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Unforgetta-Ball: #9 Ohio State survives Wisconsin, 21-14 in Overtime

A record-tying day for Wisconsin's Montee Ball (39 carries, 191 yards, TD), and a brave effort from a third string quarterback wasn't enough, as John Simon and the Ohio State Buckeyes survived the unfriendly confines of Camp Randall, and came out with the overtime victory, winning the Leaders Division outright, and setting up the chance to go 12-0 against Michigan.

Ryan Shazier shook off the cobwebs then helped save Ohio State.
Ryan Shazier shook off the cobwebs then helped save Ohio State.

Despite a 10-0 record and a high AP poll ranking, Ohio State came into their game with Wisconsin as an underdog.Chalk that up to the Terrordome that Camp Randall can be for visitors. Still, the Buckeyes would have to overcome a raucous crowd and a stout Wisconsin defense to earn their eleventh win of the year. They would do so with two possible advantages, the first Wisconsin's starting linebacker Chris Borland unable to go with an injury. The second, Head Coach Urban Meyer's 32-2 record given more than a week to prepare.

The opening kickoff almost made Buckeye fans look back to their last visit to Madison, as Kenzel Doe took Basil's first boot of the game 40 yards before being wrapped up by the Buckeye special teams. But the Buckeye defense would make their presence felt, stopping Wisconsin and forcing a punt, giving the ball to Braxton Miller and the Ohio State offense.

That offense, much maligned all season for their first quarter foibles, showed more life in the first 15 minutes than they had in any other first quarter all year, as Miller lead an upbeat offense, grabbing a few first downs with quick passes and his nimble feet. But Wisconsin's defense, much like Ohio State's would stop the drive and force a Buckeye punt.

After going three and out with the ball, Wisconsin punter Drew Meyer came on to punt to the Buckeyes. Meyer hit a line drive punt into the hands of Corey Brown. With the coverage lagging behind the punt, Ohio State was able to set up some fantastic blocking, allowing Brown to take the punt to the house, 68 yards, virtually untouched by any Wisconsin player. The Drew Basil PAT made the score 7-0, and the Buckeyes were rolling.

Wisconsin would get the ball back on the kickoff, and put the drive in the hands of their third quarterback, Curt Phillips.Enter John Simon. The junior would end the first quarter sacking the Badger quarterback. With Wisconsin keeping the ball after changing sides, Montee Ball, the vaunted Badger running back, would start to stretch his legs, knocking off a big chunk of a third and long, but would wind up short of the first down, giving the Buckeyes back the ball. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman would call Miller's number on consecutive third downs, with the sophomore signal caller passing for consecutive conversions, entering Badger territory. Miller would run for a short gain before taking a late, helmet-to-helmet hit. The 15-yard penalty would put the ball into the Badger red zone, and on the next play, Carlos Hyde would make his presence felt, taking the Miller hand off in for the score, running untouched up the middle to put the Buckeyes up by 14 after the Basil PAT.

With the momentum clearly on the side of the Buckeyes, Wisconsin would unleash the aforementioned Ball. After consecutive 10+ yard runs by Ball, Phillips would continue the trend, getting another first down on a throw to Buckeye-killer Jared Abbrederis. From there, it was Ball's turn, running through and over the Ohio State defense and into the end zone, tying the game after the successful PAT. Ball's score would level him with Travis Prentice of Miami University for the NCAA record for most touchdowns, to much excitement from the fans in Madison (and in the announcing booth).

With both offenses starting to click, and both defenses starting to suck wind, the game was primed to open up for both the Badgers' running attack, and the multi-faceted Ohio State offense. But no one told either of those units that news.

Ohio State and Wisconsin would trade threes-and-out a few times, and with time running down on the first half, Wisconsin would again get the ball, and convert a third down on a big end around from Abbrederis, but an illegal low block would negate the yardage, and bring the ball back. The Buckeye defense would force another punt by Wisconsin, and Meyer, opting not to take a time out, would have his offense run one more play before heading to the locker room with a one-score lead, still 14-7.

In the first half, Miller looked more than capable, but at times lacking in the mental game, often holding onto the ball for too long, and taking runs for losses (36 yards rushing in the half), rather than throwing the ball away. Carlos Hyde was almost invisible after his touchdown. And Jake Stoneburner, looking to add to his game-ending TD at Penn State, had two costly drops that could have proven big for the Buckeye defense. Meanwhile, Ball was the early player of the game, running for 112 yards on 18 carries, with his record-tying score.

Still, Ohio State would take the kickoff to open the second half with a lead. Meyer said, on the way into the tunnel before the half, he wanted to play field position and have the wind with him, and after gaining a first down, the Buckeye offense would again stall, failing to convert on a long third down, handing the ball back to Wisconsin.

