Coming into yesterday’s game in Columbus, the Wisconsin Badgers‘ running game looked nigh unstoppable. The Badgers tried to lean on it again, but were unable to get any big runs and fell to Ohio State 31-24.
Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon came into the game averaging 156 yards rushing per contest and has run for seven touchdowns. The Buckeyes limited Gordon to just 74 yards and held him out of the end zone. As a team, the Badgers managed only 104 yards rushing, a far cry from their previous average of 349 yards coming into Columbus.
On the bright side for the Wisconsin offense, the passing game put up some good numbers. Quarterback Joel Stave went 20-34 for 295 yards and two touchdowns. Jared Abbrederis made trouble for the Buckeye defense all night, catching 10 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. The Badgers showed some potential for being able to stay in games even if they aren’t able to run the ball.
Where Stave and Abbrederis came up short though was on third down. In one-score games, the deciding factor is often which team wins on third downs. The Buckeyes won that battle. With the running game squelched, the Badgers were only able to convert three out of 12 third-down opportunities.
The defense actually performed better than it did in Wisconsin’s previous loss at Arizona State. The Badgers held Ohio State to under 400 yards of total offense and limited Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller to just 198 yards passing. While the four touchdowns Miller threw were still enough to beat a Badger offense that got outplayed by the Ohio State defense, it looks like the Wisconsin defense is working on getting better.
The message that this game sent to the rest of the opponents on Wisconsin’s schedule is that if you can contain Gordon and the Badgers running game, Wisconsin is beatable. However, that’s far easier said than done.
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