COLUMBUS — Nearly given up for dead just three weeks ago when they stood 0-2 in the Big Ten, the Ohio State Buckeyes made a strong case for a mid-season revival by knocking off No. 15 ranked Wisconsin 33-29 in dramatic fashion Saturday night.
With just 20 seconds left, freshman quarterback Braxton Miller scrambled out of trouble, then stopped just short of the line of scrimmage and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith, alone in the end zone.
After the Buckeyes withstood a frantic final four plays by the Badgers, waves of fans stormed the field from all directions to celebrate a win that makes Ohio State 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten.
A crowd of 105,511 -- the seventh largest in Ohio Stadium history -- witnessed the stunning victory.
"I'm so happy for these guys and the way they've fought and continued to believe in each other," Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said.
With under five minutes to play in the game it looked like the Buckeyes were in command, up 26-14, but with quarterback Russell Wilson in control, Wisconsin scored two touchdowns in less than three minutes to pull ahead 29-26 with just over a minute left.
Jordan Hall returned a kickoff to near midfield to put Ohio State in position for the winning drive.
To get to that point, the Buckeyes rode the relentless running of senior Dan Herron, who carried the ball 33 times for 160 yards. The Ohio State defense was stingy when it needed to be, limiting the Badgers to 89 yards rushing. Wisconsin, a team that until recently had been in the discussion for the national championship game, had been averaging nearly 50 points per game.
Wisconsin took control early, using three pass completions from Wilson as it drove to the OSU 22, and from there Wilson found running back Montee Ball open over the middle on a third-and-long play for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead after Philip Welch kicked the extra point.
In the second quarter, after Ohio State's defense forced a three-and-out inside the Wisconsin 20-yard line, the Buckeyes took over near midfield. Miller carried three times for 21 yards in gains, then hit Hall for eight yards to the Wisconsin 22. Drew Basil hit a 39-yard field goal from there to cut the Wisconsin lead to 7-3 with just under three minutes left in the first half.
Wisconsin's 7-3 halftime lead did not hold up for long. On the first play of the second half, Herron popped through the line into daylight and sprinted 57 yards before the Badgers ran him down from behind at the Wisconsin 18-yard line.
After Miller lost a yard, Herron broke to the outside and gained 18 yards for a first down at the one.
Three carries by Herron left the Buckeyes stalled at the one on fourth down, but after Miller faked a handoff to Herron, Miller slipped a tackle and trotted in for a touchdown and a 10-7 Ohio State lead just three minutes into the second half.
A special teams turnover allowed the Buckeyes to stretch that lead to 10 points just a short time later. Freshman Ryan Shazier burst through and smothered a Wisconsin punt, and in the scramble for the loose ball, freshman Curtis Grant recovered at the Wisconsin 1-yard line.
After two failed shots at the end zone, Hall scooted in around the left side for a touchdown and a 17-7 advantage with more than nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Ohio State's 10-point edge was short-lived, however, as the Buckeyes turned the ball over on a special teams blunder as Hall fumbled while receiving a Wisconsin punt, and the Badgers recovered at the OSU 27.
Wilson picked up eight yards on a scramble, then passed 12 yards to Jared Abbrederis as the Badgers worked their way down to the 1-yard line, and Ball punched it in from there to cut the Ohio State lead to 17-14 with under five minutes left in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes made it 20-14 early in the fourth quarter after their defense stopped the Badgers at their own six, aided by a sack-induced intentional grounding by Wilson.
Hall returned the Wisconsin punt that followed to the Badgers' 34. After six straight carries by Herron and an incomplete pass, Basil hit a 22-yard field goal for the six-point edge.
The Buckeyes stretched the lead to 26-14 with about five minutes left when Miller cut through an opening on the left side and raced in from 44 yards out.
A pass for the two-point conversion failed, and the Badgers answered quickly. Ball broke a 40-yard run to the OSU 17 and Wilson hit Abbredaris from there, cutting the lead to 26-21 with 3:48 left. Wilson's 49-yard scoring pass to Abbrederis with 1:18 left and the two-point conversion that followed gave the Badgers a 29-26 edge, leaving Ohio State precious little time for the final drive.
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @MattMarkey.