rushed for nearly 200 yards, but they stopped him when it counted - most notably on Shazier's forced fumble at the goal line late in regulation. Also, I feel like Travis Howard's injury is being grossly overlooked. Ball was much more effective in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, when Howard was out. The reason for this was that Meyer didn't trust backup DB Doran Grant to go one-on-one with the Badger receivers, and therefore couldn't put as much pressure on the line of scrimmage. When Travis was in the game in the 1st and 4th quarters, Ohio St was able to effectively follow their original gameplan of putting eight or nine guys in the box to slow down Ball while Howard and Bradley Roby played one-on-one coverage.

It wasn't the type of game that we've been used to seeing this season and certainly wasn't Braxton Miller at his finest, but it was Big Ten football and another step closer to perfection for Ohio St. Now only one "team" stands in our way.

Game Recap
This may be the shortest recap ever. Not due to the typical reasons of me not wanting to relive a bad loss or just being plain lazy, but because well, there isn't much to recap. The punts came early and often from both sides, with all five possessions in the first quarter resulting in one. The difference being - with two minutes left in the period Philly Brown broke one straight up the middle for 68 yards and the game's first score. The blocking was terrific, and Brown hit the seam hard and only had to break one tackle before running past everyone to paydirt.

Wisconsin picked right up where they left off in the 2nd, punting within seconds. Braxton went 4/4 on the drive and Carlos Hyde ran one in from 15 yards out to go up 14-0. I felt very good at this point, but little did I know that that would pretty much be the end of the Ohio St offense. With Travis Howard on the sideline, Montee Ball ran right down the Buckeyes' throats before tying (ex-Cleveland Brown) Travis Prentice for the NCAA mark for career touchdowns. Both teams then reverted back to form, each punting twice more (while only picking up a combined one first down) before taking it to the half at 14-7.

The third quarter was more of the same, before Wisconsin had by far the longest drive of the game, eating up the final eight minutes of the frame. It was all for naught, however, as Kyle French missed a 40-yard field goal on the first play of the 4th. The miss may have just been karma, as the Badgers were bailed out earlier on the drive when Jordan Fredrick fumbled the ball to Ohio St, but the referees blew the call. As replay showed, Fredrick's knee was on top of an Ohio St player's hand and the ball came loose before he was actually down. Apparently the replay official thought differently (see: wrongly).

After the miss both offenses continued to struggle, and a botched Ben Buchanan punt set Wisconsin up near midfield and with the best scoring opportunity in a long time. They capitalized when Ball ran for 25 yards on the first play and eventually brought it down to a 4th and Goal at the one. Ball took the carry and when he saw no hole to run through, attempted to dive over top, stretching the ball out as he did so. Shazier was all over this, swatting the ball out of Montee's hands and into the waiting arms of Christian Bryant (we won't talk about why Bryant was standing alone behind the play to begin with).

With 2:46 left to play, Ohio St only needed a first down or two to seal their 11th straight victory. But those were hard to come by all game, and the Buckeye offense sputtered again with yet another three-and-out. The Badgers had to rely on Curt Phillips' arm for the first time all game, and even after John Simon's sack on the first play, the Badger QB responded beautifully. Phillips went 4/4 on the drive, the last completion to Jacob Pederson resulting in six. The point after sent the game to overtime all square at 14.

Even though the offense couldn't do anything since the 2nd quarter, I felt relatively confident heading into OT because frankly I knew we were a better team. My feelings were proved right, as the Bucks cruised to probably the easiest overtime victory I've ever seen. OSU took possession first and made quick work. Hyde ran for 11 yards on the first play followed by a 12-yarder from Braxton to lead to a 2-yard score from Hyde. When Wisconsin got their chance, the Buckeye D worked just as quickly as their counterparts on offense. Ball ran for six yards to start the series but was hit for a loss of two after a Phillips incompletion. On 4th and 6, Bryant broke up Phillips' pass intended for Pederson and that was all she wrote.

Game Ball
As I said, this win belonged to the defense. And while Shazier and his 12 tackles was phenomenal, one man stood out above the rest - John Simon. I feel like I've been giving Simon a bit of a bad rap on here this season, which was not my intention. His productivity has been at an extremely high level all year. What I was waiting for was the Simon I've seen in past seasons that completely took over and dominated a game. As of last Saturday, my wait was over. It was clear that no one on Wisconsin's offensive line could handle him. Simon was disrupting Phillips all game, resulting in four sacks and several other pressures that led to a teammate's sack, throw aways, or errant passes.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Simon, Hyde, Boren, Guiton, Meyer, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
All eyes in the conference were certainly on this Buckeye game, as not much else was going on. devin gardner continued to flourish as the michigan QB, with can't-tie adding a new wrinkle by lining up at running back and wide receiver along with gardner. The wolverines pounded Iowa, but Nebraska's win over Minnesota keeps them ahead of michigan via the tie-breaker, and is a win over Iowa this Friday away from facing Wisconsin for the Big Ten Title. Should the Huskers slip up, michigan would still have to beat Ohio St to pass them - which we all know isn't going to happen.

Heisman Watch
Ohio St being on a bye week followed by Braxton's mediocre performance in this game (97 yards passing, 48 rushing, 0 TDs) officially takes him out of the running. But since I've been talking about this for awhile I thought I'd quickly give you me thoughts on where the race stands now. Texas A&M's thrilling victory over Alabama two weeks ago knocked A.J. McCarron out of the race while catapulting the stock of Aggie QB Johnny Manziel. Collin Klein took a significant hit with K St's loss to Baylor, and right now it could be anyone's game. Kenjon Barner and USC WR Marquis Lee continue to put up video game numbers, while Manti Te'o has his Irish as the nation's only (eligible) unbeaten team. I would still give the slight nod to Optimus Klein right now, but Johnny Football is right on his heels.

My Rankings
1. Collin Klein, QB Kansas St
2. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
3. Manti Te'o, LB Notre Dame
4. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon
5. Marquis Lee, WR USC

Up Next: vs. michigan (8-3, 6-1), 12:00, ABC
This is it; don't get scared now. michigan Week - my favorite week of the entire year. These rivals don't need any more motivation than to just look at the jerseys of the opposing team, but there is more at stake and more story lines in this year's matchup then there has been since the two came in ranked 1 and 2 in the nation in 2006. Ohio St is looking to cap off an unblemished season, michigan has hopes of taking the Legends Division and going to the Big Ten Championship game, Urban Meyer makes his debut to the rivalry, brady hoke tries to improve on his 1-0 mark against the Bucks, the wolverines are trying to win in Columbus for the first time in over a decade, and ann arbor is still a whore.

If can't-tie was still the um starting quarterback, I would have the full 100% confidence that I usually do going into this game. Now it's down to about 99.97%, because devin gardner scares me a bit. And while I've always got on can't-tie for his passing ability, or lack thereof, we all know how dangerous a runner he can be, and he could be very effective in this game if used correctly.

All that being said, it's still a michigan defense, and I fully expect the Buckeye offense to bounce back from its Wisconsin performance and put up some big points. I see similar numbers to the 300+ yards and three touchdowns that Miller accounted for against these boners last year. I think the defense continues their stellar play, and John Simon and his fellow seniors end their careers on top.
Prediction: OHIO STATE 95 michigan 0


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