No.18 Wisconsin wanted to prove to the country that it was ready to take the next step and by doing so, saved the country another potential championship game embarrassment.
Wisconsin built a 21-0 lead in the first half and bent but never broke in the second half, making enough plays to beat No.1 Ohio State, 31-18, in front of a raucous 81,194 Camp Randall crowd, breaking a three-game losing streak in the series.
A year after Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) dominated offensively but gave up two interceptions and a kickoff return for a touchdown, the Badgers made the special plays.
Wisconsin couldn't have asked for a better first half against Ohio State. Starting with David Gilreath returning the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score, the first kickoff return for a touchdown in 11 years for UW, the Badgers added two rushing touchdowns from John Clay, out gained OSU by 100 yards and held Ohio State to only three points after the Buckeyes twice drove deep into UW territory.
Their second half made things much more interesting. Ohio State (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) closed the gap in the third quarter by doing what Minnesota did in the second quarter later week, control the ball. The Buckeyes held the ball for 11 minutes, 29 seconds and out gaining the Badgers 163-to-23. So when the Buckeyes went on a 19-play drive and cut the lead to 21-18, the Badgers went right back to the ground game.
James White took three straight carries and made Ohio State look foolish, delivering the dagger on a 12-yard touchdown with 6:57 left to effectively ice the game.
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1 play, 97 yards, 12 TOP, 14:48 left
David Gilreath 97-yard kickoff return (Philip Welch kick)
Key Play: David Gilreath picked a great time for his first career kickoff return for a touchdown, racing untouched 97 yards on the opening kickoff for the score. UW's kick return created a great seam in the middle of the field and Gilreath didn't miss it, giving OSU a dose of payback for last season.
6 plays, 48 yards, 2:47 TOP, 10:00 left
John Clay 14-yard run (Philip Welch kick)
Key Play: After being held to only 59 yards last season against Ohio State, John Clay is running with motivation and his offensive line is pushing around Ohio State. On the drive, Clay took his five carries for 51 yards, including a 16-yard and 14-yard run in the end zone, two runs that showed more burst then we have seen from Clay this year.
19 plays, 89 yards, 10:04 TOP, 13:15 left
John Clay 1-yard run (Philip Welch kick)
Key Play: On third-and-six, Tolzien hit Gilreath on a rollout to the left. Girleath made the catch, cut to the inside to break his defender's ankles and rumbled 18 yards down inside the 10. A roughing the passer penalty got the Badgers even closer to pay dirt.
12 plays, 64 yards, 6:20 TOP, 6:48 left
FG Devin Barclay 21
Key Play: After Terrelle Pryor showed how dangerous he can be when he's one the move, scrambling for 19 yards on third-and-9, the Badgers fought back. OSU had three shots to punch the ball in from the 3-yard line, and the UW defense stuffed every opportunity.
10 plays, 77 yards, 4:48 TOP, 10:08 left
Dan Herron 13-yard run (Barclay kick)
Key Play: Terrelle Pryor completed a key 11-yard pass to Dane Sanzenbacher on third-and-nine deep in OSU territory, helping the Buckeyes on its first touchdown drive.
19 plays, 94 yards, 9:56 TOP, 11:38 left
Dan Herron 1-yard run (Hummel pass from Pryor)
Key Play: Wisconsin put heavy pressure on OSU on third-and-six deep in UW territory, but Pryor found a way to scramble to the flat and float a pass for Sanzenbacher. Aaron Henry came in from behind and levied a big hit on Sanzenbacher, but the senior held on to the ball for a 9-yard gain and was another key third down on the drive. Pryor was 7-for-7 in the third quarter passing.
10 plays, 73 yards, 4:36 TOP, 6:57 left
James White 12-yard run (Welch kick)
Key Play: After Tolzien made a poor pass on a play-action screen, he redeemed himself on third-and-four. Needing to move the chains to keep OSU's suddenly potent offense off the field, Tolzien floated a perfect pass to Toon on a sideline route, going for 20 yards to the OSU 46.
7 plays, 45 yards, 2:15 TOP, 4:14 left
FG Philip Welch 41 yards
Key Play: Down two scores, Tressel decided to punt and let his defense come up with a stop. Mistake! Broken coverage allowed Jacob Pedersen to be wide open for 33 yards, getting UW to the OSU 35.