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No. 8 Ohio State fends off the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers, 27-21, to claim Big Ten Championship

Barrett throws for over 200 yards, while Dobbins rushed for over 170 yards in the win against the Badgers.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It was a wild one in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship. But in the end, the Ohio State Buckeyes held on to defeat the Wisconsin Badgers, 27-21.

The Buckeyes utilized chunk plays to get on the board early. Quarterback J.T. Barrett found wide out Terry McLaurin for an 84-yard touchdown, as well as Parris Campbell for a 57-yard TD. Just six days removed from having arthroscopic knee surgery, Barrett threw for 211 yards on 12-of-26 passing. He also threw two TDs and two interceptions against the Badgers.

Running back J.K. Dobbins had two rushes that broke a distance of 50 yards. One rush in the early going in the second quarter went 77 yards, while a third quarter rush went 53 yards. Both of those carries led to 10 Buckeye points going up on the scoreboard. When the clock hit all zeros, Dobbins had 174 yards on 17 attempts. However, he did not end the game with a rushing TD. On the bright side: Dobbins was named Most Valuable Player.

Mike Weber, who was electrifying in the last three games, was held to just four carries for six yards against Wisconsin.

McLaurin had one other catch beside his TD haul, but he led all Buckeye receivers with 92 yards.

Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook went 19-of-40 passing for 229 yards and two INTs—one of which sealed the win for OSU with 1:09 remaining in the game. Big Ten freshman of the year Jonathan Taylor also was stifled by Ohio State’s defense, too. Taylor, UW’s running back who entered the game with a 150.5 yard per game average on the ground, was held to 41 yards on 15 attempts.

Offensively, it wasn’t even close; Ohio State outgained Wisconsin 449-298 overall, with a 238-60 advantage in rushing yards. Both teams ended the game with 16 first downs, and were similar on third downs—OSU was 6-of-16; UW was 5-of-16.

For Ohio State, it’s their second Big Ten Championship win—and their first since beating Wisconsin, 59-0, in 2014. On the other side, it’s the Badgers second-straight loss in the conference championship game.

Here’s how the game went down.

The Buckeyes’ defense flexed their muscles on Wisconsin’s first drive—forcing the No. 4 team in the nation to go three-and-out. On the punt, K.J. Hill muffed it, but was able to return the ball for 12 yards.

A false start on Isaiah Prince on first down set the Bucks back five yards. That proved to be costly, as two rush plays, followed by a Barrett scramble for a few yards, brought a fourth-and-8. OSU punted the ball back after their own three-and-out, and forced the Badgers to start on their own 27.

With 11:44 in the quarter, Wisconsin went on a march down the field. Hornibrook hit Taylor for a 16-yard pass to open up the drive. Five straight plays that alternated between completed pass and short rush set up the Wiscy shop at the 27. However, the Buckeye defense was about to show up. On a pass up the sideline to tight end Troy Fumagalli, defensive back Denzel Ward leaped up and snatched the ball out of the air for an interception at the OSU 4.

Good things came of that pick.

After keeping the ensuing drive alive with a 9-yard scramble on third-and-7, Barrett dialed up the Buckeyes’ longest play of the year: an 84-yard touchdown completion to Terry McLaurin over the middle. McLaurin had separation from safety Joe Ferguson— who was lost in coverage.

Ohio State took their first lead of the game, 7-0, at the 6:31 mark of the first quarter.

Taylor opened up the next Badger drive with three rushes, totaling 14 yards. Hornibrook then hit Austin Ramesh for 25 yards, then Kendric Pryor on the sideline for six more yards. However, the Wisconsin drive would stall and end at the OSU 36.

Punter Anthony Lotti put the ball on the 2-yard line, forcing OSU to go the length of the field for points. That wouldn’t be a problem though—and in a bad way. On the second play of the drive, outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel followed Barrett’s eyes, and jumped in front of a pass at the nine. He returned it to the house for Wisconsin’s first points of the game.

With 2:08 left in the first frame, we were all knotted up at 7-7.

