Fans spill onto the field as Badgers take down No. 1 Buckeyes
MADISON, Wis. -- I'm reminded of something ESPN's Scott Van Pelt once said on SportsCenter after a big Badger win:
"And the entire city of Madison is overserved right now."
With Van Pelt in attendance Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers upset No. 1 Ohio State 31-18, setting off a huge celebration that spilled many of 83,000 fans onto the field.
The win marked the first time since 1981 that Wisconsin beat a No. 1 team and it was undoubtedly the biggest win for Bret Bielema since he took over as UW's head coach in 2006.
"I think the players now more than ever believe the message we are selling as coaches," Bret Bielema said after the game.
The Badgers could not have gotten off to a better start. And not just because David Gilreath returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown (which he did). And not just because John Clay ran for two touchdowns in the first half (which he did). And not just because the defense held Ohio State to just 11 total plays and 35 yards in the first quarter (which it did).
Those events certainly played a huge part in Wisconsin jumping out to an early three-possesion lead, but nothing was bigger than the 19 play, 89-yard touchdown drive that took 10:11 off the clock in the first half. Wisconsin pounded the ball right down Ohio State's throat and mixed in some clever passing plays to put together its most impressive drive of the season.
It ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Clay, who racked up 88 yards in the first half, giving UW a 21-0 lead.
And one has to wonder how this game might have gone had Wisconsin not had the start it did.
Ohio State responded with 18 straight points and had all the momentum in the world when Dan Herron's second touchdown of the game made it 21-18 with 11:38 left in the game. It certainly put the full house at Camp Randall on edge.
But those concerns might not have been warranted. The Badgers only had the ball for one brief series in the third quarter and before that, it was obvious the Ohio State defense had no answer for UW's running attack. Afterall, the Badgers had 138 rushing yards in the first half alone.
All UW needed was one long scoring drive to take another two-possession lead. It actually came easier than that as the Badgers marched down the field in less than five minutes -- using a number of passing plays instead of the run -- and scored on James White's 12-yard touchdown run with 6:57 left in the game.
Apparently that's all the defense needed to get their swag back. Ohio State never scored again and Philip Welch sealed the deal with a 41-yard field goal.
It was the kind of win Bielema lacked on his resume and it was the kind of win his players have failed to deliver in conference play the last four and a half years. But that monkey is definitely off their back.
The performance the Badgers put on the field Saturday night was one of a team clicking on all cylinders and working together to topple a giant. Clay and White once again worked magic off each other to amass 184 yards. Scott Tolzien threw an interception, but he was 13-for-16 on the day for a 152 yards and connected on a number of passes in key situations, most notably on the key fourth-quarter drive that put the Badgers up 28-18.
And while the defense gave up 311 yards, they really played much better on the field than the numbers show. The players came up with a number of big plays and never lost confidence after giving up two long touchdown drives in the second half.
This game could be seen as a hump that Bielema and the Badgers finally got over. They won the big one. But with a 2-1 record and a daunting trip to Iowa looming, Wisconsin still has a ton of work to do.
For now, however, the Badgers are back in the Big Ten race and back on the map for a BCS bowl game. That's what matters right now and the city Madison is making sure the rest of the nation knows it.