In Braxton Miller's first start after missing 11 quarters due to an injury, the Ohio State quarterback didn't look rusty at all. The offense was firing on all cylinders, for the most part, and while the Buckeyes secondary struggled a bit at times against Wisconsin receiver Jared Abbrederis, the defense was excellent throughout in containing Wisconsin's formidable ground game.
Ohio State won the toss, but deferred, and the defense held Wisconsin to a three and out on their first offensive series. The Buckeyes quickly scored on their first possession of the game, driving 55 yards in four plays for a touchdown. The Badgers would answer midway through the first quarter, on a drive that started from their own 10 yard line. Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave was able to ignite the Badgers passing game, which allowed the Badgers to also get the ground game going after two consecutive three-and outs. The Badgers moved the ball 90 yards in eight plays, and tied the game 7-7. The Buckeyes responded on their next possession, with Carlos Hyde moving the ball efficiently on the ground, and Braxton Miller connecting with Corey "Philly" Brown on back-to-back seven-yard completions, and then a 21-yard first down catch by Dontre Wilson to set up the 26-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith, putting the Buckeyes up by one score, 14-7.
Joel Stave ended the first quarter with a spectacular 64-yard pass to Jared Abbrederis, but the Buckeyes defense came up with a huge stop in the red zone, holding the Badgers to a 32-yard field goal attempt, which kicker Kyle French missed. After scoreless offensive series from both the Buckeyes and the Badgers, Philly Brown returned a Wisconsin punt six yards to the Wisconsin 47 yard line, and that commenced a drive that would culminate in a field goal for the Buckeyes, giving them a 17-7 lead over the Badgers. Wisconsin would answer quickly, and primarily through the air--on their next possession, the Badgers drove 76 yards in 7 plays for a touchdown, with just four yards coming from two Melvin Gordon rushing attempts. Stave's touchdown pass to tight end Sam Arneson narrowed the Buckeyes' lead to 17-14. Not to be outdone, with 1:30 left in the first half, Braxton Miller led the Buckeyes down the field to extend their lead to 24-14 with a beautiful deep throw to Philly Brown for the touchdown.
The Buckeyes extended their lead late in the third quarter, after a couple of big defensive plays against Wisconsin--a Curtis Grant sack of Joel Stave, and then a huge Bradley Roby interception that gave the Buckeyes offense the ball on the Wisconsin 32 yard line. On third-and-goal from the Wisconsin one yard line, Braxton Miller connected with Philly Brown to put the Buckeyes up 31-14 on the Badgers.
Drew Basil's kickoff resulted in a touchback, so the Badgers took over on their own 25 yard line. They moved the ball efficiently, primarily on the ground, helped along by a pass interference penalty and a holding penalty against Bradley Roby. The drive culminated in a touchdown, narrowing Ohio State's lead to 31-21.
The Buckeyes didn't do anything productive with their next drive, getting to the Wisconsin 28 yard line, but surrendering a sack on Braxton Miller that resulted in a loss of 7 yards on 3rd down, forcing the Buckeyes to force a delay of game penalty to give them a better position to punt. They pinned the Badgers deep in their own territory, and the defense held, forcing a three-and-out. The Buckeyes responded with their own three-and-out, and punted when faced with a 4th-and-1 from their own 45 yard line.
The Badgers drove down the field on the following possession, moving the ball exclusively through the air, and putting kicker Kyle French in position to kick a 42-yard field goal to bring the Badgers within one score of the Buckeyes, 31-24.
The Badgers attempted an on-side kick, but it was knocked out of bounds by Bradley Roby before the Badgers could recover it, giving the Buckeyes the ball on their own 34 yard line. With 2:05 left on the clock to begin the possession, the Buckeyes called three running plays in a row to take time off the clock, and Wisconsin burned their three timeouts in between each down. Ohio State did not convert the first down, and was forced to punt. Wisconsin would get the ball back, down by seven with 1:29 remaining.
Wisconsin's first down play was an incomplete pass to wide receiver Alex Erickson, that was very nearly picked off by Ohio State. The second down play was a completed pass to running back James White. Ohio State's Ryan Shazier forced a fumble to end the play, although it was recovered by White. On third down, with 17 yards to go, Stave completed a 13-yard pass to White, but on fourth down, Stave's pass to wide receiver Jeff Duckworth was incomplete, securing a Buckeye victory.
Braxton Miller finished the day 17/25 for 199 yards and four passing touchdowns, and also rushed for 83 yards on 22 carries, becoming Ohio State's all-time leading rushing quarterback in the process. Carlos Hyde had a strong showing, with 85 yards on 17 carries. Philly Brown had 85 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions, and Devin Smith and Evan Spencer both added receiving touchdowns. Ohio State's defense was excellent against Wisconsin's ground attack, holding Melvin Gordon and James White to a total of 105 yards.
The victory unfolded in front of 105,825 fans in Ohio Stadium, the third-largest crowd in Ohio State football history, and extends Ohio State's impressive winning streak to 17 consecutive games. Despite the big win, the narrative is likely to focus on the negatives ranging from Bradley Roby's inability to contain Abbrederis to some of the more tepid play calling that monopolized the later portions of the game. Still, this is the sort of game that divorced from in-the-moment emotion remains a sizable win for the Buckeyes and keeps Ohio State well positioned for long term success on the season.
Of course the one lingering concern during the post game was the loss of senior safety Christian Bryant. Maybe even more so than the on the field contributions (which were plentiful), Bryant was the emotional and often vocal leader of the secondary (and defense as a large). On a defensive unit devoid of a wealth of those types, Bryant's loss is sizable.
The challenge now for Kerry Coombs, Luke Fickell, and Meyer is to put the next man up in the best possible position to be successful. Though it's unfair in many ways Bryant won't take the field as a Buckeye again, at 5-0, this team remains in line to still potentially achieve their lofty goals. The time to dwell on a rather big win is short, with #17 Northwestern (and College GameDay) less than a week away already.