Grading the Buckeyes: Strong first half carried OSU


A grade card on Ohio State’s big win over Wisconsin on Saturday night, 12 hours before the College Football Playoff selection committee handed the Buckeyes a big loss:

OFFENSE: B

Several areas of the offense and individual players were outstanding. But there were also lapses and lulls, sometimes significant ones, that kept Wisconsin in the game longer than it probably should have been.

Give quarterback J.T. Barrett credit for toughness, grit, running the ball 19 times and throwing two long touchdown passes in the first half when Ohio State took control of the game by jumping out to a 21-7 lead. But the four-year starter, who was six days removed from arthroscopic knee surgery, also threw two interceptions, including one that resulted in a Wisconsin touchdown.

OSU’s offensive line was outstanding most of the game. Barrett was not sacked and Wisconsin rarely even came close to putting him on the turf. Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins rushed for 174 yards, including runs of 77 yards and 53 yards.

But the offense also missed several chances to put the game away, fumbled inside its own 10-yard line, which led to a Wisconsin field goal and scored only two field goals of its own in the second half after scoring three touchdowns in the game’s first 20 minutes.

DEFENSE: A

Ten of the 21 points Wisconsin scored can be pinned on OSU’s offense. The Badgers’ first touchdown came on an interception at the Buckeyes’ 9-yard line. And a second-half field goal was set up by a fumble by Mike Weber.

Running the ball has been what Wisconsin has done best since before the guys on this year’s team were born and it got only 60 yards on the ground. Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor came into the game averaging 150 yards a game and was held to 41 yards on 15 carries.

Whenever the game got tight, Ohio State’s defense stepped up, especially the defensive line.

Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook saw his season interception total rise to 16 after the Buckeyes picked him twice. The first, by Denzel Ward, was at the Ohio State 4-yard line when Wisconsin was driving in the first quarter. The second, by Damon Webb, with a minute left in the game clinched the victory for OSU.

Linebacker Jerome Baker, who some people thought played better last season than this season, had a career-best 16 tackles, including a sack and two tackles for losses.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Kick coverage was solid for OSU. Punter Drue Chrisman was outstanding. Kicker Sean Nuernberger drilled two field goals inside of 30 yards but had a 43-yard attempt blocked late in the first half.

OVERALL: B

In a way, this game was a metaphor for Ohio State’s season. Missed opportunities have been a recurring theme for this year’s Buckeyes.

This was not Urban Meyer’s best team in his six seasons in Columbus and some of the problems it had earlier in the season were more patched over than completely rebuilt. It has been a very good team except for two games against Oklahoma and Iowa and those two games proved costly to its hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff.

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