Through fives games of the 2016 football season, the Ohio State Buckeyes had been largely untested as they cruised to a 5-0 record. Despite so much inexperience filling the two-deep roster on both sides of the ball, the young Buckeyes had made easy work of the schedule through five games.
What was yet to be determined was how a young team would respond when they were punched in the mouth for the first time. Though it took overtime to do it, the Buckeyes answered that question with an impressive show of fight and resiliency in their 30-23 win in Madison on Saturday night.
With the atmosphere in Camp Randall Stadium every bit as charged as was expected, Ohio State did themselves no favors in neutralizing the crowd noise to start out the game.
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After the Buckeyes offense punted on the opening drive of the game, Wisconsin wasted no time in getting points on the board. An Alex Hornibrook 28-yard pass to tight end Troy Fumagalli moved the ball out to midfield after just one play. 12-yard runs by Corey Clement and Jazz Peavy had the Badgers threatening early in the first quarter.
The drive ultimately stalled, but Andrew Endicott nailed a 46-yard field goal to open the scoring.
Another quick punt on the ensuing Buckeyes drive gave the Badgers the ball back, and big plays continued to haunt the Silver Bullets.
Backed up to their own 5 yard line, Corey Clement took a handoff on the first play of the drive and raced for 68 yards to put the Badgers in position to add to their lead. A couple plays later, Hornibrook found Peavy for a 24-yard touchdown and a stunning 10-0 early lead for the Badgers.
In desperate need of a quality drive, J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes responded with an 11-play, 67-yard drive that had them inside the 10 yard line. They were unable to find the end zone, but Tyler Durbin hit on a 25-yard field goal to get Ohio State on the board.
The two teams would combine for three more field goals in the first half, resulting in a puzzling 16-6 lead for Wisconsin as they entered the break.
The Badgers totaled over 300 yards of offense in the first half, and combined with the overall ineffectiveness of the Ohio State offense, had the Buckeyes looking very vulnerable after two quarters.
With the street fight that Urban Meyer was expecting in full swing, the Buckeyes were badly in
need of answers as the second half kicked off.
The defense did their job, forcing a quick stop on Wisconsin’s opening drive of the third quarter. Set up with great field position, Barrett and the offense put together their best drive of the game, moving the ball to the 13 yard line.
And then disaster struck.
With the rain that had been forecasted all week finally showing up, Barrett’s pass attempt sailed over the head of James Clark. It was picked off by Dakota Dixon in the endzone, ending Ohio State’s chance at cutting into the lead.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the offense took over again in plus territory. They would cash in 13 plays later on a one-yard touchdown run by Barrett.
Gareon Conley intercepted Hornibrook on the following drive, and the Buckeyes offense came on to the field yet again with great field position and a chance to take their first lead of the game.
Four plays and a first down brought the third quarter to a close, and two plays into the fourth quarter, Barrett scored on an 8-yard run to give the Buckeyes a 20-16 lead.
With all of the momentum leaning towards the Ohio State sideline, Wisconsin wasted no time in recapturing it.
An 11-play, 81-yard drive by the Badgers was capped off by a Austin Ramesh four-yard touchdown run. The drive ate up over six minutes of clock, and put Wisconsin up 23-20 with just under eight minutes left in the game.
Facing a must-have situation, Ohio State responded with a nine-play drive of their own that ended with Tyler Durbin tying the game up at 23 with under four minutes to play.
The Silver Bullets forced Wisconsin to punt on the next drive, and Barrett ran one time as Meyer was content to take the game to an extra session.
With the ball first, the Ohio State offense seemed hell bent on settling for a field goal.
After Barrett found Curtis Samuel for 10 yards and a first down on the first play of their possession, a false start on Isaiah Prince backed the Buckeyes up.
Two plays later, Jamarco Jones was flagged for holding. The penalty put Ohio State in a hole on 2nd down, needing 13 yards to extend the possession.
Barrett found Samuel for 11 yards to set up a 3rd-and-2 from the seven yard line. He would connect with Noah Brown on the next play to give the Buckeyes a touchdown lead as the possession flipped.
One stop away from preserving their undefeated season, the defense gave up a 21-yard pass that moved the ball down the four yard line. But that’s all the closer Wisconsin would get to the end zone.
After a couple of ineffective runs and an incomplete pass, the Silver Bullets were a play away from finishing off the Badgers.
Hornibrook dropped back to pass on fourth down, but he was met in the backfield by a trio of Buckeye defenders. He didn’t even manage to get off a desperation heave, and the Ohio State sideline erupted.
While there are still plenty of things to clean up, the end result was a truly gutsy win over a top 10 team in one of the best home field advantages in college football.
The Buckeyes will have no time to rest on their laurels as they must get ready for another raucous environment next week in State College. Penn State, like Wisconsin, will be coming off of a bye week and the extra week of preparation.