“I didn’t even see it. We were scripting for the next (series). I just almost got ran over on the sidelines.”
-Urban Meyer, via Nicole Auerbach, USA Today
Saturday’s win over the Wisconsin Badgers was a record-setting day in many ways for Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer. For starters, he earned his 20th road win with Ohio State--the fastest coach to do so since Walter Camp at Yale, who began his run in 1888. The 20 wins by the Buckeyes, too, are the longest streak of road wins since the Miami Hurricanes’ run from 1984-88. Saturday also marked the 160th win of the Meyer’s career, which has spanned 15 seasons at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and, since 2012, Ohio State. With the win, Meyer has now tied Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops for the most wins in the first 15 years of his career by an FBS head coach.
However, Meyer didn’t see the win coming, literally, as he didn’t actually witness the final play of overtime from the sidelines. As the Ohio State defense, led by defensive end Tyquan Lewis, collapsed the pocket surrounding Wisconsin freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook, sacking him and ending the game in favor of the Buckeyes, Meyer’s eyes were not on the field. Instead, he was coordinating the Buckeyes’ next series, prepping in case they were unable to hold on 4th-and-goal and would head to a second overtime. Though Meyer was nearly bulldozed in the process as the team rushed the field following the play (which would have been an unfortunate discomfort on an already painful evening for the head coach, who was whacked by a referee early in the game and received a 15-yard penalty), he quickly recovered, and called the game “a top-fiver” between two outstanding and well-coached teams.
“Ohio State-Wisconsin’s overnight number was up 60% from last year’s Week 7 primetime game on ABC, Penn State at Ohio State, and it peaked with a 7.3 rating when Buckeyes-Badgers went into overtime.”
-Ken Fang, Awful Announcing
Despite sports television ratings being down overall in 2016 (including overall ratings for both NFL Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football, as well as the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio), college football ratings have actually been improving steadily. One of the big winners seems to be primetime games on ABC, which has beaten out coverage of the SEC on CBS in every game this season except one. Saturday’s matchup between Ohio State and Wisconsin, aired in primetime on ABC, drew a 5.6 overnight rating--the third highest overnight rating this season behind week one’s matchup between Notre Dame and Texas (a primetime, Sunday night game on ABC), which earned a 7.0 rating, and week five’s Louisville-Clemson matchup (Saturday primetime on ABC) which garnered a 6.0 rating. Viewership peaked when the Buckeyes went into overtime between 11:45 p.m.-12 a.m.
Saturday Night Football was competing with a number of other sporting events Saturday as well, including the SEC on CBS (No. 1 Alabama at No. 9 Tennessee), both the ALCS and NLCS and the start of NHL hockey. Notre Dame’s matchup against Stanford on NBC drew just 2.43 million viewers to Ohio State-Wisconsin’s 8.32 million.
ABC’s production also placed in the top-five regular season college football games of all time in terms of online viewership, with nearly 38.7 million minutes streamed. Viewership was also up 341 percent over last year’s week seven matchup between Ohio State and Penn State in primetime, according to ESPN.
The Buckeyes have another Saturday Night Football matchup on ABC this weekend, when Ohio State faces Penn State at 8 p.m. in Happy Valley. Two weeks later, Ohio State is scheduled to take on No. 8 Nebraska at 8 p.m. on their third rendition of Saturday Night Football this season.
“You look around the country and there’s a lot of games decided by the last second. We work way too hard to let something bad happen in those types of moments. We practice and prepare, and when we go out here it’s just do what you practice. And that’s what we did.”
-Ohio State receiver Noah Brown, via Tim May, The Columbus Dispatch
It took a very long time for Ohio State to find a rhythm on offense against Wisconsin Saturday--if there was an actual rhythm at all by its conclusion--but the plays which ultimately gave the Buckeyes a win were products of serious practice and preparation. It was once again the combo of quarterback J.T. Barrett and receiver Noah Brown who stepped up to the plate in overtime.
After a rough night throwing the ball, including tossing a crucial interception in Wisconsin’s end zone in the third quarter, Barrett and Brown connected for a touchdown in overtime on 3rd-and-2 from the seven yard line. It was Brown’s first touchdown catch since pulling in four in Ohio State’s win over Oklahoma. He ended the night with four receptions for 48 yards. In many ways, the play looked eerily similar to some drawn up against Oklahoma earlier this season. But according to Brown, he and Barrett had been working on that fade route well before the season started for the very purpose of executing perfectly when it counted--like in overtime against Wisconsin.
With a torrential downpour hindering much of the passing game, the Buckeyes were forced to turn to their rushing attack for most of the game and attempt to break down one of the best defensive lines in college football. Unfortunately, though, running back Mike Weber and H back Curtis Samuel recorded just 46 yards each on the ground and no touchdowns, with each averaging their lowest yards per carry of the season. Barrett once again stepped up to the plate, however, earning 92 hard-fought yards on 21 carries and adding two touchdowns to Ohio State’s total. Barrett, who was named Big Ten co-offensive player of the week for his performance, was ultimately responsible for all three of Ohio State’s touchdowns against Wisconsin, and broke Braxton Miller’s record for touchdowns responsible for at Ohio State with 89.
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