Chase Young led a defense that shut out the Badgers in the first half while the OSU offense cobbled together 10 points.
In the second half, Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins got it going to engineer a 28-point outburst.
“I thought the defense played really well in the first half,” Day said. “They kept giving us at-bats. And I thought Justin Fields was really gritty early on, had to run the ball, make big plays, got the big throw at the end of the half. He played gritty, got knocked around in there. Played really good.
“I thought the offensive line and J.K. played really good in the first half, and J.K. ran with an edge all day. I think he’s the best running back in the country, but when you go to the other side of the ball look at what our defense did, some great players over there but led by Chase. And his impact was felt throughout the game.”
Here are five things to know about the Buckeyes’ eighth win of the season:
1. Dobbins shone bright on a cloudy, rainy day.
Ohio State’s junior running back ran for 163 yard on 20 carries. He scored twice and caught three passes for 58 yards in a week Day challenged him to be better than Wisconsin star Jonathan Taylor.
Dobbins became the first Ohio State back to rush for at least 1,000 yards as a freshman, sophomore and junior and finished the day fourth on Ohio State’s career rushing list (passing Tim Spencer).
Yet he still only gave himself a “B” for his performance.
Dobbins finished the day with 3,566 rushing yards, trailing Eddie George (3,768), Ezekiel Elliott (3,961) and Archie Griffin (5,589).
“It means a lot to me — it’s a blessing,” Dobbins said. “There’s a lot of great running backs that came through here. I don’t take that lightly. It’s a great honor to have that. You sit and think about all the guys that came through and I’m just trying to carry on that tradition. It happened, and I can only thank God for that.”
2. The Ohio State defense used a 4-4 front to shut down the Wisconsin running game.
Taylor entered the game as the Big Ten’s leading rusher, but that title belongs to Dobbins after the Badger junior managed only 52 yards on 20 carries.
“Jonathan Taylor is a wonderful back, but (Dobbins) felt like he wanted to be the best running back in the game today,” Day said. “It had a lot to do with the way he ran and how he ran but it also had to do with the offensive line.
“It had to do with our defense giving them a chance to get back on the field, but it was also a challenge for our defensive line against that offensive line and that running back and the whole defense. And I thought the whole defensive staff did a tremendous job.”
That included frequently deploying a 4-4 defensive look with linebacker Justin Hilliard replacing defensive back Shaun Wade.
The junior defensive end matched the school single-game record with four sacks.
“This is a game that was set up for him to kind of get eaten up with multiple surfaces and multiple tight ends,” Day said, referring to Wisconsin trying to block both at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. “You can kind of get lost in the running game, and he dominated.”
Young, who has a sack in 10 consecutive games, forced two fumbles for the second time this season and is zeroing in on the school’s single-season sack record.
He has 13.5 this season, trailing Vernon Gholston’s mark of 14 set in 2007.
For his career, the Maryland native has 27.5 sacks to tie Jason Simmons for No. 2 in Ohio State annals behind Mike Vrabel’s 36.
Ohio State needed almost a whole half to get going offensively against what was statistically the No. 1 defense in the country entering the weekend.
A mistimed snap led to a big loss on the opening drive, and Fields mishandled a snap to short-circuit a third down attempt on the second drive while the Badgers were also able to get into the Buckeye backfield too often.
Wisconsin had four of its five sacks in the first half, and guard Wyatt Davis said the Buckeyes just needed time to get on the same page and make adjustments.
“There were some mistakes we were making early one, but once we got on the sideline we could take a deep breath, figure out what they were doing and fix it,” Davis said. “When we came back after halftime is when we really started to roll.”
Ohio State ultimately ran for 264 yards while allowing 83.
Along with Dobbins, reserve running back Master Teague also outrushed Taylor.
The redshirt freshman finished with 76 yards on 13 carries.
5. Day was happy to have his team play so well with Meyer among the 102,998 in the stadium.
As part of the Fox Sports pregame show, Meyer made his way back to the Horseshoe for a game for the first time since he retired in January and handed the reins of the program to Day, his former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
“I owe everything to he and to (Meyer’s wife) Shelley,” Day said. “(My wife) Nina and I, for the opportunity that he gave me and my family to be here.
“I just wanted to make him proud and go out there and play really, really hard, really, really tough and represent the Buckeyes the way he did when he was here, and boy, it’s hard to follow up a guy who is one of the best college football coaches in the history of the game. It just is. But try not to worry about that and try to just make everybody in Buckeye Nation and obviously coach Meyer proud.”