MADISON, Wis. — Ask John Simon about his historic performance Saturday, and the senior defensive end mechanically shifts into deflection mode.
How did he get those four sacks of Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips on Saturday?
“It was great coverage,” Simon said. “That quarterback was holding the ball for an awfully long time. One time he ran into me. Another time, we ran a great stunt where [defensive end Nathan Williams] ran him into me.”
On it went after Simon tied a school record with four sacks in the Buckeyes’ 21-14 overtime victory at Camp Randall Stadium.
His teammates, however, would have none of it.
Simon had long commanded respect as the team’s most dedicated worker and a steadying leader. But Saturday marked the performance of his career. The captain now shares the single-game school sacks record with Vernon Gholston (2007), Bobby Carpenter (2005), and Jason Simmons (1991).
“I’m so proud of him,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said of Simon, who finished with six tackles.
Added linebacker Zach Boren: “Unbelievable. He was flying around. He throws his body around. He’s so quick off the edge, and it’s so hard for those 330-pound offensive tackles to block him.”
STILL WAITING: The Buckeyes put history on hold.
Montee Ball did many good things for Wisconsin, rushing for 191 yards and a touchdown. What he did not do is leave OSU on the wrong side of the record books.
With 77 career touchdowns entering Saturday, Ball needed just two touchdowns trips to the end zone to become the all-time FBS career touchdowns leader. (Former Miami of Ohio tailback Travis Prentice held the record.)
Don’t think this was lost on OSU during its late goal-line stand.
“We knew that he needed two to break the record, and we weren’t going to allow him to break the record on us,” Shazier said. “We gave him the tie or whatever, but we weren’t going to allow it.”
Ball will have three more chances to break the record — next week at Penn State, the Big Ten championship game and a bowl. If (when) he does, the Badgers will have college football’s all-time leader in touchdowns and yards. Ron Dayne, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1999, holds the career rushing mark.
TRADING PLACES: One middle linebacker in and one out looked to mark one big swing for Ohio State.
While Buckeyes senior captain Etienne Sabino returned for the first time since breaking a bone in his leg Oct. 6 against Nebraska, Wisconsin was without its top defensive playmaker. Junior linebacker Chris Borland was sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered in the Badgers’ rout of Indiana last week — a seeming major blow to the Big Ten’s top rush defense (103.4 yards per game.)
Borland was second on UW with 82 tackles and leads the Badgers with 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Bielema afterward said Borland asked to play but said the coach said he worried the linebacker would risk further injury by playing.
Sabino started and finished with six tackles — including one for a loss.
GIVE HIM THE BALL: OSU tailback Carlos Hyde’s 87 rushing yards represented lass than half the total production of Ball.
But Urban Meyer did not overlook the junior’s efficiency. Hyde’s average of 5.8 yards per run surpassed that of Ball (4.9).
“I think we need to give [Hyde] the ball a little more,” Meyer said.
EXTRA POINTS: Shazier led Ohio State with 12 tackles. … Meyer’s teams improved to 33-2 when given more than a week to prepare — including for season-openers and bowl games — while OSU is 13-9 after bye weeks. … Jordan Hall traveled with the team, though the Buckeyes still plan to seek a medical redshirt for the senior running back. Hall missed the first two games with a torn tendon in his foot and has been sidelined since Week 5 with a torn PCL in his right knee.