Ohio State passed their first test.
Braxton Miller threw four touchdowns in his return to the field and No. 4 Ohio State opened the Big Ten season by beating No. 23 Wisconsin by a score of 31-24. Miller, in his first action since injuring his MCL against San Diego State on September 7th, threw for 198 yards (17/25) and rushed for 83 yards (3.8 yards per carry). Ohio State moved to 5-0 on the season and their seventeen game winning streak is the longest in the country (Urban Meyer is now 17-0 as Ohio State’s head coach).
No matter the opponent, night games terrify me. And night games against Wisconsin? Doubly terrifying. These kids are so jacked to play under the lights that anything could happen. The Badgers have been the Buckeyes biggest test in the Big Ten over the past decade or so and Saturday night was no different.
Early on, it looked like Ohio State was going to blow this game wide open. After the Buckeye defense forced a three-and-out, the Ohio State offense needed just four plays to go 55 yards for their first score. Miller’s 25-yard TD pass to Evan Spencer made it 7-0 and Wisconsin followed with another three-and-out. But Ohio State’s offense couldn’t take advantage. A false start on 3rd-and-7 stalled the ensuing drive and the Badger offense came to life.
Sophomore quarterback Joel Stave led Wisconsin on an eight play, 90-yard drive, culminating with a 36-yard touchdown pass to senior Jared Abbrederis to tie the game at 7-7.
Ohio State answered on their next drive to retake the lead at 14-7, but Stave (20-34, career high 295 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and Abbrederis (10 catches, 207 yards, 1 TD) would continue to be a problem for the rest of the evening.
With the Buckeyes leading 17-7 late in the first half, Abbrederis torched CB Bradley Roby (this happened a bunch) and Stave found him for a 33-yard bomb to get to the Buckeye 11 yard line. Abbrederis had to sky pretty high to catch that ball and took a big hit from Roby in the process (see the above pic). The Badgers scored three plays later on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Stave to tight end Sam Arneson to make it 17-14 with 90 seconds to go in the first half (Arneson took a pretty solid shot on his TD as well).
But 90 seconds was all Braxton Miller needed. Well, 90 seconds and a mental fart from Wisconsin’s secondary on a key fourth down. Ohio State’s final drive of the half didn’t seem particularly promising, what with all the incompletes and Miller runs. But on 4th-and-7 from the Wisconsin 40, the Badger secondary lost track of Corey Brown and Miller found him with a laser to the endzone and Ohio State got themselves the seven points that ultimately proved to be the difference.
In the third quarter, Ohio State defensive end Adolphus Washington’s pressure forced Stave into his lone mistake, a pick that Bradley Roby returned to Wisconsin’s 32 to set up Ohio State’s final scoring drive. The drive began with Miller throwing a block for Dontre Wilson on a 15-yard end around/broken play and it ended with Miller finding Philly Brown for the TD on a 1-yard play action pass to put Ohio State up 31-14.
Once again it looked like Ohio State could pull away, but Wisconsin immediately answered on their next drive. RB James White capped a nine play, 75-yard drive with a 17-yard rushing touchdown to bring the Badgers back within two scores, 31-21, early in the fourth quarter.
Wisconsin cut the lead to 31-24 with a little over two minutes to play on Kyle French’s 42 yard field goal but it was too little, too late. Ohio State ran the down the clock and Wisconsin got the ball back on their own 10, needing to go 90 yards in roughly 30 seconds.
Ohio State may not have earned any style points with their 31-24 victory, but considering that Braxton Miller had missed the previous two games, a win at night over a ranked opponent is a fine way to open up the Big Ten season.
I liked the different uniforms. Mostly. I liked the chrome helmets and with the black stripes. Looked bold. The black face masks were also a nice touch. However, I didn’t care for the player names being in black. The writing was too dark and it was hard to read. Other than that, thumbs up. The embroidered Buckeye leafs on the collar were a nice touch.
For some reason, Brent Musberger had a Tim Tebow rant. Brent really thinks that the Jacksonville Jaguars should sign Tim Tebow. They need to sell tickets, apparently. I’m just glad Hoyer got the Brown a victory last Sunday, or Brent could’ve been advocating Tebow to the Browns.
Jim Tressel sadly shakes his head. Early in the second quarter, Philly Brown got bailed out when the Badger’s lined up illegally on a punt. Brown muffed the punt and Wisconsin recovered but it was all for naught. Ohio State was leading just 14-7 and that could’ve been a huge momentum shift.
Because things can never be easy, we had a LeBron presence. The former Cavalier and current Heat star gave the Buckeyes a pregame speech and watched the action from the Ohio State sideline. At one point, ABC interviewed LeBron but I’ll be honest, we had been muting the TV during commercials (because LOUD NOISES) and we kept that thing on mute during LeBron’s interview. I’m sure whatever he said had a great impact on the 2014 NBA free agent landscape. Jokes aside, I’m positive that having LeBron around is good for Ohio State recruiting. There’s no way the billion time NBA MVP isn’t a hit with the majority of high school athletes coming through Columbus.
Dontre Wilson is fast. That’s all.
Fourth down woes. Early in the second quarter, Ohio State had a fourth and short on the Wisconsin 45 yard line. Meyer had the offense on the field but they simply lined up and tried to get the Badgers to jump offsides. Wisconsin wasn’t fooled (I wouldn’t have been either, OSU broke their huddle in a sprint to try to get Wisconsin out of their comfort zone. It looked pretty weird and probably tipped them off that something was *up* more than anything). The Buckeyes faced a similar situation in the third quarter and went for it, but Carlos Hyde got stuffed on 4th and short.
A historic night. This was the third largest game in the history of the Horseshoe with 105,826 stone sober Buckeye faithful in the stands.
Back-to-back night games. Yuck. Ohio State travels to Chicago next Saturday to face No. 17 Northwestern at 8:00 pm. Night games against Northwestern don’t strike the same fear into my soul as night games versus Wisconsin, but still. Anything could happen.
(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)