But the Buckeyes wouldn’t be deterred. Their next drive featured a five-yard run by Mike Weber, and a 13-yard completion to Marcus Baugh, who broke two tackles to get those yards. On the third play of the drive from their own 43, Barrett took a hit as he threw the ball down field to McLaurin for an incompletion. In a controversial decision, McLaurin was knocked down before the ball arrived, but a defensive pass interference penalty was not called. Normally, that would draw ire, however, all was forgiven on the next play, as Parris Campbell took a screen pass, and cut up the sideline—breaking two tackles in the process—for a 57-yard score.

OSU took a 14-7 lead with 59 seconds left in the quarter.

Wisconsin had another forgettable drive after going three-and-out; that would bring us to the end of the quarter. Ohio State outgained the opposition 181-110 in total yards after the first 15 minutes, even though they ran seven fewer plays (13 to 20).

To start the second quarter, both of the team’s drives ended in three-and-outs. A drop by Binjimen Victor on a third-and-5 gave the Badgers the ball back; another drive featuring Hornibrook not doing anything to move the ball and gave possession back to the No. 8 team in the land.

Now at the 12:15 mark of the second, the Bucks were about to demonstrate, again, their breakaway ability. After a rush that went for just three yards, Dobbins gashed the Badgers defense up the middle for a 77-yard run. The freshman ran out of gas at the 1-yard line, but he broke Maurice Clarett’s freshman rushing mark on the play. One snap after that, Barrett punched it in from a yard out.

There was still 11:10 left in the half, and the Wisconsin defense was torn to shreds.

Ohio State had a 21-7 lead in hand as the Badgers went back on offense in their attempt to get some points. (Remember, the only points they’ve scored so far came off of a pick-6.)

Wisconsin went back on the ground for their next four plays, before letting Hornibrook go to the air. This drive opened up at the WISC 23 and reached the OSU 38 before a big third down came up. Hornibrook rolled out as the pocket was collapsing, and fired to a wide open Fumagalli. However, the TE tripped, and bobbled the ball on the way down. The incomplete pass led to a UW punt, which would be downed at the OSU 8.

Disaster struck on the first play after the punt for Ohio State. As Weber was going down on a 3-yard carry, Van Ginkel knocked the ball out—which he also recovered. With the ball on the OSU 11, it seemed like a cakewalk for a Badger TD, right? Well, not so fast with that idea.

An incompletion, followed by a 5-yard wildcat rush by Danny Davis, set up third-and-5 from the OSU 6. Hornibrook hit his man for a TD, but prior to the snap, left tackle Michael Deiter moved. The penalty set the Badgers back five yards, which was costly. Hornibrook rushed for a yard after his pass play fell apart. Wisconsin nailed the field goal, as Ohio State buckled down.

3:42 was how much clock time was left when the Scarlet and Gray got the ball back on their own 25. They would use all of that clock. After a mini-rushing clinic, OSU had a third-and-6 from their own 41. Barrett decided to throw on this play, and it was nearly picked off. However, the guy who nearly picked it off, Nick Nelson, was called for defensive P.I. With a fresh set of downs, the Bucks nearly stalled again on the WISC 40. Faced with a fourth-and-1, Urban Meyer dialed up an option play, with Barrett pitching to Dobbins; Dobbins was stopped at the line, but powered through the defender—doing enough to fall forward for a first down.

Now with less than a minute in the half, the Bucks were running out of time for a TD. Their best chance came on a Barrett longball to McLaurin down the middle, but he was overthrown. Sean Nuernberger was called in for a 43-yard field goal; the kick looked like it was on the right trajectory before getting blocked by Nelson.

On the bright side: Ohio State held a 21-10 lead at the break. Here are the first half stats:


Coming back from the half, OSU got the ball first. Following a 3-yard rush, Dobbins broke a big carry down the sideline—but it was brought back due to a hold on Jamarco Jones. Faced with a second-and-17, Dobbins was stuffed at the line; the third down play didn’t do anything either, as Barrett’s screen play fell incomplete.

