The Ohio State defense did not rest Oct. 10, 2009, when the Buckeyes beat visiting Wisconsin, 31-13.
The Silver Bullets scored two touchdowns, held the Badgers’ powerful offense to one score and was on the field for more than 42 of the game’s 60 minutes. All of that equated to a very unusual afternoon at Ohio Stadium.
“I don’t think I’ve ever participated in a game like this before,” OSU offensive tackle Bryant Browning said.
Both defenses ruled the day. Of the five touchdowns scored in the game, only two was scored by an offense. The scoring began in the first quarter when the Buckeyes snuffed out a Wisconsin drive that went into OSU territory. Senior safety Kurt Coleman intercepted a Scott Tolzien pass and returned it 89 yards for a touchdown.
Wisconsin answered with the next two scoring drives to take a 10-7 lead in the second quarter on a 9-yard touchdown run by Chris Maragos on a fake field goal and a 50-yard field goal by Philip Welch. Ohio State then answered to take a 14-10 lead with less than a minute before halftime thanks to a 32-yard pass from quarterback Terrelle Pryor to fellow sophomore DeVier Posey that capped the best offensive drive of the afternoon for the Buckeyes. Pryor led a seven-play drive that went 88 yards and took only 1:12 off the clock.
“We knew we needed to get a touchdown when the score was 10-7,” Posey said. “(Head coach Jim) Tressel told us that we were going to get a touchdown, so we pulled together as an offense and got it down.”
The halftime stats were not pretty for the Buckeyes. Take away the touchdown drive, and Ohio State had 36 yards on 18 plays. Wisconsin held the ball for 21 minutes, and the Buckeyes were on offense for only nine.
It was more of the same after the break. Wisconsin was on offense for all but 1:40 in the third quarter. Even so, the four-point lead grew to 15 thanks to some big plays by the defense and special teams. OSU defensive back Jermale Hines started the scoring when he leaped up to tip a Tolzien pass and hauled it in before returning the interception 32 yards for a touchdown. An extra point by Aaron Pettrey made the lead 21-10 with 12:08 left in the quarter.
The Badgers answered the touchdown with a 46-yard field goal by Welch, but the momentum did not last long. Ohio State senior Ray Small took the ensuing kickoff at the Buckeye 4-yard line and went straight up field. He was practically untouched and went 96 yards for a touchdown, the first kickoff return for a score since Ted Ginn Jr. went 93 yards on the opening kickoff to the national championship game against Florida.
“It was a return left, and when we watched film they usually kicked to the right. I guess the wind was blowing a little bit, and he kicked it over to my side. I was shocked and thought, ‘Oh, he’s kicking it to me.’ When I got it, I just followed behind my wedge. I heard all the things that Coach Taver (Johnson) says running through my head: ‘Be patient. Hit the whole when it’s there.’ It was really there.”
Tressel said he had thoughts of Ginn when watching Small score.
“It was almost like he was shot out of a gun,” Tressel said.. “I saw him take that thing and he downshifted and was gone. It did look like a little bit like Teddy.”
Wisconsin attempted to answer again, driving into Ohio State territory again before ending the march with no points when Welch pushed a 33-yard field goal wide to the right. The Badgers only threatened once more when Tolzien again led his team into OSU territory, only to have the drive end on downs in the red zone.
The Buckeyes won the game, but the Badgers dominated the final stats. Wisconsin outgained OSU 368-184. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor completed only five of 13 passes for 87 yards, and the rushing attack was held to 97 yards. Brandon Saine was the team’s leading rusher with 55 yards on 14 carries.
The difference was Ohio State’s defense, which sacked Tolzien six times and held Wisconsin’s powerful rushing attack to only 2.7 yards per carry. Standout running back John Clay had a mere 59 yards on 20 carries. OSU linebacker Ross Homan had two sacks and a team-high 15 tackles to lead the way. Coleman added 14 stops, as did linebacker Brian Rolle. Hines had 11 tackles to go with his touchdown.