Big Ten: Madison 0806

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Penn State is part of the national title picture, Michigan State has backed up its preseason hype and Northwestern has shocked everyone with a 5-0 start.

But the favorite to win the Big Ten championship could be the team that claimed that honor in each of the last two seasons. Ohio State might struggle in national showcase games, but in its conference, it continues to pile up big wins.

Few Big Ten victories will be savored more than Saturday night's dramatic 20-17 triumph against No. 18 Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium. The 14th-ranked Buckeyes survived the first of several Big Ten road tests and won their third straight game since the Collapse at the Coliseum.

So, do the consensus Big Ten preseason favorites still hold that title?

"I guess you can say we are," Ohio State running back Chris 'Beanie' Wells said. "We are the defending Big Ten champions. We know it's going to be a tough, tough battle each and every week. We're just preparing ourselves for that.

"I really don't know what it says to whoever or what team."

Ohio State made a statement, even after an all-too familiar start. As they have in several other mega matchups, including the last two BCS title games, Ohio State jumped out to an early lead, only to see it slip away because of turnovers, missed assignments and wasted opportunities.

But this time, Ohio State didn't melt down, twice erasing Wisconsin leads in the second half to win the game.

"You score early and you kind of expect to just keep going," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "And when it doesn't, guys really buckled down and said, 'Hey, forget about the things that happened the play before. The next play is the most important.' The guys really did that tonight."

Laurinaitis noted that road wins against Texas and Washington "catapulted" the Buckeyes to the BCS title game the last two seasons. Their chances of a third consecutive trip are extremely slim, but Saturday night's comeback preserved hope for an unprecedented third consecutive outright Big Ten title.

Ohio State still must travel to Michigan State, Illinois and Northwestern, but it hosts Penn State on Oct. 25 in a game that could decide the league title. It's a taxing stretch, but one that looks a bit easier after the team cleared a huge hurdle at Camp Randall Stadium.

"It does give them confidence that you keep grinding it and keep trying and keep hanging in there and don't let the adversity get you down that, you know, sometimes good things happen," head coach Jim Tressel said. "I didn't see any quit in them. I didn't see any big eyeballs like, 'Oh, my gosh, this is loud and we're in trouble.'

"They played as hard as they could, and we were fortunate."

Wisconsin's BCS dreams dashed

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
1:41
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Andy Manis
 Lance Kendricks and the Badgers will likely miss out on a BCS bowl berth following a 20-17 loss to Ohio State on Saturday.

MADISON, Wis. -- Jaevery McFadden sighed as soon as the three letters were brought up, the ones that have dogged the Wisconsin football program despite sustained success since 1999.

A BCS bowl berth had been Wisconsin's top goal entering the season, and for good reason. The Badgers are one of only three FBS teams to play January bowl games in each of the last four years. But unlike the other two programs, USC and West Virginia, Wisconsin has fallen just short of the big bowls.

After dropping consecutive games to begin Big Ten play, the Badgers' BCS bugaboo likely will continue.

"A lot of stuff has just got to go our way," said McFadden, the junior linebacker who had eight tackles a fumble recovery in Saturday night's 20-17 loss to Ohio State. "We can't control what everybody else does. Honestly, we could control the last two losses we had.

"We had 'em, and we let 'em go."

Last week, Wisconsin experienced "extreme disappointment," according to head coach Bret Bielema, after blowing a 19-point halftime lead and falling to an inferior Michigan team in Ann Arbor. The Badgers lost their edge on defense in the fourth quarter, couldn't run the ball in the second half and wasted opportunities in the red zone.

Saturday night brought a different sort of distress. Wisconsin played well in many areas.

All-American H-Back/tight end Travis Beckum ignited the offense with six receptions for 60 yards. Redshirt freshman running back John Clay continued to showcase his immense talents with 69 rushing yards on only 10 carries. The defense made Chris "Beanie" Wells and the Ohio State ball-carriers pay the price on every play.

"I've never been in a football game where I was constantly getting hit hard, every play," Wells said. "It was incredible."

But when the Badgers needed a stop, they couldn't get one, as Terrelle Pryor led Ohio State on the game-winning 80-yard scoring drive. Wisconsin saw its 16-game home win streak end and dropped a night game for the first time under Bielema.

"It's a different disappointment," McFadden said. "We had the game. It's down to the last two minutes. This was ours, man, and we let it down the drain."

The most painful memory for Wisconsin will undoubtedly be Pryor's game-winning 11-yard touchdown run.

