INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Behind a gutty performance from its senior quarterback and a stout defense, Ohio State claimed its 36th Big Ten Championship, defeating Wisconsin 27-21.
The Buckeyes gained 449 yards on the nation’s top defense which came into the game allowing just 236 yard per contest. OSU surpassed that total early in the second quarter.
The offensive performance was a compliment to Buckeye defense that stepped-up in key situations. The Badgers averaged 243 yards on the ground through the first 12 games and was slowed to just 60 on Saturday. Linebacker Jerome Baker made a game-high 16 stops including two tackles for loss and one sack.
Senior quarterback JT Barrett was 12-of-26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns and also gained 60 yards on the ground, many coming on key third and fourth down conversions. With the win, he passes Art Schlichter for most wins as a quarterback in OSU history. The Wichita Falls, Texas native is now 37-6 as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback.
Barrett handed the ball to freshman running back JK Dobbins 17 times and all he did was run for 174 yards en route to being named the Big Ten Championship Game Most Valuable Player. Dobbins now has 1,364 this year which surpasses Maurice Clarett’s previous OSU freshman running back record of 1,237 yards in 2002.
The scoring came fast and furious in the first quarter. After both teams traded punts to open the game, Barrett hit Terry McLaurin down the middle of the field for an 84-yard touchdown to put the Buckeyes up 7-0 midway through the first quarter. That was the longest play of the season for the Buckeyes and it was the longest play allowed by the Wisconsin defense this year.
Forcing another punt, the Buckeyes took over at its own 2-yard line and on the first play, Barrett’s pass was intercepted by Andrew Van Ginkel. He returned it nine yards for a score and just like that, it was tied 7-7.
Just four plays into the next drive, Paris Campbell took a screen pass from Barrett and got a block from Austin Mack that sprung him for a 54-yard score. That put OSU back in front 14-7.
The Buckeyes continued with the chuck plays at the onset of the second quarter as Dobbins made a nice jump cut and broke a 77-yard run down to the Wisconsin 1-yard line. Barrett punched it in on the next play to shove the lead to 21-7.
A Mike Weber fumble at the OSU 11-yard line with 5:33 to play in the second quarter set the Badgers up with a short field. But the Buckeye defense stood tall and forced a 28-yard field from Rafael Gaglianone to make it 21-10.
The Buckeyes looked for one more score before halftime but a field goal attempt as time expired was blocked and the teams headed to the locker room with OSU in front 21-10.
As fast as the scoring came in the first quarter, the third quarter was quite the opposite. Both teams could manage just a field goal and the Buckeyes carried a 24-13 lead into the fourth.
After another OSU turnover, Wisconsin went on an 11-play, 52-yard drive that spanned the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarter that was capped with a 1-yard Chris James TD run. The Badgers went for two following a delay to repair the turf in the endzone and the conversion was successful, knifing the OSU lead to 24-21 with 12:39 to play.
Barrett and the Buckeyes responded with a 15-play drive of their own but after one fourth down conversion, the drive stalled at the 3-yard line and Sean Nuernberger came on to convert a 20-yard field goal to extend the lead to 27-21 with just 5:14 left.
Putting the game in the hands of its defense, Ohio State held Wisconsin to just one first down before forcing a punt with 3:20 remaining. The Buckeyes took over at its own 12 yard line looking to run out the clock. But the Wisconsin defense forced a 3-and-out and the Badgers had another chance with just under three minutes to play.
Wisconsin generated a couple of first downs and advanced into OSU territory but a key holding penalty set the Badgers back and on 4th and 20, Horibrook’s pass was intercepted by Damon Webb and the Buckeyes would run out the clock for the title.