MADISON, Wisc. — On Saturday in Madison, the old saying "defense wins championships" rang oh, so, true.
Well, de facto championships, that is.
After Wisconsin forced overtime with a touchdown in the waning seconds of regulation, the Buckeyes easily moved the football across the chalk for the go ahead score on the opening series of the extra period, when tailback Carlos Hyde plunged through from two yards out.
The Buckeyes not only prevented the Badgers from scoring, they kept them from moving the chains, as safety Christian Bryant broke up a fourth down pass from Curt Phillips to Jacob Pederson to give Ohio State a 21-14 win and an outright Big Ten Leaders Division title.
"I’m honored to be the coach of an 11-0 Ohio State Buckeye team, especially one that’s very deserving," Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said.
Wisconsin will still be the Leaders Division participant in the Big Ten Championship game, due to the Buckeyes' post-season sanctions, which prohibit them from playing in a bowl game or a conference title.
Ohio State's offense had been carrying the team for most of the season, but on Saturday, it was the 'Silver Bullets' who can be attributed with the victory which kept the Buckeyes unbeaten.
“Our defense is really playing well," Meyer said. "You think about how far they’ve come and that’s a credit to a bunch of good people working as a coaching staff on defense and a bunch of players listening because that’s a good team. I think when we pressure guys we do a good job, so great effort.”
Senior defensive end John Simon and sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier were the catalysts for the Buckeyes' defensive prowess.
Simon, who was double-teamed most of Saturday's contest, recorded a career-high four sacks in the victory.
Shazier, who went over the 100-tackle mark in the contest — the most since Ross Homan in 2009 — tallied a game-high 12 stops (three for losses), including a huge forced fumble late in the fourth quarter when he punched the football out of the hands of a diving Montee Ball on the goal line, which was recovered by Bryant.
Shazier said his scouting report on the talented Wisconsin tailback (Ball) determined how he would play him down on the goal line.
"The thing that went through my mind is that somebody needs to make a play and I wasn’t waiting on anybody to make a play,” Shazier said. “I felt like the opportunity was going to come because I watched plenty of film on (Ball), and you know he’s scored plenty of touchdowns. I saw that when he gets around 1 or 2 yards he likes to jump, so once he jumped, I jumped and punched the ball out.”
Meyer said Shazier has transformed into a great Buckeye linebacker, something he didn't feel was the case early in the season.
“I think three times he’s been Big Ten defensive player of the week," Meyer said of Shazier. "I wouldn’t be surprised if he has another shot. I mean, that’s how well he’s playing.
"Really, if you watch the film from early in the year until now, he wasn’t a linebacker in his first few games. He was a guy running around out of control.”
Ball, who had 191 yards rushing in the defeat, scored the Badgers' first touchdown of the game in the second quarter when he leaped over a defender, landed on one foot and dived across the goal line for his All-Time NCAA-tying score.
However, the Badgers were only able to muster 169 total yards as team (other than Ball).
The Buckeyes got on the scoreboard first on Saturday, when junior receiver Corey "Philly" Brown returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown with 1:58 to play in the first quarter.
Moments later, the Buckeyes jumped to a 14-0 lead after going on a eight-play, 69-yard scoring drive, which was capped off by a Carlos Hyde touchdown run from 15 yards out.
Buckeyes star quarterback Braxton Miller had perhaps his worst game of the season Saturday, talllying just 145 total yards in the win, with just 21 coming the second half. The Badgers contained the athletic Heisman Trophy contender for most of the game by keeping him the pocket and making the Buckeye receivers dictate the outcome.
“All game we had done a good job of stopping Braxton Miller, I think as far as running went," Badgers defensive lineman Brendan Kelly said. "At third downs, especially, we put a little more speed in the game and moved some defensive ends to defensive tackles, so it definitely gave us an advantage to have that on the field. But in (overtime), with that hurry up tempo they were doing, it definitely hurt us.”
Hyde was the only OSU offensive player who did real damage on Saturday, rushing for 87 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries.
Meyer said not only does Hyde need more touches, the receivers must take pressure off the running game if they are to win their 12th in the season finale.
"We’re certainly not a finished product on offense and it showed, but to come down in that overtime and I thought Carlos Hyde ran (well). I think we need to give him the ball a little bit more ...
"We have to stretch. I can’t stand watching it and I’m sure people can't stand watching it when we just don’t have the vertical threat, we have to do that. A win’s a win ... not a great win. We just have work to do.”
It's officially "Michigan Week," and Meyer said that is all the Buckeyes are focusing on as soon as the plane lands in Columbus.
“This was a great game against a very good team that’s been to the Rose Bowl a bunch,” Meyer said. “(Wisconsin) is not our rival. The next one is. So when you use that ‘R-word,’ we’re talking about this week. We’re going to dive into it as soon as we get back.”
“We can talk about it now,” Meyer said. “We’ve kind of put a muzzle on it ... If you’re going to keep score, you want to be a champion. Our guys did that.
“But we all understand that’ll go on the shelf for a while for this one game (coming up).”
The Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) will host Michigan (8-3, 6-1) next Saturday at noon.