On first take, I was ready to give every unit an F and be done with it. But after further examination, the Buckeye offense actually had the best day of all the units, and their response in the second half was the only thing keeping the team in the game. The offense ran 69 plays for 4.5 yards per play, totaling 311 yards. After a rough first half that found them down 21-3, the offense scored two consecutive touchdowns to start the second half, even converting a two point try to get the game within a field goal. After Wisconsin responded on their next drive with a touchdown, the Buckeyes were now done two scores with around six minutes left in the game. They were forced to enter hurry-up passing mode, and they failed to score.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor had a below average day, but it was not as poor as I had originally believed. He only passed for 156 yards and a 50% completion percentage, but added 56 yards on the ground. He is certainly not worthy of special recognition for his play, but, unfortunately, he was far from the most pressing of Ohio State's issues.
I never imagined I'd be giving the defense a grade lower than a B in any game this season, but the performance against Wisconsin was beyond disappointing. Giving up 336 yards is not a negative in itself, but when you realize that the Badgers only ran 59 plays, and thus the Buckeyes gave up 5.7 yards per play, it's enough to force a man to drink. Heavily.
Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien was excellent, but it was the Badger rushing attack that set up a number of easy throws for him. The Buckeye defensive line's poor play allowed Wisconsin to rush for 4.3 yards per rush, with John Clay totaling 104 yards, breaking Ohio State's streak of 29 straight games without an opposing rusher reaching the century mark. Ohio State's slow defensive death also had the effect of limiting the opportunities for the offense; in fact, the Buckeye offense only had the ball four times in the entire first half.
Special Teams: F
Ohio State's special teams had been criticized the entire season for poor coverage on punts and kickoffs, but the issues had seemingly been fixed over the last two games. It only took twelve seconds on Saturday for that to be proven false. Wisconsin receiver David Gilreath returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, and it was an indication of things to come for the Badgers. This is the clearest and easiest category to grade, as it put Ohio State behind immediately, and affected the rest of the game after that. An already hyped Wisconsin crowd turned into a frenzy, and the Badgers were able to leverage the fast start into a lead for the rest of the game.
Freshman Drew Basil handled kickoff duties, and he struggled mightily the entire night. His short, line-drive kicks aided Wisconsin's returns and hurt the coverage unit's ability to get downfield. Of course, the coverage units inability to control their lanes is as much of an issue as the kick itself. Gilreath ran practically untouched on his touchdown return, and had multiple other returns for an unacceptable number of yards.
Ohio State's kick return units were simply average, and Wisconsin's punt unit did an excellent job, preventing the Bucks from returning a single punt. Senior placekicker Devin Barclay also missed a 45 yard field goal before halftime.
On a day where Ohio State was not at its best, the hideous special teams play assured the team a loss.
Player(s) of the Game: Dane Sanzenbacher and Dan "Boom" Herron
These two left their heart and soul out on the field on Saturday, and they were the only two worthy of special recognition.