MADISON, Wis. — What a game.
No. 2 Ohio State and No. 8 Wisconsin went toe-to-toe for all four quarters and then overtime in a classic Big Ten slugfest. The Buckeyes ultimately emerged victorious in overtime, 30-23.
Here’s what we learned.
Five things we learned
1. The slow starts still haven’t been fixed: Much as the Buckeyes did against Tulsa, Rutgers and Indiana, the Buckeyes came out flat against Wisconsin. By the end of the first quarter, Wisconsin had a 10-3 lead and had outgained Ohio State 154-94. Unlike the games against those aforementioned teams, it was much harder for the Buckeyes to dig out of that hole against the Badgers.
2. The defense has some holes after all: Ohio State’s defense looked largely impenetrable through five games — albeit with some hiccups — but the first half against Wisconsin was the most extended example to date of the Buckeyes’ imperfections. The Badgers gashed Ohio State for 313 yards in the first half, with 170 coming on the ground and 143 through the air. Ohio State was slow to the ball, blew coverages and missed tackles. It was far from the Silver Bullets that Buckeyes fans have been used to this season.
3. Camp Randall is a tough place to play: Aside from shaking the press box during “Jump Around,” Wisconsin fans also brought the noise throughout the game. It took the student section some time to file in, but once it filled up, the stadium got loud. We used a decibel meter to measure just how bad it got when the Ohio State offense was on the field, and it definitely took the Buckeyes some time to adjust.
4. One of Ohio State’s strengths is halftime adjustments: Ohio State entered this game having outscored opponents 122-14 in the second half through five games. The Buckeyes showed why against Wisconsin, scoring the first 14 points of the second half to take the lead against the Badgers for the first time all game.
5. The Buckeyes bent but didn’t break: Even though Wisconsin’s offense was all over the Buckeyes in the first half, Ohio State somehow held the hosts to 16 points despite giving up more than 300 yards. Those three field goals helped keep Ohio State in a game that could have turned into an early blowout given the difference between the two teams in the first half.
Would Wisconsin be able to keep up with Ohio State? That’s a big fat yes. Ohio State got all it could handle from the No. 8 Badgers on both sides of the ball throughout the game.
How does Ohio State respond? The Buckeyes played by far their most difficult and frustrating game of the season. Even after a win, how they adjust and improve going forward will determine the shape of their season.
One. Ohio State allowed its first rushing touchdown of the season when Wisconsin took a 23-20 lead in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes had gone longer than 23 quarters without allowing a rushing touchdown this season. Wisconsin also had another rushing score in the first half, but it was called back because of a holding penalty.
What it means
Ohio State wasn’t the better team for much of the game but still got the job done when it mattered. These are the games that championship teams win.