Ohio State coach Ryan Day called the Buckeyes an unbelievable football team after their come-from-behind 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game Saturday night. A gradecard on their unbelievable comeback.
Except for J.K. Dobbins, there were not a lot of bright spots offensively in the first half when Ohio State fell behind 21-7. Quarterback Justin Fields was inconsistent with his throws and obviously not able to run with his usual speed with a large brace on his left knee. He also was facing a ferocious pass rush as OSU’s offensive line started slowly.
Turn the clock ahead to the second half and everything looked different. Fields’ passes were crisp and accurate for the most part. All three of his touchdown passes came in the second half and he finished with 299 yards passing. The offensive line protected him much better and it continued to block well in the run game, where Dobbins rolled up 172 yards. Ohio State scored 27 unanswered points in the second half. It was something Wisconsin had seen before. The Buckeyes finished the game on a 28-0 run when they won the regular-season match-up with the Badgers 38-7 on October 26. A one-handed touchdown catch by tight end Jeremy Ruckert on what looked like an overthrow by Fields was a momentum changer.
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, who has more than 6,000 yards rushing in three seasons with the Badgers, finally had a big game against an Ohio State defense. In two previous games against OSU, Taylor had run for 52 yards on 20 carries earlier this season and 41 yards on 15 carries in the 2017 Big Ten championship game. He ran for 148 yards on 20 carries, including 44-yard touchdown run in the first qurter and 45-yard run to set up the touchdown that put Wisconsin ahead 21-7 just before halftime.
Quarterback Jack Coan was very effective early and it almost looked as if Ohio was surprised Wisconsin gave him such a big role in its game plan. After Wisconsin rolled up 294 yards in the first half, it gained only 138 in the second half against an OSU defense that went from looking confused to looking like it had all the answers. Taylor gained only 13 yards on 7 carries in the second half. Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Damon Arnette and Jahsen Wint on Wisconsin’s drive after Ohio State had pulled to within four points, 21-17, were a problem.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Blake Haubeil was 2 for 2 on field goals of 27 yards and 24 yards. Drue Chrisman completed a pass for 21 yards and a first down on a fake punt from OSU’s 26-yard line in the second quarter with Wisconsin leading 14-0.
The first half wasn’t pretty but the second half made up for it. Ohio State (13-0) is in the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2016.