COLUMBUS - There are already far too many statistics in football, but maybe they should add one more stat to the post-game ledger to properly credit Ohio State's defense for the way it performed in the 31-13 win over Wisconsin Saturday.
That was a save by the Buckeyes' defense, and a more legitimate save than some we see in baseball, where often the work is more housekeeping in nature.
What the Ohio State defense did was the preservation of life - the Buckeyes' Big Ten life, and their hopes of winning a fifth straight Big Ten championship. It was the football version of CPR, with multiple applications of the defibrillators.
On an afternoon when the Ohio State offense spent most of its limited time on the field flopping and floundering like a porpoise tossed on the beach at high tide, the Buckeyes' defenders worked doubletime and never wavered. Ohio State got 14 points off interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, and sacked Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien six times.
"They're very good, and we knew that coming in," said Wisconsin coach Brent Bielema, who added that the stress applied by the OSU defensive line had a lot to do with the interceptions. "Our guys got overwhelmed. Up front, just their ability to get pressure with four, or sometimes five guys. If they didn't get to Scotty, they were definitely in his face."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel credited his defense with putting Tolzien, who entered the game as the Big Ten's most efficient quarterback, under a constant threat of impending impact.
"There were some times where he was under amazing duress and he still delivered the ball, and there were also some times where he didn't have a chance, and our guys were relentless," Tressel said.
The Buckeyes had 10 tackles for loss in the game, and held the Big Ten's best rusher, John Clay, to just 59 yards on 20 carries. Clay is an upright appliance of a running back at 6-1 and 248 pounds, and was averaging 5.2 yards per carry as the Badgers jumped out to a 5-0 start this season. He got less than three yards per carry against the Buckeyes on Saturday.
"I thought we attacked. We didn't sit back and just wait for them, we attacked at the line," Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said. "We just kept getting guys to the ball."
There were plenty of opportunities to do that, as Wisconsin ran 89 offensive plays in the game, with Ohio State getting just 40. The Badgers had the ball for almost 43 minutes, to just 17 for the Buckeyes.
OSU middle linebacker Brian Rolle had a career-best 14 tackles in the game, while running mate Ross Homan had 15, with a pair of sacks. Rolle said the Buckeyes' defenders were anxious to square off with Wisconsin, a team known for its preference to use a power running attack.
"That's what I like to do - it's physical, downhill and with no trickery - they're going to run the ball at you and you just have to stop them," Rolle said.
On a day when Wisconsin used that huge advantage in the time of possession to double Ohio State in offensive output (368 yards to 184), the Buckeyes dominated despite scoring just one offensive touchdown. The two interception returns for scores, Ray Small's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and a 37-yard Aaron Pettrey field goal accounted for the rest of the OSU points.
"Sometimes you're not always going to get the best performance from your offense, so the defense and the special teams have to step up," Heyward said. "When you get that, you're going to have some success."
Ohio State's Homan was honored as the Big Ten's defensive player of the week for his part in the win over Wisconsin.
Contact Matt Markey at: