MADISON, Wis. - Ohio State cornerback Chris Gamble held Wisconsin receiver Lee Evans without a reception last night for nearly 55 minutes.
But just 49 seconds after the third-ranked Buckeyes had tied the game, Gamble bit on an up-and-out pattern and Evans ran past him and hauled in a game-winning, 79-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Matt Schabert.
Evans' winning catch, which came with 5:20 remaining, enabled No.23 Wisconsin to beat Ohio State 17-10, and snapped the nation's longest winning streak at 19 games.
“When it comes crunch time, there's nobody I'd rather have making a play for us than Lee Evans,” Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. “He really came through for us in a big way.”
It was the Buckeyes' first loss since the 2002 Outback Bowl.
The game at Camp Randall Stadium was Ohio State's first road game of the season.
“This is a tough way for [the streak] to end,” OSU coach Jim Tressel said. “It's very disappointing.”
The Buckeyes (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) had many close calls during their winning streak - 10 of their victories were by a touchdown or less - but last night they finally ran out of miracles.
Third-string tailback Booker Stanley rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries, and Schabert - who replaced starter Jim Sorgi late in the third quarter after he was hit in the neck by OSU linebacker Robert Reynolds - helped engineer Wisconsin's first home win over a top-10 team in coach Alvarez's 14 seasons.
“I'm proud of our team,” Alvarez said. “It was a very gratifying win for us and our program.”
The Badgers (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) won their fourth consecutive game while improving to 3-1 at home.
The Buckeyes, who lost tailback Lydell Ross to an injury in the second half, welcomed the return of quarterback Craig Krenzel to the lineup, but it did little to help the wretched running game, which produced just 69 yards on 26 carries.
Krenzel, making his first start in a month, completed 14 of 26 passes for 202 yards, one interception and one touchdown while falling to 18-2 as a starter.
His six-yard touchdown pass to split end Michael Jenkins with 6:09 left tied the game at 10-10. However, the key to the seven-play, 75-yard drive was Krenzel's 46-yard toss to receiver Drew Carter, who stretched out to pull in the ball with his fingertips at the 6.
Trailing 7-3 in the third quarter, it looked like Ohio State was about to get decent field position, as Wisconsin had a fourth-and-one at its own 10 after B.J. Sander pinned them deep in their own territory with a 64-yard punt.
But Buckeyes' returner Gamble mishandled R.J. Morse's 42-yard punt and Wisconsin's Matt Katula recovered the fumble at the Badgers' 38.
Wisconsin's drive eventually stalled and the Badgers settled for a 38-yard field goal by Mike Allen, which gave them a 10-3 lead with 5:09 left.
Mike Nugent's 24-yard field goal at 4:02 of the second quarter had pulled Ohio State to within four at 7-3. Both teams ran 26 plays in a steady rain in the first half, with Wisconsin outgaining Ohio State 86-77. The Buckeyes had 43 yards rushing on 17 tries; the Badgers 32 on 20. Wisconsin was 4-of-7 on third-down conversions, including 3-for-3 on its scoring drive, while Ohio State was 1-of-7. Sorgi completed 5 of 6 passes for 54 yards; Krenzel was 4-of-9 for 34.
Wisconsin, which has the ninth-ranked rushing offense in the nation at 222.5 yards per game, dominated the scoring, the clock and the field position in the first quarter.
The Badgers outgained the Buckeyes 69-4 in the first quarter, ran 18 plays to OSU's six and dominated the time of possession, 10:38 to 4:22. And Sorgi was 4-for-4 passing for 32 yards in the opening quarter, with all of the completions going to Brandon Williams.
On their first offensive series, the Badgers got all the way to OSU's 28 before a three-yard loss and a false start negated a 49-yard field goal attempt by Allen.
However, Wisconsin bounced back to scored on its second possession, marching 63 yards on 17 plays while using 7:27 on the clock.
Stanley had nine carries for 36 yards on the drive, including a two-yard scamper off left end for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter at 14:54.
Stanley's scamper put the Buckeyes behind for just the second time this season.