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Big Ten Championship Game: Wisconsin falls just short in thriller to Ohio State

The Badgers hung on, but had no answer for the Buckeyes’ big plays.

Big Ten Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS — With a chance at the College Football Playoff and a Big Ten Championship hanging in the wind, the Wisconsin Badgers could not bring home a win.

A defense ranked among the top-two in the nation gave up a number of huge plays through the air and one ht, and the offense only scored one touchdown as No. 4 Wisconsin lost to No. 8 Ohio State 27-21.

Ohio State (11-2) gained 449 yards of offense, 309 of which was in the first half. Two big plays directly led to touchdowns, with a third run setting up its last scored touchdown of the game in the second quarter.

Quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 12 of 26 passes for 211 yards with two touchdowns and interceptions a piece, with 60 yards rushing and a touchdown as well. Running back J.K. Dobbins reeled off 174 yards on 17 carries.

Wisconsin could not get its running game going, only registering 60 rushing yards total. Tailback Jonathan Taylor, the Doak Walker finalist and Big Ten freshman of the year, was contained to 41 yards on 15 carries. Forced to pass, quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed only 19 of 40 passes for 229 yards with two interceptions.

The first half saw the most scoring, with Ohio State capitalizing on Wisconsin’s defensive mistakes.

The Badgers had a great drive going on its second offensive possession, driving 55 yards in seven plays, but Hornibrook threw his 14th interception of the year into the hands of junior cornerback Denzel Ward.

In four plays, Ohio State took advantage and the lead. After Barrett eluded the tackle for Alec James on a third down to move the chains, he connected with Terry McLaurin on the very next play for an 84-yard touchdown.

Wisconsin’s defense would respond, however, to tie the game. After Anthony Lotti’s punt was downed at the two-yard line, Barrett made a critical error two plays later. Rolling to his right, he threw into the flat but into the hands of Andrew Van Ginkel, who returned it nine yards for Wisconsin’s fifth pick-six of the season.

With Rafael Gaglianone’s extra point, the game was again tied.

And then Barrett responded. Another four-play drive for Ohio State led to a touchdown, as Parris Campbell caught a pass to the left side. Defensive backs Natrell Jamerson and Nick Nelson missed crucial tackles in the open field. Campbell sprinted 57 yards for the go-ahead touchdown to make it 14-7.

In the first quarter alone, Ohio State gained 181 yards on 13 plays, with 154 of those through the air.

Another missed tackle allowed the Buckeyes to break a big play, but this time on the ground. J.K. Dobbins took the hand off, and after defensive end Conor Sheehy could not bring him down in the backfield, no one was there to stop the true freshman from running 77 yards to the UW one-yard line. From there, Barrett took it in to make it 21-7.

After Van Ginkel forced and recovered a Mike Weber fumble, the Badgers’ offense could not capitalize for a touchdown but Gaglianone did connect on a 28-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 21-10.

While Ohio State drove down the field on their final series of the first half, Nick Nelson blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt to negate any more points on the board before halftime. The Badgers were lucky, however, as Barrett missed on potential touchdowns through the air twice.

Through two quarters, Wisconsin was outgained 309 to 159 in total yards and also allowed Ohio State to convert on three of six third down attempts. Barrett threw for 182 yards on eight of 16 throws, while Dobbins gained 90 yards on six carries.

The Badgers only converted three of nine third downs.

Wisconsin forced an Ohio State three-and-out, and the offense drove down the field 50 yards in eight plays. That was highlighted by Danny Davis’s 33-yard reception to help flip the field. Though the Buckeyes’ defense held thereafter, Gaglianone’s 46-yard field goal made it a 21-13 game.

Dobbins showcased his speed yet again the ensuing series, taking a run and bolting 53 yards deep into UW territory with Jamerson making the touchdown-saving tackle. The defense held with a Sean Nuernberger 27-yard field goal to extend the lead back to 11 with 7:25 left in the third quarter.

At the end of the quarter, Barrett threw an errant pass that bounced off the hands of Marcus Baugh and into the hands of outside linebacker Leon Jacobs. Wisconsin would respond with a 52-yard drive that spanned 11 plays. Chris James’s one-yard touchdown run, plus the two-point conversion pass to Troy Fumagalli brought the Badgers to within three at 24-21.

As seen earlier in the game, Ohio State had an answer. Taking up nearly 7:19 on the clock, the Buckeyes drove 72 yards, including converting a key fourth-down. Nuernberger’s 20-yard field goal gave OSU a 27-21 lead with 5:20 remaining in the game.

Wisconsin attempted one last drive and drove past midfield, but a holding call stalled the momentum.