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Buckeyes rely on defense to start 3-0 in the Big Ten

The Buckeyes got a very important victory on Saturday: 31-13 over Wisconsin. The win was anything but conventional, but it did solidify the Buckeyes as the leaders of the Big Ten.

“It was a little bit different ball game than I think any of us anticipated,” coach Jim Tressel said in his weekly press conference. “We knew Wisconsin was a heck of a football team, and we knew we were going to have our hands full.”

Once again, the defense led OSU to a comfortable victory by several scores, but offensively the Buckeyes have more questions than answers.
OSU (5-1, 3-0) now prepares for the Purdue Boilermakers (1-5, 0-2) on Saturday.

Defense comes up big yet again

All season, the Buckeyes’ defense has made plays when necessary. Saturday wasn’t any different.

Senior captain Kurt Coleman returned from a one-game suspension and wasted little time returning to form. His 89-yard interception return stopped a driving Badger team and shifted momentum into the Buckeyes’ favor for the remainder of the game. His 14 tackles were also a career high.

“The funny thing about it, I was joking with my teammates and they were telling me that because I missed a game I needed to have double the production, and it just so happened that I happened to have double the production. It was a great feeling to come back and help this team, especially in that kind of fashion. I was just happy to be out there playing with my teammates again.”

Tressel said the Badgers played up to his expectations, but the Buckeyes “came up with some plays that are game changers.”

“Obviously, Kurt Coleman’s play and the pressure that was put on the quarterback, his being where he was supposed to be, and then I thought the execution on the interception return was outstanding,” Tressel said. “You always say when an interception is thrown, if you can block the intended receiver and you can block the quarterback and then get everyone else running down the sideline, you have a chance, and they did that just as you would hope they would do.”

OSU got another interception for a touchdown in the second half. With the game still in doubt, junior safety Jermale Hines put the Buckeyes up two touchdowns with a 32-yard interception return.

The defense will look to control Purdue’s high-powered offense on Saturday. The Buckeyes have held all but one opponent to under 20 points, including back-to-back shutouts of Toledo and Illinois.

Pryor takes a step back

After having nine touchdowns in the last three games, quarterback Terrelle Pryor saw his production drop significantly against the Badgers.

The sophomore completed 5 of 13 passes for only 87 yards with one touchdown and an interception.

His one bright spot for the afternoon came right before halftime, when he led the Buckeyes 88 yards for the go-ahead score. A run of 27 yards and a touchdown pass for 32 yards to DeVier Posey were the highlights of the drive.

The offense struggled to find a rhythm because of three touchdown by the defensive and special teams. However, OSU would have liked to see more consistency from its quarterback.

The problems on offense do not begin and end with one guy, Tressel stressed. The lack of production was an offensive problem, not just a problem with his quarterback.

“I think the thing you do with any of us is understand that when things go just right, I probably didn’t do it by myself, and when things didn’t go the way you’d like, it probably didn’t have everything to do with me,” Tressel said.

No Boom, only Zoom

The depth at running back is quickly depleting for OSU.

Daniel “Boom” Herron did not play against Indiana on Oct. 3 but returned against Wisconsin. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, he re-injured his ankle and most likely will not be available against the Boilermakers.

Freshman Jamaal Berry, who was a prized recruit for the Buckeyes this season, has also been injured. Whether he will make an impact this season remains to be seen.

“I’m the eternal optimist. I keep waiting for Jamaal Berry to be healthy because when he’s been healthy, he’s been very, very good,” Tressel said. “Right now, it’s Brandon and Jordan.”

Small finally makes large impact

Senior wide receiver and returner Ray Small has spent his fair share of time in Tressel’s doghouse.

The Glenville product, who many thought would be the next Ted Ginn Jr., has not lived up to expectations, and it was unsure whether he would even play this season.

However, when he took a Badger kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown on Saturday, he put defenders and past troubles behind him. He said there is no better feeling than making an impact again.

“It means a lot. I play the game as if it’s my last play, no matter if it’s practice or if it’s the game,” Small said. “This year I came in and take it a lot more serious.”

Small said he has no regrets and would love to have another big game this weekend to show how far he has come.

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