The big red machine | WISCONSIN 31, OHIO STATE 18 | BADGERS PUNISH TOP-RANKED BUCKEYES All smoke,

Madison – As much as any romanticist would prefer to apply a

generous dose of magic to a lovely half moon hanging over a

half-mad Camp Randall Stadium with the nation’s No. 1 team in the

house, magic didn’t have anything to do with what happened on an

otherwise enchanted Saturday night.

To beat great teams, and therefore dare to become great

yourself, you’ve got to do the elemental things, like blocking and

tackling.

You’ve got to pound the

football behind a dominating

offensive line, accumulating outlandish drives that put almost 90

yards on the stat sheet and take 10 minutes off the clock and then

be able to counterpunch when No. 1 does likewise. You’ve got to

come out of the locker room like it will be the very last game you

will ever play by taking the very first kickoff into the end zone

from 97 yards away.

And then you can be like Wisconsin, which reopened the

possibility of a very special season by taking out its nemesis on

so many levels – the big, bad Ohio State Buckeyes – in a very big

way, 31-18 big.

Take a 21-point lead against No. 1 before the second quarter has

scarcely been broken in, and that’s not a statement. That’s a

fairly righteous shout from the top of the capitol dome that Bucky

just might be here to stay for that which remains in the Big

Ten.

Lose most of that dominating advantage and then reclaim the

better part of it with imaginative play-calling and resilient

playmaking from mad-dashing freshman James White, and that’s a

fairly definitive ditto.

Of course, all the Badgers have to do now is turn around and do

it on the road this week against Iowa, but that piece of business

can wait.

For now, they are free to enjoy the spoils of an oldfashioned,

UW-style beatdown that, even if it did not completely atone for

Michigan State, came with precious few qualifiers. Maybe this is

what the Badgers can be.

Say if you wish that

college

football is in such a balanced state

that a No. 1 can be beaten in consecutive weeks, as South Carolina

demonstrated the previous Saturday against Alabama (and then lost

to Kentucky) in the upset that hastened the Buckeyes’ rise to No.

1, but that would not do justice to the way the Badgers were

prepared to bushwhack Ohio State.

It was more than David Gilreath, wheeled out of the stadium in

an ambulance five weeks prior, returning the opening kickoff with

nary a touch from a Buckeye and all the blocking necessary to daze

Ohio State from the start.

It was more than the O-line opening O-State-size holes from the

outset to free John Clay to the extent that it already appeared to

be a mismatch by the second drive.

It was more than the Wisconsin defense holding the Buckeyes to

minus-1 yard on three carries from first and goal at the 3, or J.J.

Watt coming up with a massive sack on third and 22 against one of

the most elusive quarterbacks in the league.

And it was more than UW coach Bret Bielema white-outing the last

Big Ten gap on his r?sum?. No matter that he wasn’t exactly

Big-Game Bret with a 1-8 record against ranked conference teams and

absolutely no success against Ohio State before Saturday night.

It was, in the end, a sum of the parts that added up to a top-10

nominee for one of the biggest victories in Wisconsin history, and

not just because it was the first in 29 years against a No. 1. It

was made that way by the manner in which the Badgers responded when

Camp Randall went flat like it hadn’t in 17 seasons against Ohio

State. The sound of silence was transformed into deafening noise

into the night because Wisconsin showed just how grown up it could

be doing the one thing that very good teams do when no special

effects are required.

They block, they tackle and they finish.

Send e-mail to mhunt@journalsentinel.com

Copyright 2010, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved.

(Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already

copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

Copyright, 2010, Journal Sentinel, All Rights Reserved.