The Ohio State Buckeyes beat Wisconsin in Ohio Stadium by 18 points, 31-13, but it didn’t come by any expected or usual means.
With about half of the points coming from the defense, Brandon Saine starting at running back and quarterback Terrelle Pryor clearly off his game, OSU’s offense was a bit of a mystery.
Kurt Coleman makes dramatic return from suspension
The first quarter of play on Saturday was mostly a battle of the punters until about 12 minutes in, when senior safety Kurt Coleman intercepted Wisconsin’s quarterback Scott Tolzien and returned it 89 yards to the end zone to put the Buckeyes up 7-0.
“It really started with the [defensive] line,” Coleman said. “I knew they had a great rush, which is why they kind of forced the high throw on the wide receiver. It was just an easy pick for me. I just was standing right there, happened to be in the right spot and I had great blockers.
“My team led me all the way down the field. I did the easy part, they did all the work, so I give all the credit to them.”
Coleman said that missing Ohio State’s game against Indiana was one of the toughest things he has had to do in his time on the team.
“I learned: Don’t hit the QB helmet to helmet,” Coleman said laughing, as he continued to say that it was great to be able to help his team as much as he did after the week off.
Ray Small finally gets that touchdown
With 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Ray Small finally had his chance to shine after a long, controversial career at Ohio State.
Just after Wisconsin made good on a 46-yard field goal, the senior receiver fielded the ensuing kickoff at the 4-yard line and dodged past the Badgers for a 96-yard touchdown run.
Throughout his rocky career, Small has always been heralded as the possible follow-up to Ted Ginn Jr. Looking like the former OSU star returner more than ever on Saturday, Small said that he didn’t want to be compared.
“That’s all I hear, you’re just like Ginn, you just like Ted Ginn,” Small said. “Which is not a bad thing at all, I look at Ted Ginn like an older brother. I talk to him every day. But I’m Ray Small and any play that I make is because I’m Ray Small.”
Coach Jim Tressel said that he was very pleased with Small’s performance Saturday and said that he had teased Small in the locker room about finally getting a touchdown.
“It was almost like he was shot out of a gun,” Tressel said. “I saw him take that thing and he downshifted and he was gone.”
Offense’s performance was offensive
With two touchdowns coming off defensive interceptions and a third from Small’s return, the offensive unit contributed very little to OSU’s victory.
Wisconsin had 22 first downs; OSU had eight. The Badgers doubled the Buckeyes in offensive yards, 368 to 184. Wisconsin held the ball for 43 minutes out of the total 60 minutes of play. They had 89 plays, while Ohio State had only 40.
“They had a safety on us the whole time, and they really shut down the run a lot,” said Saine, sophomore running back.
The only time that the offense did look decent was for a minute and 12 seconds just before the second half, when sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor led an 88-yard drive that culminated in a 32-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver DeVier Posey in the corner of the end zone, putting the Buckeyes up 21-13.
Tressel said that he will be evaluating the offense as a whole after today’s performance, despite the limited number of plays to look at.
“You evaluate every play,” Tressel said. “We had 40 plays. Typically you might have 70, but you evaluate those 40 plays and what occurred within each of them and I think you do it within the confines of what was going on in the game.”
Performance at running back unexpected on both sides of the ball
With Saine getting the start over sophomore Dan “Boom” Herron for the second game in a row, The ‘Shoe got a taste of what the sophomore is capable of in the leading role.
“I felt like if I was in there,” Saine said, “I was ready to go.”
Saine went for 55 yards on 14 carries.
Herron, who had two carries for eight yards, went down with a sprained ankle with 13 minutes left in the second quarter.
Badgers’ running back John Clay went for 59 yards on 20 carries, with a long run of eight yards.
Clay put up 184 yards last weekend against Minnesota and 142 yards against Michigan State before that.
“It built our confidence being able to stop him,” junior linebacker Brian Rolle said. “I noticed the first couple plays they threw the ball, so I was confused and wondered when they were going to run it. But I feel like we did a great job today.”
Terrelle Pryor continues to put up question marks instead of good numbers
Pryor had five completions in 13 attempts Saturday against Wisconsin and threw an interception that led to Wisconsin’s only touchdown, scored on a faked field goal attempt.
Pryor’s longest completion was the touchdown pass to Posey. He finished with only 87 passing yards, compared to Tolzien, who completed 27 passes for 250 yards.
Tressel said that he doesn’t give much credence to what critics have been saying about Pryor’s recent poor performance.
“I go back to that last drive of the first half, and he was storming down the field whether it was run, pass or whatever, and what we need to do is do that every drive, I guess,” Tressel said.
Defense continues to impress under veteran leadership
Spending over two-thirds of the game on the field, Ohio State’s defense never stopped pursuing the Badgers with 100 percent effort.
OSU sacked Tolzien six times over for a loss of 39 yards. Tolzien had only been sacked twice before entering Saturday’s game.
“Our defensive staff got it schemed up well, and our defensive players executed and played a lot of plays,” Tressel said.
Coleman said that he was very happy with the way that the defense played.
“I’m just so excited. It was so much fun out there, and I think we brought it for the whole game, and that’s what we have to do,” Coleman said. “We were ready to rise to the challenge because we knew it was going to be a physical game.”