Friday, October 4

Buckeyes ride strong first half past Wisconsin

Ohio St finally faced a worthy adversary last Saturday in The Horseshoe, and despite a poor fourth quarter, proved that they are still the class of the Big Ten with a 31-24 win over Wisconsin. Braxton Miller was back and looking as good as ever, throwing for a career-tying four touchdown passes while showing no rust from the leg injury, rushing 22 times for 83 yards. The rush defense did a terrific job containing Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon, holding him under 100 yards for the first time all season. Letting a large lead slip away in the second half is a bit concerning, but against a team like Wisconsin you take the wins when you can get them.

Game Recap
Wisconsin accomplished nothing other than shanking a punt after receiving the opening kickoff, and Brax took back the reins of the offense with good starting field position. He made quick work of it, needing just over a minute a throw a dart to Evan Spencer for a 25-yard score and early Buckeye lead. Both teams squandered decent field position on their next drives, then Badger QB Joel Stave took UW 90 yards down field to tie the game. The scoring toss went to go-to wideout Jared Abbrederis, the first of many times he would victimize All-American Bradley Roby on the evening.

With the score tied at seven and the first quarter winding down, Miller completed passes on four consecutive plays, the final being a 26-yard score to Devin Smith. The last play of the quarter was a 64-yard pass from Stave to Abbrederis. Abbrederis would finish the night with a career-high 207 yards. Roby did get a shot in at the end of the drive, when he broke up a pass attended for Abbrederis near the goal line on third down. The play become even bigger when Badger kicker Kyle French missed the 32-yard FG attempt. A few minutes later, Drew Basil put the Bucks up 17-7 when he connected on his 45-yarder. It’s always nice to have the advantage on special teams, and it’s a very rare occasion when Ohio St does not.

Stave, who had a solid game and showed me I may have underrated him a bit, responded with a good drive and his 2nd TD pass of the game, this one to Sam Arneson. Only trailing 17-14, the problem for Wisconsin was that they left 1:30 on the clock, which was evidentially just enough time for Brax. After scrambling for a first on third down near midfield, Miller’s pass to Smith was broken up with about 10 ticks remaining. Knowing this would probably be their last shot to add points before the half, Braxton launched a 40-bomb that hit Corey Brown, who somehow got behind the Badger defense, right in stride in the endzone with two seconds remaining. The sensational play gave the Buckeyes a 24-14 halftime lead.

Ohio St gained some first downs on their opening possession on the second half, but when they stalled at the Wisconsin 38, I was disappointed to see Meyer elect to punt instead of giving Basil a shot at the 55-yarder. I guess Urbs knows his players better than I do, and this must have just been out of Drew’s range. Of course it ended up working out, as OSU downed the punt at the five and Wisconsin went three-and-out. Getting the ball right back in UW territory, three straight three-yard runs set up a 4th and 1 back at the 38. This time Meyer elected to go for it, but Carlos Hyde was stood up at the line and Wisconsin took over.

The biggest play of the game possibly occurred on this series, when Roby picked off Stave deep in Badger territory. While Roby did a fine job to catch the ball, this INT belonged to Adolphus Washington, who just flattened Stave as he was releasing the ball. The result was the ball falling far short of its intended target, and into Bradley’s lap. The interception led to Braxton’s fourth touchdown of the game, and Philly’s second scoring grab gave the Buckeyes what seemed a near insurmountable 31-14 lead.

But Wisconsin had other ideas, as they shut the OSU offense down in the 4th quarter and Joel Stave went to work. The Buckeye D stifled this blazing Badger rushing attack for the majority of the game, but early in the final frame James White finally broke one and took it 17 yards to the house to cut into the advantage. With the clock running down, Abbrederis got the best of Roby a couple more times and helped set up a 42-yard field goal that French connected on to make it a one possession ball game.

