Wisconsin’s defense has led them to a 12-0 start, but it had a weakness for a big play or two. That weakness was exploited just enough and Ohio State came away with the Big Ten title 27-21 over the Badgers.
Wisconsin’s perfect season came to a halt and the College Football Playoff dreams along with them. All it really took was a look at who made the big plays, and it was a pair of early ones from the Buckeyes that gave them the edge they needed.
An 83-yard touchdown by J.T. Barrett to Terry McLaughlin opened the scoring and then a 57-yard touchdown by Paris Campbell made it 14-7 Ohio State late in the first quarter.
Wisconsin’s offense couldn’t come up with the quick strike play themselves and a 21-7 hole that was dug by early in the second quarter proved too much to overcome despite a huge fight to within three points in the fourth quarter.
Ohio State limited the Badgers to just 60 yards on the ground, while racking up 238 yards of their own in the win.
That resulted in having to rely on quarterback Alex Hornibrook. He responded by going just 19 of 40 for 238 yards and two interceptions with no touchdowns.
After trading 3-and-outs on their opening drives, Wisconsin came back with a promising second drive. However, it came up empty as Hornibrook underthrew a fade route to tight end Troy Fumgalli, resulting in an interception for OSU cornerback Denzel Ward at his own 4-yard line.
It took Ohio State just four plays to go 96 yards, as Barrett hit Terry McLaughlin for an 83-yard touchdown over the top for a 7-0 advantage.
Barrett would be involved in the very next score too, only this time giving a gift to UW linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel on the doorstep of the goal line for an easy pick six.
Wisconsin got the tie, but it didn’t stay that way long. Barrett hit a wide receiver screen to Paris Campbell and the Badgers missed the first open field tackle. It was off to the races for a 57-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead with :59 seconds left in the first quarter.
Ohio State’s defense continued to suffocate Hornibrook and the Badgers offense, as Wisconsin couldn’t get much going.
Instead, it was the Buckeyes busting big plays again and again. A huge 77-yard run by J.K. Dobbins early in the second quarter led to a 1-yard touchdown by Barrett and a 21-7 lead.
How did the Badgers get back in the game? It was Van Ginkel striking again. He stripped Michael Weber on the edge and recovered his own forced fumble on the OSU 11-yard line.
Wisconsin’s offense couldn’t punch it in the end zone and had to settle for a short Rafael Gaglianone field goal to make it 21-10.
UW’s game plan all season long was faltering, as the Badgers put up just 56 yards on the ground and allowed OSU 127 yards themselves.
Taylor’s first half consisted of just 10 carries for 25 yards, and the Badgers couldn’t find a big play to respond back to the Buckeyes. Alex Hornibrook’s 7-yard scramble was the biggest play of the half.
Wisconsin allowed 9.3 yards per play and mustered up just 4.5 yards per play when they had the ball in the first half. It was no surprise that the 21-10 scoreline would hold up until the intermission.
Whatever was said at halftime, the team woke up early in the third quarter, sort of.
Defensively, linebacker T.J. Edwards made back-to-back plays and forced Ohio State to a three-and-out on its first possession out of the half.
Offensively, the Badgers hit a vertical pass and made it a one-possession game at 21-13 with a 46-yard Gaglianone field goal.
But, the momentum just couldn’t stay with the Badgers. Dobbins busted loose for his second big play of the game — a 52-yard run — that set up a field goal and the Buckeyes pushed the game back to a two-possession game at 24-13 with 7:25 to play in the third quarter.
The game slowed a bit after that, but Wisconsin’s defense came up big when it was needed once again. With pressure finally on Barrett, the Buckeyes quarterback threw his second interception of the game as Leon Jacobs picked off the ill-timed throw late in the third quarter.
Wisconsin drove it down the field and for the first time on the night, the Badgers offense put one in the end zone. Chris James’ run from 1-yard out and a two-point conversion from Fumagalli made it 24-21 with 12:39 to play in the game.
Ohio State would march right back down the field and earn a field goal to make it 26-21 with just 5:20 to play.
The Badgers couldn’t complete the comeback despite a pair of opportunities to do just that.
UW had one last opportunity after stopping the Buckeyes, but Hornibrook’s interception issues reared its ugly head in the most inopportune time. With a 4th and 20 staring them in the face, Hornibrook sailed a pass that was intended for Fumgalli, but was nowhere near him. It was picked off and the game and the dream season over.
The Badgers will not be going to the College Football Playoff, but likely will remain in the mix for a New Years Six Bowl game.