This wasn't supposed to happen.
Wisconsin, one year after upsetting a ranked Ohio State team on its home turf, faced the Buckeyes again. Brooks Bollinger would start his final game against the Buckeyes, who entered Camp Randall with an undefeated record.
More details? Wisconsin had started off the season by winning 5 nonconference games. They began Big Ten play by losing to Penn State and Indiana. Yes, that's right. The 2002 Badgers had just lost to GERRY DiNARDO. That's...embarrassing. That's pretty bad. Making matters worse? Wisconsin had lost 7 of their last 9 conference games at home, and their last 2 games at home against Ohio State (1995 and 2000; with a Big Ten break from 1997 to 1998)
Clarett ran for 133 yards on 30 carries, but suffered a shoulder stinger near the end of the game that severely limited him over the rest of the season. Good riddance.
Wisconsin would play Ohio State at home, though. That made this game so much greater...and so much worse.
Ohio State went 75 yards in 3 plays on their opening drive. Maurice Clarett ran 25 yards on his first carry, followed by a Chris Gamble 3 yard carry. Then, Craig Krenzel threw a 47-yard TD pass to Michael Jenkins, giving Ohio State a 7-0 lead just one minute, thirty seconds in. Wisconsin would answer that drive with one of its own, but after a personal foul on Ohio State gave Wisconsin the ball on the Buckeye 48, Brooks Bollinger was sacked for a loss of eleven yards on third down. R.J. Morse punted, but only for 29 yards.
Wisconsin was able to shut down Clarett for no gain on his second carry. Krenzel then ran for 6 yards on 2nd down, and on a 3rd and 4, Krenzel converted with a 6 yard pass to Ben Hartsock. On a fresh set of downs, Clarett gained one yard...and Ohio State was nailed with a 10 yard holding penalty that backed them up to their 29 yard line. After B.J. Tucker forced an incompletion on a pass from Krenzel to Chris Vance, the Buckeyes committed a five yard penalty. On 2nd and 24, Clarett ran for 7 yards, and on 3rd and 17, he found room for 8 more. However, that exceptionally conservative strategy (classic Tressel-ball) had marooned Ohio State on its own 39 yard line, well short of the 48 yard line that they needed. Tressel trotted out Andy Groom...and Jim Leonhard returned the punt 18 yards to Wisconsin's 34-yard line.
That would be the spark Wisconsin needed to tie the game. Anthony Davis ran for 20 yards on 1st and 10, giving Wisconsin a fresh set of downs on the OSU 46. Bollinger completed a short pass to Matt Bernstein for a 6 yard gain. From there Davis sprinted 40 yards to the endzone, tying the game at 7-7. It had taken the Badgers under one minute to score.
Ohio State started at its own 20, after a touchback, but they wouldn't remain there for long. After an incomplete pass somewhere in the vicinity of Ryan Hamby (who would become most hated by Buckeye fans in a few short years), Krenzel found Chris Gamble for a 47 yard gain. The Buckeyes then drove to the Wisconsin 10, but Krenzel's pass to Michael Jenkins on 3rd and 6 wound up incomplete. The Buckeyes settled for a 27 yard Mike Nugent field goal, taking a 10-7 lead.
On the next drive, Anthony Davis ran for 6 yards on first and 10. Unfortunately, Bollinger fumbled on 2nd and 4 and Buckeye defender Mike Doss recovered at Wisconsin's 32. The Buckeyes then found their way inside the Badger 10, but the Wisconsin defense that had been gashed by Indiana for 32 points refused to give, and Ohio State settled for another field goal from 25 yards out.
Wisconsin drove 45 yards in 11 plays, but Brooks Bollinger was sacked on back-to-back downs to bring up 4th and 17. R.J. Morse punted, and Wisconsin downed it at Ohio State's one yard line, effectively trapping the Buckeyes. After Wisconsin prevented Lydell Ross from getting the 14 yards Ohio State needed on 3rd and 14, Andy Groom again punted, but angled it out of bounds.
Bollinger, who had been extremely ineffective through the first two quarters, was replaced by Jim Sorgi. Wisconsin started off their first drive with Sorgi at the helm with a 13 yard run by Anthony Davis. Davis found room for 11 more yards, and Sorgi himself carried for Wisconsin's 3rd first down of the drive a play later. An incomplete pass and a 1-yard run by RB Dwayne Smith later, Wisconsin faced a 3rd and 9 from Ohio State's 42 yard line. Sorgi then hooked up with Jonathan Orr to burn the Buckeyes with a 42 yard touchdown, giving Wisconsin its first (and really only) lead of the game, 14-13.
Krenzel was sacked on the first play of the next drive by Anttaj Hawthorne and Brode Williams (the only sack of the entire season for Williams), and the Buckeyes went nowhere, punting yet again. With 41 seconds remaining, the Badgers elected to run out the remainder of the first half. That...would prove to be a mistake.
Mike Nugent started off the second half by kicking the ball out of bounds, drawing an instant immediate procedure penalty and allowing the Badgers to start on their own 35. Anthony Davis ran 11 yards for yet another first down, but on a 3rd and 8, Sorgi was sacked by A.J. Hawk and Will Smith. The Badgers punted, and Gamble's ill-advised punt return was trapped by the Badger special teams unit for a loss of one yard.
A volley of punts followed, fast and furious, and no team scored in the 3rd Quarter. It was in the 4th that Ohio State drove the field, using a 45 yard reception by Michael Jenkins (on a 3rd and 6) as well as a completely inexcusable 16 yard run by Craig Krenzel to drive into scoring position. On first and goal from the Wisconsin 3, Krenzel found TE Ben Hartsock for a 3-yard touchdown reception that gave Ohio State a 19-14 lead. Tressel, trying to extend the Buckeyes' lead to a full seven points, called for a 2 point conversion. It failed, and the Badgers remained down 5 points.
Wisconsin, trying for a monumental upset, drove down to the Ohio State 29 yard line. Jim Sorgi then proceeded to
rip out the hearts of Wisconsin fans everywhere throw an interception in the endzone to Chris Gamble, resulting in a touchback. Wisconsin touched the ball a grand total of once after the interception. They punted.
Ohio State essentially ran out the clock on their remaining drives of the game, pulling out yet another close, heart-rending win. The Buckeyes would go on to the National Championship and were the first team to go 14-0 since the inception of the BCS. Wisconsin fell to 0-3 in the Big Ten, but they would stun Michigan State in East Lansing the next week, 42-24. The would finish the season 8-6, with all six losses coming in Big Ten play (ARGH!).