Three unsuccessful runs and three UW timeouts later, Abbrederis was back to receive a punt with 1:29 on the clock. Freshman punter Cameron Johnston got a hold of a boomer and the Buckeye coverage was all over the star receiver, pinning Wisconsin back at their own 10 and forcing them to go 90 yards in less than 90 seconds to tie the game. The ending was kind of anticlimactic, as they made it only six of those yards. Doran Grant broke up the fourth down pass and Ohio St extended its win streak to 17.

Game Ball
Guess who’s back. Back again. Brax is back. Another win. No one supported Kenny G more than I did, but Braxton Miller was brought to Columbus to win a National Championship, and we cannot do it without him. He looked 100% last Saturday, not being the least bit tentative to run the ball. He wasn’t quite as effective as we’ve come accustomed to (3.8 ypc), but I can live with that far more than him only rushing two or three times for bigger yardage. This showed me that he’s still comfortable back there and will continue being Braxton Miller. Plus, you gotta love the 4/0 TD/INT ratio.
Game balls to date: Guiton (3), Miller

Big Ten
Most of the conference was off last week, as Iowa’s pounding of Minnesota was the only other intra-conference game. Illinois put up a Grant in a victory over Miami (OH), and Purdue was embarrassed at home by Northern Illinois. (Yes, I had to look up who was on the $50 bill. Does anyone actually use those? GO UNION!)

Unfamiliar territory
It’s time to be concerned about Bradley Roby. Jared Abbrederis is an All-Conference performer, so I can understand him beating Roby a few times. But 207 yards?! That is not the Bradley Roby we’ve seen the two years. Fix yourself, Bradley.

One-man show
I didn’t talk much about the OSU running backs in this piece, because frankly there wasn’t much to talk about. Hyde got nearly all of the work, rushing 17 of the 20 RB carries. He was fine but didn’t do anything spectacular, gaining 85 yards (5.0 ypc). The obvious question here - where was Jordan Hall? Hall got one touch all game long, rushing for five yards. Where was the one-two punch we’ve been hearing about? In Monday’s press conference, Meyer vowed to get his playmaker more involved this weekend. Dontre Wilson also saw a reduction in playing time, receiving two carries and catching one pass. With Braxton doing so much work on his own, there are only so many balls to go around and unfortunately Tre and explosiveness may have to wait his turn until the future.

Bryant out for season
The Buckeyes were dealt a big blow in their victory over Wisconsin, as starting strong safety Christian Bryant suffered an injury that could cost him the rest of his senior season. Bryant is a three-year starter and leader of the defense, and his presence will be greatly missed. The other Corey Brown (I refuse to call him “pitt” or “pittsburgh.” Eff that.) will most likely start in his place this weekend, but expect freshmen Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell to eventually outplay him and take over.

Up Next: @Northwestern (4-0), 8:00, ABC
After finally being challenged with a formidable opponent, the Buckeyes will come right back to see another. Northwestern has been one of the surprises in the NCAA this season, winning its first four games and jumping to a #16 ranking. They didn’t have a much tougher non-conference slate than OSU did, but they are putting up points at an alarming 41 points a game. That already high-powered offense will get a boost this week, as last season’s leading rusher and All-Big Ten performer Venric Mark returns from an injury that cost him the last three weeks. The Cats will use a two quarterback system, with dual-threat starter Kain Colter often being relieved for pocket-passer Trevor Siemian.

Especially with Bryant out, the Buckeye D may have a hard time slowing this offense down, but Brax and company shouldn’t have any trouble putting up points of their own. N’western’s pass defense ranks 117th in the nation, so expect the ball to be in the air early and often. These teams haven’t met since 2008, but Ohio St has taken 28 of the past 29 meetings overall, and have outscored the Wildcats to a staggering tune of 157-27 in the three games in the tenure of current coach Pat Fitzgerald.

The scoreboard should be lighting up in Evanston tomorrow night, but I expect most of it to be coming from the away side.
Prediction: Ohio St 53 Northwestern 31


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