The Badgers would get the ball back, and go back to the ground game, giving Ball the ball on consecutive runs, both times met with by strong tackling by the Buckeye defense, forcing a passing down for Phillips. Enter, again, John Simon, sacking the Wisconsin quarterback for the second time on the day, and forcing another Badger punt.

Again, the Buckeyes would look to take advantage of the defense stopping the Badger offense. Hyde would get back into the action, rushing for a first down, followed by Miller hitting Brown for a quick seven yard gain. Miller would try to air it out for the first time on the afternoon, looking for a streaking Evan Spencer, but the pass would be too long, falling through the back of the end zone incomplete, setting up third down. As if on cue, the offense...would again fail to convert, punting the ball back to Wisconsin, that punt the thirteenth combined boot for both teams.

Wisconsin would start their next drive, calling on Ball and his roommate James White to get a first down. But the offense would sputter again, causing a big third down. Unlike Ohio State, however, Wisconsin would convert after a missed assignment by Travis Howard. Wisconsin would run three more plays, and look to convert on fourth down for the first time in the game and would, after Howard was again caught in the wrong place, allowing Doe to slip past the marker for a first down. Three more runs would end the third quarter with the Badgers looking to tack on a FG after the break, with the Buckeyes still leading 14-7.

Wisconsin's home tradition of "Jump[ing] Around" between the third and final quarter usually pumps up the home team and home crowd, but may have been too effective, as Wisconsin kicker Kyle French booted the 40-yard attempt wide left. The Buckeyes would be back in business on the Wisconsin 24. Naturally, given a possible advantage, the Buckeye offense would do exactly what they had done all night, give the ball right back to Wisconsin on a punt.

As time continued to tick down on the final quarter, Wisconsin again looked to do something with their possession.Ryan Shazier had other plans, laying out Melvin Gordon with a vicious hit that briefly took Shazier out of the game.Despite Phillips scrambling and connecting with Jacob Pedersen for a first down, the Buckeye defense would again hold, forcing another Badger punt. Ohio State would again answer as they had all day, with yet another punt, a short 29 yarder giving Wisconsin the ball on the Ohio State 46.

With field position and momentum in their favor, Wisconsin would try and give Ball the record-setting touchdown to tie the game, and he would make it look almost certain, busting up the left side for a 21 yard gain. Wisconsin would face another fourth down and would, again, convert on a Phillips keeper. From there, it looked like it was time for Ball to set the record, and after a big stop on third down, it would be Ball's chance. Diving over the Wisconsin offensive line, Ball ran directly into Ryan Shazier, who jarred the ball out and Christian Bryant recovered for the Buckeyes.

With 2:46 to go, and Ohio State needing to pick up a few first downs to ice the game, the offense, as they had all afternoon, failed to accomplish that mission. Again, the Buckeyes would punt the ball, another short punt, giving Wisconsin their final possession on the Ohio State 41 with 1:33 to go and no time outs. The game would be squarely in the hands of Phillips, who had played more than admirably to that point. After another Simon sack, Phillips would have to move the ball 21 yards to get a first down. He would hit Doe, Pedersen and Abbrederis on consecutive strikes to do just that. Finally, with less than 10 seconds to go, Phillips would again connect with Pedersen, this time a yard deep in the end zone. French's extra point would tie the game, and send it to overtime.

Ohio State would lose the toss, and start with the ball in the first overtime session. Finally, the Buckeye offense would wake up from a funk that had lasted over three quarters. Hyde began the first overtime with an 11 yard gain up the right side, followed by a scrambling Miller run for four more. Hyde would get the next call, hitting pay dirt, and the Basil kick would put the Buckeyes up 21-14.

Wisconsin needed to equalize to force a second overtime, and would put the ball in the hands, once again, of Ball and Phillips. After a quick hit for six yards by Ball, Phillips would go for the tie, lobbing the ball to the end zone, and taking a huge hit in the process. But the pass was long, incomplete, brining up third down. Ball would try and convert himself, but the Buckeye defense would not be denied, stuffing Ball for a loss of two, setting up a do-or-die fourth down for Wisconsin. Phillips looked to hit Pedersen for the first down, but lofty defense by Christian Bryant resulted in the ball falling incomplete and the game ending with the Buckeyes surviving, 21-14.

It was ugly. It was dirty. It was brutal. The Buckeyes and Badgers combined for 17 punts in a classic Big Ten slug fest. Montee Ball ran for 191 yards on 39 carries and a score, and Curt Phillips confounded the Buckeyes on a late drive to tie the game, sending Ohio State to overtime for the second time this year. But, after hibernating for three quarters, the Buckeye offense woke up at the exact right time, as Carlos Hyde ran for his second score of the game. The Buckeye defense needed a stop, and John Simon (4 sacks, and a huge factor all day) and the Silver Bullets would be equal to the task, stopping the Badgers on fourth down, sealing the victory.

The Buckeyes leave Madison and enter Hate Week, as The Game looms next Saturday. But they will do it as they have only twice in the last ten years - as an undefeated football team.