COLUMBUS - If you ever wondered what 105,000 quiet fans sound like, the Wisconsin Badgers can give you a pretty good description.
Scoring on their first two drives of the second half, erasing a seven-point halftime deficit and turning it into a seven-point advantage in less than 10 minutes, the Badgers had a firm grasp of the momentum and complete control over the No.1 Ohio State Buckeyes and the 105, 449 fans in attendance.
Now, if you ever wondered what its looks like to watch an opposing running back snatch the momentum and reinvigorate a lifeless crowd, Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells would be the guy to talk to.
Facing its first second-half deficit in almost two months, Ohio State handed the ball to its playmaking running back and he delivered, scoring touchdowns of 31, 30 and 23 yards in the second half to give Ohio State (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) its 20th straight conference win, a 38-17 victory over Wisconsin (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten) in front of the fifth-largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history.
“In preseason, we had this one circled and knew it would be a battle,” said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who now 2-3 lifetime against Wisconsin. “Wisconsin came, laid it on the line and they have to be proud of their kids.”
Already trailing 7-3, Wisconsin looked like they had started to shift the momentum back to its side when UW stopped the potent Buckeye offense cold on first and goal, forcing OSU to take the field goal and helping to turn the tide in favor of Wisconsin.
“Our defense responded and we came in the locker room, thinking it was going to be a four-quarter game, and we challenged our kids to play,” Bielema said. “It was a significant stop.”
Wisconsin quickly quieted the crowd in the second half with two big offensive plays. On third-and-three, Paul Hubbard caught a high pass in the middle of the field with no Buckeye near him. With help from a key block downfield from Kyle Jefferson, Hubbard didn't stop until he hauled in a 50-yard gain.
After an iffy chop block call on Marcus Randle El pushed the Badgers back to the 28, Donovan escaped pressure and found Beckum streaking across the back of the end zone. Donovan's best pass of the day resulted in a 28-yard touchdown and tying the game.
“Travis loves to compete in environments like this,” Bielema said. “He likes to be on the field with great players and obviously, Ohio State had a lot of good defensive guys that he took it as a personal challenge.”
The Badgers didn’t stop there, as Donovan hooked up with Beckum, riffling a pass through traffic. Showing his athleticism, Beckum made three Buckeyes miss on his way to a 46-yard gain and first and goal at the OSU 4. The Badgers cashed the drive in when fullback Chris Pressley caught his first career touchdown to give UW its first lead for the game.
“We barked at our guys all week to go into today’s game with an attitude to win,” Bielema said. “We practiced and prepared to not be intimidated by the atmosphere of this place.”
But that was the end of the line for Wisconsin’s good feelings. Despite allowing Wells to obtain only 26 yards on the ground through the first half, Wells registered his first touchdown on a bounce to the outside on an inside run, going untouched for 31 yards to tie the score.
His second touchdown looked nearly identical, bouncing a run to the outside after Wisconsin’s front four had sealed up the middle. Wells’ 30-yard touchdown put OSU ahead for good and his 23-yard touchdown late in the fourth was simply icing on the cake.
Wells finished the game with 169 yards on 21 carries on the ground, his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season.
“Beanie’s been very good since he’s been here,” junior offensive tackle Steve Rehring said. “He got into a zone and you could see it in his face. He just needs one run to get going and you could see that today.”
It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon from the start, as Todd Boeckman and Ohio State asserted its dominance on the opening drive. Starting from their own 25, Boeckman put on a passing clinic, which is no surprise since he entered the game the conference leader in passing efficiency at 163.4. Boeckman went five-of-six on OSU’s opening possession, completing passes to four different receivers.
Bockeman’s fifth completion of the drive went to junior wide receiver Brian Robiskie, who put a juke on Jack Ikegwuonu and went untouched into the end zone for the game’s first score.
The Badgers answered right back, using their offensive strength to their advantage. Ranking second in the nation in time of possession (an average of 34:08 per game), the Badgers engineered a 14 play, 73 yard drive to march all the way to the Buckeye two.
It was there that UW met the strength of the Buckeyes – a defense that had allowed only five touchdowns all season entering the game. When Zach Brown’s sweep on third-and-goal was denied, the Badgers settled for a Taylor Mehlhaff field goal, which set the stage for the Badgers key goal line stand.
Wisconsin moved the ball well all afternoon against a Buckeyes defense that has forced 49 three-and-outs on the season.
“Our team plays good with good teams,” Beckum said. “We are lucky to have the opportunity to play Ohio State and Michigan back-to-back.
“Ohio State is a good football team, but I want to give credit to our players. We are a good team, too. They did a good job today and put points up in the second half.”
Although the score reflects a different game, the Badgers went blow for blow with the No.1 team in the nation for three quarters before running out of steam. This experience, according to Zach Brown, is something that can carry forward in the Badgers last three games of the season.
“We’re very confident,” Brown said. “(The game) was right there but, unfortunately, some things happened. (Ohio State) hasn’t had a lot of teams (beating them) and we had their backs against the wall. We have to come in tomorrow and start preparing for Michigan.”