After marching down the field with passes, Ohio State switched into an option set, which confused Wisconsin. McFadden thought he saw a late Buckeyes substitution.

The bottom line? Wisconsin wasn't ready.

"Obviously there wasn't anybody in position to tackle the quarterback," Bielema said.

McFadden's recollection confirmed the chaos.

"Honestly, I didn't know what to do," McFadden said. "It was real fast, whatever. I didn't know what to do, and the next thing you know, it was a touchdown."

Wisconsin has maintained a "1-0 mentality" ever since Bielema became head coach in 2006. The philosophy will be tested next week as No. 6 Penn State comes to town.

The first team ever to begin Big Ten play with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State is facing a daunting scenario.

"We're definitely in a hole," McFadden said. "We don't want to start 0-3. It is what it is.

"We have Penn State next week and we've got to go at it."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Andy Manis
 Terrell Pryor's 11-yard touchdown run with 1:08 remaining gives Ohio State a 20-17 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday.

MADISON, Wis. -- In the euphoria of Ohio State's dramatic 20-17 win over Wisconsin, Terrelle Pryor caught up with James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins in the tunnel outside the visitors' locker room.

Ohio State's freshman front man had a message for the senior stars.

"We're giving him a hug and he says, 'I'm fighting for you guys,'" Laurinaitis said. "He cares about these guys that are older and the history of Ohio State. He cares about his future and he wants to be a big part of that."

Pryor took a big step toward solidifying the team's future Saturday night at Camp Randall Stadium. The 81,608 on hand witnessed a coronation in the final 6:26, a true freshman quarterback doing things that true freshman quarterbacks aren't supposed to do.

With Ohio State trailing 17-13 against a team that doesn't lose at home (16 straight wins) or at night (11 straight wins, six at home), Pryor took the field for a drive that won't soon be forgotten. In case the pressure wasn't strong enough already, Pryor's backfield mate Chris "Beanie" Wells turned up the heat.

"Beanie said, 'You're in a man's world. This is what it is. So are you gonna be a man or a kid?'" Pryor recalled.

According to his birth certificate, Pryor is still a kid, a few months past his 19th birthday. But he answered Wells and the rest of the country a few minutes later, when he scooted into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with 1:08 left in the game.

Recapping Pryor's heroics on the final drive:

  • On third-and-6 from the Buckeyes' 24-yard line, he found Brian Hartline over the middle for 19 yards on what head coach Jim Tressel called his third read.
  • On second-and-15 from the Buckeyes' 38-yard line, Pryor again found Hartline, again on the third read, this time for 27 yards.
  • On third-and-1 from the Wisconsin 15-yard line, Pryor plunged forward for the first down.
  • Two plays later, Pryor ran the option, recognized the cornerback drifting to Wells, kept the ball and darted into the end zone.

"I told him he's going to take a step into manhood right now,'" Wells said. "He told me he was ready for it and he capped it off with a touchdown.

"Once he pulls it down, I mean, it's a sight to see."

(Read full post)

Terrelle Pryor's 11-yard touchdown run with 1:08 remaining gives No. 14 Ohio State the 20-17 win over No. 18 Wisconsin.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin regained the lead thanks to the re-emergence of reserve running back John Clay, who gained 15 yards on his first carry of the second half after being inexplicably benched for the third quarter. The Badgers completed another powerful drive with P.J. Hill's 2-yard touchdown run.

It's time to see what Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor is all about. He needs to rally his team to victory in the fourth quarter on the road in a hostile environment. Should make for good theater.

I'm heading down to the field. Check back for updates.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- The place is shaking, the game is tied and this one will be decided in the final 15 minutes.

Ohio State players are jumping around with the Wisconsin students.

Pretty cool.

If you like defense, you liked the third quarter. Neither team could get much going on offense, and there are some questions for both sides. Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells had a 54-yard gain on Ohio State's first play of the second half but didn't touch the ball much more.

Wisconsin had some success with reserve running back John Clay in the first half but didn't use him in the third quarter. The Badgers had only 27 total yards in the quarter.

Not good.

The only score came on a Ryan Pretorius field goal after Ohio State stalled inside the Badgers' 10-yard line.

Buckeyes freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor still looks a bit hesitant on some throws, and he doesn't throw the ball away when he needs to. But the freshman has limited mistakes and has the capability of breaking a long run at any time.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin marching band is missing a good one. They're playing the alma mater on a recording as I type this.

