Sunday, November 18, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: Ohio State 21, Wisconsin 14
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A few things Ohio State will feel good about and some issues it will need to correct after moving one game closer to a perfect season with a 21-14 win in overtime at Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon:
1. Survive and advance: Perfection never comes easily, and it typically requires a game or two where some magic is needed to keep that record from getting a blemish. The offense struggled the defense had some troubles at times against the rush, and after Wisconsin came up with its own clutch play in regulation, it wasn't a stretch to think the streak was finally going to end for the Buckeyes. But as Ohio State has done every time it's been pushed, it dug deep and did what it had to do to escape once again. The flair for the dramatic doesn't produce a lot of style points, but it's led to nothing but victories so far.
2. Super sophomore: The legacy is already starting to grow for Ohio State's sensational sophomore -- the one on defense. Ryan Shazier turned in another unforgettable performance all over the field, though his outing at Wisconsin clearly will be remembered most for the fumble he forced late in regulation with Montee Ball trying to tie the game and establish himself as the most prolific scoring tailback in NCAA history. Briefly knocked out of the game earlier in the second half, Shazier sacrificed his body at the goal line for a critical stand by punching the ball loose for a valuable turnover. The Badgers still forced overtime, but the game could have slipped away completely from the Buckeyes if not for his forced fumble, given the offensive struggles.
Corey "Philly" Brown returned a punt for a touchdown for the second time this season.
3. Downtown Philly: The football has continued to come his way all season, but what Corey "Philly" Brown has done with it has changed pretty significantly since the start of the season. The junior receiver is increasingly showing the dynamic athleticism and wiggle with the ball in his hands that originally made him a candidate for the hybrid Pivot position in the spread offense, and without his game-breaking punt return for a touchdown that highlighted his speed and instincts, the Buckeyes would have been hurting.
1. Help wanted: Another stout defense stuck to its assignments and filled the lanes to slow down Braxton Miller's rushing game. With the Badgers committing extra bodies to stop him on the ground, he could have used help from more than Brown and Devin Smith to take advantage through the air. The Buckeyes did some encouraging things early with Miller's arm, but even in a win, the need for more perimeter playmakers to lend a hand was clear as he struggled to generate yardage against the aggressive Badgers in perhaps his least effective outing of the year.
2. On a roll: Health, experience and confidence at the second level were all restored with veteran Etienne Sabino back in the lineup at linebacker, but the Buckeyes still have work to do defensively against the rush. They did come into the weekend as the No. 2 unit in the Big Ten stopping the run and the Badgers have had success against plenty of other teams, but giving up 191 yards to Ball won't be something defensive coordinator Luke Fickell will feel great about -- though he can definitely take solace in the outcome and the fact the most decorated scoring tailback in NCAA history only scored once against Ohio State's bend-don't-break unit.
3. Feed the beast: The Badgers didn't have all that much success bottling up Carlos Hyde, but the Buckeyes did. The Ohio State tailback clearly was frustrated with the volume of his carries, and he had a case to ask for more as he averaged 5.8 yards on his 15 attempts while Miller was struggling to find much room while rushing it 23 times for just 48 yards. The Buckeyes have obviously relied on Miller's athleticism to spark the offense all season long, and it's difficult to stop giving him chances considering what he's capable of doing with his speed and acceleration at any moment, but Hyde offered the most consistent production and could have used more work.