With 42,189 in attendance, the energy at Reser stadium was electric – as was the OSU defense.
Montee Ball hardly looked like a Heisman candidate today against a Beaver defensive front that held Wisconsin to a mere 248 total yards – Ball only accounting for 65 of those yards. Wisconsin Quarterback Danny O’Brien was warmly welcomed to the Pac 12 with three sacks, two of which resulted in fumbles.
The Opening drives were strikingly similar to one another – short and sweet with no points scored for UW or OSU. But Sean Mannion and crew brought their big boy cleats today - and the first quarter saw the Beaver offense gathering a total of 111 yards on 18 plays – more than three times what Whisky put up- a dismal 35 yards on 12 plays. Frankly, the first quarter traveled by at a snail’s pace, with both teams struggling to get a foothold early on.
What was not going at a snail’s pace was the Beaver defense. They held Ball to a mere 15 yards rushing in the first quarter. Something that few pundits were anticipating.
Wisconsin’s second drive began after a bad snap to Kostol (P) resulted in a nearly blocked punt. Ball began gaining some serious headway on the ground, slowly making his way down the field against a Beaver defense that had begun to show signs that their size (or lack thereof) was working against them.
A Pederson catch for 5 and a ball run for 3 set up third and two. The Wisconsin offense dropped back to pass and Rudolf Fifita came in like a bolt of lightning, taking down Whisky’s O-Brien for a sack in the back field - forcing a punt.
Whether it was Riley’s play calling style or just the team getting a feel for the tempo – the first half was a slow one for OSU. Mannion and crew had a timid start, but finally gained some steam after a six yard pass play on third down gain to Woods netted the Beavs first and 10 at their own 28. Later in the drive, a surprising call from Riley to go for it on fourth and two on the Whisky 29 resulted in a tipped pass and a turnover on downs, and left the two teams deadlocked at zero for the first quarter.
A Trevor Romaine field goal gave the Beavs an early lead in the second quarter – a lead that would not go away easily. As the second quarter transpired, it became evident that Wisconsin was not prepared for the speedy and increasingly aggressive blitzing patterns orchestrated by Mark Banker’s defense.
The Whisky offenders had a very rough go of it during the first half. A Rueben Robinson hit on Jared Abbrederis sent the Wisconsin wide out away from Reser stadium with the help of the paramedics late in the second quarter. To make matters worse for the visitors, a sack by Poyer forced another O’Brien fumble, the senior defensive backs third forced fumble in his career.
If there were any doubts of the capabilities of the Beaver defense, they were all but erased during first two quarters. A Beaver Dam in full effect? It seemed so, as Ball mustered only eight touches for 34 yards in the first half and the Whisky passing attacked compiled merely 46 total yards on four complete passes form O-Brien.
End of First Half: Beavers 3 Whisky 0
Allow us to say that the third quarter marked the point in the game where the tide turned orange. A twenty yard pass from Mannion to Cooks grabbed the Beavers their first six of the day. The touchdown was swiftly followed up by a diving interception by Ryan Murphy on the other side of the ball. Bret Bielema flipped his lid on the sideline as his defense once again took the field, looking fatigued.
But a poor showing by the Beaver offense saw a three and out turn into a muffed punt and a huge loss that went in Wisconsin’s favor. With a significantly shortened field ahead of them, the Big Ten powerhouse was looking sharp and cutting into the Beaver defense with relative ease.
However – at this juncture, we must hail the speed over size approach of OSU – quick penetration from Wynn against the Whisky line resulted in a sack and a fumble by O’Brien down inside the Beaver red zone. The ball was recovered by Scott Crichton, and the orange and black were once again in possession.
A stalemate ensued for the remainder of the quarter, as both offensive attacks struggled to put up positive yardage. An OSU punt was followed shortly thereafter by a UW punt, effectively ending three quarters of the game.
The defensive highlight of the fourth quarter came on a fourth down and one sneak by O’Brien that was stuffed by a stacked OSU line - Wynn garnered credit for stopping O’Brien for no gain on the play, placing the ball in the hands of Mannion and crew for another drive.
A drive which characterized the game quite concisely. The Beavers moved the ball with scattered success, inevitably punting it away to an awaiting Whisky special teams unit. Punt after punt – such was the tale of the game, especially for Wisconsin.
Combined, Wisconsin punted the ball seven times on Saturday. Montee Ball was held to 65 yards in 15 carries and did not score a touchdown. His impact was barely noticeable deep into the fourth quarter, where the Badgers made their final stand.
With three minutes remaining in the game, OSU held a commanding 10-0 lead over the highly favored Wisconsin team. A late pass interference call on a defending D.J. Welch set up first and ten for Wisconsin on the Beaver 49. Wisconsin drove the ball down field, and with less than two minutes on the clock and no time outs remaining, a pass from O’Brien to Pederson cleared the pylons – and once again, it was a football game – with just over a minute remaining.
And boy were those last seconds a nail biter – an onside kick, recovered by Wisconsin, was ruled void by the referees after it had been determined that a Wisconsin player had touched the ball prior to it clearing the ten yard minimum progression mark, giving OSU the ball and seeing as how Wisconsin had no time outs remaining a W over UW.