The Badgers have stormed back in the second quarter, while Ohio State continues its troubling pattern of scoring first in big games before droping off. After taking heat for his play-calling last week at Michigan, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is pulling the right strings tonight. Wisconsin mounted a masterful 15-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that ate up 8:16, and it did so without starting left tackle Gabe Carimi (knee, will not return). Of course, it helps to have an All-American (H-back Travis Beckum) at full strength again. Beckum has four receptions for 43 yards.

Wisconsin also is wisely getting redshirt freshman running back John Clay more carries. Clay runs like he's angry, and defenders pay the price. He's not quite a change-up from P.J. Hill, but he gives defenses a slightly different look. Quarterback Allan Evridge looked shaky early but has made some big plays, including a 35-yard strike to Kyle Jefferson to set up a field goal just before halftime.

It's hard to know what to make of Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes' offense. Pryor is immensely talented and can do wonders on the move, but he also missed a wide open receiver on a key second down and took a huge sack. The Buckeyes haven't helped themselves with two turnovers, neither of which was Pryor's fault. Wisconsin has regained the defensive intensity it showed early on against Michigan. Cornerback Allen Langford has been fabulous, and safety Jay Valai put a huge hit on Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher, forcing a fumble in Badgers territory.

Expect more Chris "Beanie" Wells (66 rush yards) in the second half.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Ohio State might be the most hated team in America, but there's a lot to like about the new-look offense featuring Terrelle Pryor and Chris "Beanie" Wells.

The Buckeyes have mixed up their formations, going from the I-formation to the shotgun spread to the pistol. They scored their lone touchdown in the pistol, with Wells lined up next to Pryor and Dan Herron as the deep back. An Ohio State beat writer told me that while the team has used the pistol before, this marked the first time Wells has lined up next to Pryor. It worked on a 33-yard touchdown run, as Wells pushed aside Shane Carter on his way to the end zone.

Wisconsin is staying close thanks to its defense, which has forced Pryor into some tough situations. Cornerback Allen Langford made a great athletic play to intercept a deep ball to Brandon Saine, and a blitz brought down Pryor for a huge loss. Though the Badgers are having trouble bringing down Pryor on first contact, they're swarming nicely.

Wisconsin's offense hasn't done much (55 total yards). H-back/tight end Travis Beckum is playing but has yet to make an impact. After a third-down overthrow, quarterback Allan Evridge and Beckum were talking about a possible mix-up. Evridge seems out of sync (2-for-5 passing).

It has been a bit weird without a marching band here. Wisconsin students were allowed into the seats usually occupied by the band just before kickoff, and they've been pumping in music like a NFL game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- After weaving my way through the debauchery on Regent Street, I have arrived safely at band-less Camp Randall Stadium, where No. 18 Wisconsin hosts No. 14 Ohio State later tonight (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).

As usual, there's a great atmosphere around the stadium tonight. There's definitely a strong police presence here, in preparation for what surely will be an all-night party in Mad-town. I'm all for good times, but I hope everyone follows this fabulously headlined editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Ohio State enters the game at 4-1, having won consecutive games since its collapse at USC. The Buckeyes haven't played here since 2003, when they fell 17-10 and saw their 19-game win streak snapped. All eyes will be on freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, as he makes his first career road start in a raucous setting. Pryor and running back Chris "Beanie" Wells have given a stale offense a fresh look, combining the traditional power run game with elements of the spread.

Wisconsin was supposed to come in at 4-0, but the Badgers blew a 19-point halftime lead last week at Michigan and fell, 27-25. The loss takes a little luster off what had been billed as the Big Ten's premier matchup, but Wisconsin can make a statement with a win. The Badgers have won 16 consecutive home games and six straight contests at night. Junior running back P.J. Hill (112.3 rush yards per game) leads the offense, and Wisconsin also will be looking for big things from All-American H-back/tight end Travis Beckum, who should be close to full strength for the game. The Badgers defense ranks 30th nationally in scoring (17 ppg) and is led by linebackers DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas.

Both teams will try to run the ball, but it could come down to the better passing game. Pryor needs to attack a vulnerable Badgers secondary and find wideouts Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline and possibly DeVier Posey. Beckum could be a huge factor in the red zone for Wisconsin, which has been plagued by dropped passes from its wide receivers for some time.

I'll have more updates later, so check back throughout the night.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin will not have a replacement band at tonight's game against Ohio State after its marching band was suspended from performing. The school sent out a ticket notification stating that 350 student tickets are now available for the game "due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances." The notification did not mention the band's suspenion. 

The tickets are complimentary and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the north practice field at Camp Randall Stadium. 

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