Badgers rally... again, but lose... again
The Wisconsin Badgers needed to win Saturday night if they wanted to control their own fate in the Big Ten after last week's shocking upset by Michigan State. And while the Badgers managed to come back from a 12 point deficit in the fourth quarter to re-take the lead, the Buckeyes had the last word.
With 20 seconds left in the game, and the Badgers trying to hold on to a 29-26 lead, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller rolled to his right, and found a wide-open Devin Smith for the game-winning touchdown, locking in the final score at 33-29.
The loss drops Wisconsin to 6-2 (2-2 Big Ten), and likely ends their hopes of returning to the Rose Bowl for a second straight year. The Badgers are sitting in a three-way tie for second place in the Leaders division with Ohio State and Purdue, and they trail Penn State, which has yet to lose in Big Ten play.
While the new division alignment helps the Badgers remain in the Big Ten title picture, losing to Ohio State makes that road much narrower, and takes some control out of their hands. While they still play Purdue, Illinois, and Penn State from their division, they no longer have sole control of their fate in the conference. It would take a lot of luck and the Badgers' winning out to see them play in the inaugural Big Ten championship game after Saturday's loss.
The game started off as a defensive struggle, with the Buckeyes trying and succeeding to stop Wisconsin's powerful running game. The Badgers only amassed 89 net yards through the entire game, and held just a 7-3 advantage heading into halftime. The Buckeyes got the ball to start the second half, and put the Badgers in too deep of a hole for them to fully recover.
Buckeye tailback Dan Herron broke off a 57-yard run to Wisconsin's 18 yard line on the first play from scrimmage, and five plays later Miller scrambled for a one-yard touchdown to put the Buckeyes ahead 10-7. The Badgers got the ball back, and quickly went three and out after a false start pushed them back five yards. But the Buckeyes blocked Brad Nortman's punt after Robert Burge let an opponent past him for the second week in a row. The Buckeyes recovered at Wisconsin's 1 yard line, and Jordan Hall punched in another touchdown three plays later.
Now down 17-7, the Badgers had some good luck come their way for what seemed like the first time in two weeks. After forcing the Badgers to punt on their next possession, Hall fumbled the punt and Andrew Lukasko recovered it on Ohio State's 27. Momentum in hand, Montee Ball was able to bring the Badgers within three points of OSU shortly after.
In the fourth quarter, Ohio State tacked on another field goal to bring the score to 20-14, and Braxton Miller rushed for a 44-yard touchdown. Now down 26-14 after a failed two-point conversion, the Badgers needed something short of a miracle to get back into the game. What they got was Russell Wilson, and he seemed to do just fine.
Wilson led the Badgers on a four play, 66-yard drive that ended with a touchdown reception by Jared Abbrederis. The drive lasted only 50 seconds, and gave Wisconsin 3:42 left in the game to get another stop, and score another touchdown. The Badgers forced a punt, and got the ball back with 2:36 left in the game and no timeouts. Wilson found Abberderis again four plays later for a 49-yard touchdown, and the Badgers had retaken the lead after a two-point conversion put them up 29-26.
But as it turns out, the Badgers scored too quickly on their final scoring drive. With 1:10 left and two timeouts, Miller lead the Buckeyes to a first down, before completing the game-winning touchdown pass to Devin Smith. The Badgers got the ball back, but there wasn't enough time left on the clock or magic tricks left in the bag for Wisconsin to come back one last time.
For the second week in a row, the Badgers have had their hopes shattered in the last few seconds of a major road game. They host Purdue next Saturday, and will likely be happy to play in Camp Randall again for the first time in two weeks. But it might be too little, too late for Wisconsin, which will need a lot of help to play in the first ever Big Ten Championship Game, salvage their season, and defend their Big Ten title.
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