October 30, 2011

Freshmen quarterbacks haunt Bielema, Wisconsin

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - It's safe to say Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema will never want to face another Ohio State freshman quarterback in his career.




In 2008, Terrelle Pryor drove a stake through Bielema's heart when he scrambled for a game-winning 11-yard touchdown with 1:08 remaining. Now, Bielema will add Braxton Miller to the heartbreak list.




It looked like the true freshman signal-caller put the game away with 4:39 left when he sprinted 44 yards to put the Buckeyes up 12 points. Wisconsin had other ideas, though, and scored two quick touchdowns to take the lead with a little over a minute left.




Then, it was Miller time again.




With the clock reading 20 seconds, Miller rolled to his right to avoid a pass rush and threw back across his body to a wide open Devin Smith in the end zone. It capped off one of the greatest games in Ohio Stadium history as the teams combined to score four touchdowns in the final 4:39 of the game.




"Actually, I didn't know what the play was," Smith said. "I heard a route and I ran it and I was open. Somebody said something and my coach said something else and I went with my coach. I saw Braxton role out and launch the ball."




Miller delivered his signature game to date, completing seven of 12 passes for 89 yards - 40 on his pass to Smith - and running for an addition 99 and two scores.




"It's a confidence thing," head coach Luke Fickell said. "And I think I've talked about it all year long or as long as Braxton has been the quarterback, it was about confidence. He's learned to grasp things a lot more. And we know he can throw it. We know he can do a lot of different things. It's just understanding what we want him to do and having the confidence and doing it."




CAPTAIN HERRON: Every Tuesday, Ohio State names its game-by-game captains, a change to the program instituted by head coach Luke Fickell. The Buckeyes announced Michael Brewster, John Simon and Andrew Sweat as captains for the Wisconsin game.




There was a noticeable addition, though, when they walked to midfield for the coin toss: Dan Herron.




The senior All-Big Ten running back was suspended for six games before returning against Illinois. Emotional before the game - Herron cried during the national anthem - he rewarded his coach for recognizing his leadership.




Herron tallied 160 yards on 33 carries against the Badgers to up his two-game total to 274 yards, an average of 137 per game. It wasn't all gravy for the senior, though. After gaining 12 yards on his first carry, Herron went the rest of the first half with just 16 yards on 12 carries.




The second half was a different story. Herron ran for 136 yards - 75 coming on the Buckeyes first possession.




"We definitely made a couple of adjustments," he said. "The O line was doing a great job. They opened a great hole for me the second half and at the beginning of the game. And the other big thing was just to come out and make a big play and just get the offense going."




As a team, the Buckeyes gashed the Wisconsin defense - No. 9 in the country - for 268 yards on the ground.




"It was unbelievable," center Michael Brewster said. "It was an unbelievable effort. We have had our ups and downs, but we did not stop playing tonight. The coaches believed in us and we believed in ourselves."




SILVER BULLETS STAND TALL: Faced with going against the No. 1 offense in the conference, the Ohio State defense needed someone other than the usual suspects - John Simon and Johnathan Hankins - to step up.




Well, that someone was Adam Bellamy.




The sophomore defensive lineman was a frequent visitor to the Wisconsin backfield, contributing a sack and tackle for loss.




"The first three quarters started off pretty slow," he said. "We figured it out and gained some momentum. The coaches always say focus on the next play, we just have to buckle down and play our game."




Andrew Sweat made a team-high eight tackles, but no play was bigger than the final one. Sweat pressured Russell Wilson and was able to get a hand on the ball as it fluttered harmlessly to the ground.




Wisconsin's rushing attack was held to 89 yards. Much of that was attributed to Simon and Hankins, who combined to make 10 tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss.




"We knew we had to stop the run," Sweat said. "I felt like we kept them in check pretty well tonight. We made a few errors that allowed them to have big plays, but we pulled it out at the end."




SECRET WEAPON: Ohio State punter Ben Buchanan has developed into one of the team's biggest assets. Game after game the junior pins opponents inside the 20-yard line and booms punts of 50 yards.




Saturday night was no different. Buchanan changed field position on multiple occasions and helped the Buckeyes get three points in the fourth quarter.




After pinning Wisconsin at its own 21, Wilson was called for intentional grounding backing the Badgers to the six. The defense held and Drew Basil eventually kicked a 22-yard field goal.




Buchanan averaged 41.2 yards per punt, dropped three inside the 20 and booted one 51 yards.




SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN: In Wisconsin's loss to Michigan State last week, the Spartans blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. That scenario nearly played out again in the Badgers loss to Ohio State.




Leading 10-7 in the third quarter, Ryan Shazier broke free to block Brad Nortman's punt. Curtis Grant pounced on the ball at the one-yard line and Ohio State scored three plays later to up its advantage to 17-7.




"It was a called protection, but the shield thought they (Ohio State) were going with a different look," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. "They sent three guys up the middle. It was the same concept as last week but they ran a different play."




Added Nortman: "I thought we got it off in a good time and I think the only way someone would have got to it is if they had come free. From the blocking standpoint, I don't know, but I thought we got it off in time. It was surprising they got there.



"Obviously, it is frustrating. As a punt unit we want to have a positive influence on the game and I want the punts that I get off and am able to punt to be a positive influence on the game. It is frustrating when something like that happens."




HIGHS AND LOWS FOR BASIL: Basil's night was one to remember. He converted two field goals to up his consecutive made streak to 10.




But he also saw action on the kickoffs - and it wasn't just getting the ball downfield.




After doinking a field goal off the upright - but in - Basil delivered a crushing blow to Wisconsin returner Jared Abbrederis on the ensuing kickoff. He had another tackle in the second quarter.




NO GO FOR BERRY: Running back Jaamal Berry was in uniform Saturday, but did not play.




The sophomore, who is one of Ohio State's kick returners, was involved in an altercation for the second time in four weeks on Oct. 21. A lawsuit was filed against Berry after he allegedly punched a man in the face and shouted an ethnic slur. He has not been charged at this point.




Berry was previously involved in an altercation on the Oval in September. It was thought a medical condition may have contributed to the outburst. However, Berry underwent medical tests at the OSU Medical Center and nothing was discovered.




Chris Fields took Berry's spot on kickoffs.




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