The Point of Attack Was the Point of Emphasis for the Buckeyes
By Tony Gerdeman
It wouldn't take a Hall of Famer to know that the Buckeyes beat the Badgers up front on Saturday night, but that doesn't mean that a couple of Hall of Famers weren't also quite a bit surprised by it.
Following Braxton Miller's 44-yard touchdown run with 4:39 left in the game—a score that almost everybody assumed had just sealed the contest—it was time to head down to the field from the press box.
Garrett Goebel (53) and Adam Bellamy (93) helped the OSU defense control the point of attack against the Badgers.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Waiting for the same elevator down to the field as everybody else was Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, and he didn't look exactly happy. A moment later former Ohio State head coach John Cooper arrived for the same elevator. They exchanged pleasantries before sharing their disbelief at what they had witnessed to that point.
Two members of College Football's Hall of Fame—men who had seen just about everything that can be seen in college football—and both were teetering on incredulity.
Cooper remarked that he couldn't believe how well Ohio State's defensive line was holding up. To that point Wisconsin had carried the ball 27 times for just 42 yards, so it was an easy stat line to marvel at.
“We just couldn't move them, and our guys are pretty good up front, but we couldn't move their defensive line,” said Alvarez, clearly admitting defeat in the face of the current facts.
The Ohio State plan of attack was simple—stop the run at all costs and try to limit the big plays through the air. Even with the two late Badger scores, the Buckeyes held Wisconsin to just 342 yards of total offense, including a paltry 89 yards on the ground.
“We really had to stop the run,” said linebacker Andrew Sweat. “I'm not sure how many rushing yards they had. I think before that one draw play we kept them in check pretty good.”
“Wisconsin is a great team with great players. We took a lot away from last year's game. They gashed us on the run and set up play-action passes. We knew we had to make them one dimensional because Russell Wilson and Montee Ball and the offensive line are just too good. Fortunately we were able to keep them in check rushing wise.”
“Ohio State is pretty good,” said Badgers' head coach Bret Bielema following the game.
“They were defeating some blocks and it was tough to get the edge on them I thought all day. We tried to get some plays going inside and outside, they're very, very good. They're a solid football team defensively.”
Because the focus was on the running game, the Buckeyes knew that they couldn't be passive and allow the Badgers to come to them—they had to be the ones who initiated the contact.
“We felt like we couldn't just sit there and let them combo block up to the next level and block the linebackers,” said defensive coordinator Jim Heacock.
“We felt like we would be better off if we attacked a little bit more, and I thought our front did a good job of getting off the ball and attacking them. They're very big offensive linemen and they're really good. They're a very talented offense, but I thought our guys just battled more than anything else.”
One of those guys who was in the muck battling with all comers was Johnathan Hankins, who finished with seven tackles. Amazingly, Hankins is currently second on the team in tackles with 43, and according to Heacock, he's just now beginning to tap into his potential.
“He's really an outstanding football player,” he said.
“Not only that, he's a great kid and competitor. He's a worker and a battler. He's just unbelievable. He can get really good. I think he's got a lot of upside yet. He's just now starting to believe in himself, and realizing that he might have a chance to be pretty good, and I think as he understands that more and more he'll get better and better.”
(52) helped make the point of attack a difficult place for Wisconsin
Photo by Jim Davidson
As for Hankins, he wasn't overly impressed. To him it was apparently just another day at the office.
“I think we all just did our assignment,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Once we do our assignments, we stop the run and we execute. It was all just doing our one-eleventh and believing in eachother. We felt confident that we would be able to stop the run, and we did.”
“They played really hard,” Heacock said.
“I'm very proud of them. I really am. I thought they played extremely hard. I knew they were going to. They prepared hard. I've got some great leadership in John Simon and Solomon Thomas. Those guys are competitors and winners, so I'm very proud of the way they played.
“I've been here 16 years now and we've played them (Wisconsin) a lot of years and they've gained a lot of yards on us in those years. I was happy. I thought our guys played the run well and we felt like we were doing a good job on that. We really felt going in that we had to make them one dimensional and I think our guys did a pretty good job of that."
There's very little doubt that Barry Alvarez would agree.
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