Drue Chrisman punted the ball 55 yards; Nelson returned the punt for a loss of three, as Jeffrey Okudah had the whole thing on lockdown. Starting on their own 23 with 13:26 left in the third, Hornibrook led his team down the field for points. Taylor opened things up again, rushing for three straight plays and gaining 14 total yards. Hornibrook then hit Davis—who nonetheless was completely covered by Kendall Sheffield—for a 33-yard completion down the sideline. Now on the OSU 30, a couple Ward pass breakups and a Chris Worley shoestring tackle on Taylor stopped the Badgers’ drive. Rafael Gaglianone came in for a 46-yard field goal, and made it. (There was so much boot behind it, he could’ve sent it 56.)

Wisconsin’s FG-make cut the Bucks’ lead to eight, 21-13, with 10:14 left.

Dobbins has been a big part of the run game on this night in Indianapolis, so why stop now? After Dobbins picked up three yards on the first play, Barrett was utilized on the next two plays: a pass completion to Hill for five, and a rush for two. But the ball went back to Dobbins after that, and he found open space right up the middle. A 53-yard rush marked the fourth time at this point of the game that OSU had a play go for at least half-a-hundred. But that was the highlight of the drive; with the ball on the 18, three plays that went for a total of two yards led to Nuernberger coming back onto the field for a three-point kick. Once again he made it, bringing the Scarlet and Gray’s lead to 24-13 with 7:25 left in the third.

We’re gonna fast forward a little bit, as both teams traded three-and-out drives. Twice. (Actually, the final of those three-and-outs includes a Barrett interception that was bounced off the fingertips of Baugh.)

2:07 remained in the third frame as the Badgers went back on the prowl for their first offensive touchdown in the Big Ten Championship against Ohio State. This drive started on their own 48, and trio of big-time passes from Hornibrook kept the drive alive. By the time the quarter ended, UW was on the OSU 23.

Right off the bat, the fourth quarter set up the nailbiter. Hornibrook overthrew Davis in the end zone, but a Robert Landers roughing the passer call put the Badgers on the 13. Three plays later, Chris James leaped his way from a yard out—and needed to extend the ball over—to get a touchdown.

A timeout was taken, as one of the turf sections came undone in the endzone. It took about 10 minutes to repair, as a field operations worker (at least that’s what appeared this guy’s job was) replaced the rubber pellets and turf on the field.

Once action started back up, Paul Chryst decided to go for two. Hornibrook stepped back and hit Fumagalli over the middle, who was all sorts of wide open.

We had ourselves a ball game at Lucas Oil Stadium, as Ohio State held a 24-21 lead with 12:39 left in regulation.

Running out the clock became the name of the game for OSU. Five straight rushes put the Buckeyes on their own 43. A completed pass (with the help of a facemask) to McLaurin placed OSU on their opponents 34. Hill received a screen pass for 12 more big yards, and three rush plays gave the Scarlet and Gray a fourth-and-1 from the Wiscy 13. Meyer burned a timeout to talk things over. Either way, there was still plenty of time left; 7:43 to be exact.

Like Michigan last year, Barrett took the ball on this monumental attempt. Initially stopped at the line, Barrett bounced out to the outside and got brought down at the first down marker. Fortunately, after the review, it was shown that he got his right hand (the one carry the ball) just over the marker. First down Bucks, and their mission to run out the clock continued. Three more rushes—using a combination of Barrett and Dobbins— brought another fourth-and-1. This time around, Meyer settled for a field goal, bringing the Bucks lead to six, 27-21, with 5:14 remaining.

Wisconsin had a short 5-play drive fall short, leading them to punt the ball away. After pinning OSU to their own 12, the Buckeyes went on a three-and-out at the worst possible time.

The Badgers got the ball one more time—and wasted no time in their attempt to take the lead. Hornibrook delivered with big passes to Fumagalli and Taylor. But with just under 90 seconds left, a holding call stifled the drive. Wisconsin didn’t move the ball, and were then faced with a fourth-and-20.

In a desperation throw, Hornibrook sailed the pass to everyone, except for Buckeye defensive back Damon Webb—who came up with the grab.

That would seal the deal, as Ohio State now waits to see what their playoff fate will be.