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Published: Sunday, 10/11/2009

Unusual victory: Ohio State struggles on offense, still wins

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - The order was for Ohio State and Wisconsin to serve up an old fashioned Big Ten battle Saturday- with lots of running the football and slugging it out in the trenches. They would settle this game the time-honored, traditional way; strength against strength and stick to the basics.

But then, there was nothing conventional about what took place as the No. 9- ranked Buckeyes beat the Badgers 31-13, handing Wisconsin its first loss of the season in bizarre, almost paranormal fashion.

Ohio State (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) scored a pair of defensive touchdowns, had a long kickoff return for a touchdown, and in the third quarter managed to increase its lead from four points to 15 without running a single offensive play.

"Obviously, it was a different type of football game," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said in a nuance of understatement.

Other entries in the day's log of strange developments:

•Wisconsin had the ball for almost 43 minutes, while Ohio State had it for just over 17 minutes.

•The Badgers had 368 yards of offense, while the Buckeyes had just 184.

•Ohio State had less than 100 yards passing (87) or rushing (97).

•Wisconsin ran 89 plays; Ohio

State ran just 40

•The Badgers had a 16-play drive in the third quarter that resulted in no points.

•Wisconsin - the top scoring offense in the Big Ten - got its only touchdown on a fake field goal and a nine-yard run by holder Chris Maragos.

•Ohio State's Ray Small had a 96-yard touchdown on a kickoff return in which he simply caught the ball and ran straight up the middle of the field.

•Before its touchdown drive with less than two minutes to play in the first half, Ohio State had 36 yards of total offense in its first 17 plays.

Tressel said the 21 points that were produced by his defense and special teams clearly made the difference in the unusual game.

"When you get two defensive touchdowns and then a kickoff return touchdown, that's more than you could ever wish for," Tressel said. "I thought those three moments were critical. But obviously we won the turnover margin, and we always say if you can do something special on the special teams and win the turnover margin, you're going to have a chance to win a tough game."

Wisconsin (5-1, 2-1) was gaining the advantage in an early field position battle that saw the first five possessions of the game end with punts. The Badgers started from their own 39 and had a first down at the Buckeyes' 31 when defensive end Doug Worthington and linebacker Austin Spitler surged in on Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien just as he released a pass over the middle.

OSU safety Kurt Coleman intercepted the ball at the 11-yard line and raced 89 yards for the game's first touchdown. After Aaron Pettrey's kick, the Buckeyes led 7-0 with just under four minutes left in the first quarter.

"Anytime you give Ohio State points without their offense being on the field, you're going to have problems," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said.

A mistake by OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor set Wisconsin up at the Ohio State 12-yard line early in the second quarter as Pryor's pass to Dane Sanzenbacher was intercepted by Culmer St. Jean. The Badgers lined up for a 26-yard field goal from the nine, but Maragos executed a fake, got outside, and stretched the ball out over the goal line just as he was forced out of bounds. That touchdown tied it at 7-7.

Wisconsin flexed its offensive might later in the quarter and took a 10-7 lead with a 14-play drive that resulted in a 50-yard field goal by Philip Welch. Pryor then led the Buckeyes 88 yards in seven plays in just over a minute and passed 32 yards to DeVier Posey for a touchdown that gave the Buckeyes a 14-10 halftime edge.

"On that last drive of the first half he [Pryor] was storming down the field, whether it was run, pass or whatever," Tressel said. "And what we need to do is do that every drive."

Wisconsin missed a 57-yard field goal try to end the first half, and the Badgers were victimized again by the OSU defense to start the second half. Jermale Hines tipped and then intercepted a pass by Tolzien and returned 32 yards for Ohio State's second defensive touchdown of the day.

The Buckeyes led 21-10 after Hines' score, but a personal foul after his return forced Ohio State to kick off from its own 15, putting Wisconsin on a short field. In five plays the Badgers were at the OSU 29, and Welch kicked a 46-yard field goal to make it 21-13.

Wisconsin kicked off and Ohio State's Ray Small fielded the ball at his own 4-yard line and ran straight up the middle of the field 96 yards for a touchdown and a 28-13 advantage.

The Badgers looked to be in real trouble when they botched the return on the ensuing kickoff, and started at their own five, but 16 plays later Wisconsin was at the Buckeyes' 16. Welch missed a 33-yarder from there.

The Buckeyes made it 31-13 early in the fourth quarter with a 37-yard Pettrey field goal. Pryor hit Sanzenbacher for 17 yards and Brandon Saine ran for a 31-yard gain to get Ohio State in position.

It was the third straight win over Wisconsin for the Buckeyes. "We love playing Wisconsin," OSU's Spitler said. "They're the definition of Big Ten football - physical and tough."

Contact Matt Markey at

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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