Ohio State shows championship mettle in comeback win over Wisconsin

Credit: Andy Lyons

Credit: Andy Lyons

Ohio State won its 39th Big Ten championship Saturday night.

In front of 66,649 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium and millions of interested onlookers at home, Wisconsin made the Buckeyes earn it.

>>RECAP: Buckeyes rally from 14 down to win Big Ten Championship game

Here are six things to know about the Ohio State’s 34-21 win:

1. Wisconsin battered Ohio State for the first 30 minutes. 

The Badgers struck first with an 83-yard touchdown drive capped by a 44-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Taylor, who was held to 52 yards in the first meeting between the teams on Oct. 26.

They kept it rolling through the first half, taking a 21-7 lead and finishing with 194 yards on the ground. That was more than any of Ohio State’s first 12 opponents gained in a whole game. The Badgers added 100 more through the air, and their 294 total yards were more than Ohio State allowed in a full game with the exception of Michigan (396).

Credit: Andy Lyons

Credit: Andy Lyons

2. They hit Justin Fields early and often. 

The Ohio State quarterback was sacked three times in the first half and flushed from the pocket several more.

He also missed a handful of throws and was hit a few times when he hung in the pocket an extra few seconds trying to make something happen.

“He didn't get a chance to practice as much as he would have liked to this week,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “I think early on it was a combination of our protection and maybe him just being a little rusty, not getting the amount of reps, live reps that he needed during the week.

“Being a quarterback so much is timing. When you're in the NFL, you've had years and years, hundreds of games under your belt, maybe you don't need it as much. When you're a 19-year-old sophomore who hasn't played a ton of football, you need to practice.”

When all was said and done, he was 19-for-31 for 299 yards and three touchdowns.

“This victory is a once-in-a-lifetime victory,” Fields said. “I struggled a little bit in the first half, but I just knew to myself that I was a better player than what I was actually playing. Just kind of going back to my roots, getting confidence back, getting a rhythm. I think that kind of helped me a lot in the second half.”

3. The Buckeyes showed their championship mettle in the second half. 

The Buckeyes outscored the Badgers 27-0 and outgained them 260-138. Ohio State ran for 88 yards and allowed six yards rushing in the second half, and the Buckeyes averaged 6.8 yards per pay while holding the Badgers to 3.7.

“I think we just had to go back in and refocus, just do the simple things like tackle, do our assignments,” defensive end Chase Young said. “Coach Day, he just kept saying, ‘Just keep swinging.' We just kept swinging, kept swinging, kept swinging. We turned it out. It turned out for the best.”

Of course, their coach was proud of how they handled the biggest deficit of the season.

“That was the big question mark in my mind, what were we going to do down two scores at halftime?” Day said. "We don't know. The way we responded in that third quarter was unbelievable. You could feel the electricity in the stadium. We imposed our will. I think that goes to show you how special this team is.

“Again, after these three weeks, three emotional wins. To get this championship, it was a just a great feeling.”

4. K.J. Hill made history. 

The fifth-year senior broke David Boston’s Ohio State career catches record on a third-down conversion in the third quarter.

Four plays later, he caught another pass over the middle and weaved his way through the defense for a 16-yard touchdown that put the Buckeyes on top for good. Haubeil’s point-after kick made it 24-21 with 2:23 to go in the third quarter.

Ohio State extended the lead early in the fourth quarter when Fields scrambled to his left, stopped and found Hill open in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown.

Hill finished with seven catches for 83 yards. For his career, he has 195 catches for 2,265 yards.

5. Taylor broke out of his funk against Ohio State, but J.K. Dobbins still got the better of him. 

Taylor finished the night with 6,060 career yards and finally did some damage against Ohio State. After totaling 93 yards in his first two games against the Buckeyes, Taylor had 148 Saturday night.

He finished 0-3 in his personal battle with Dobbins, though. The Buckeye junior outrushed Taylor 174-41 in the Big Ten Championship game two years ago and 163-52 in the first game this season. Saturday night the Texas native ran for 172 yards on 33 carries and scored once.

“It's been great to watch he and J.K. go back and forth here,” Day said. “He ran hard. Broke some tackles in the game. Nothing but credit for not only their scheme, the way they're coached, but their talent. He's one of the best backs in, I guess in Big Ten history. He is deserving all the credit he gets.”

6. Day believes the Buckeyes are the best team in the country. 

"I think when you look at our résumé, what we've done, beating Wisconsin when they're a top 10 team twice in one year, and then again this three-game stretch was unlike I think any team has had in the country,” Day said. “Committee does a great job of ranking these teams. These are top 15 teams, top 10 teams that we played three weeks in a row.

“If there's anything else that shows what this team is made of, you saw it here today. The fact that we went down and played the way we did in the first half, but then to come back and play the way we did in the second half not only shows you our talent but shows you the heart of this team.

“Again, if there's a better team out there, I'd like to see them.”

About the Author