Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 10/30/11
It's hard to believe that Wisconsin's football team could find a way to lose in such similarly devastating fashion in back-to-back weeks. First, it was the last-second, 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass against Michigan State a week ago. Then, on Saturday, it was a 40-yard touchdown strike from Ohio State with just 20 seconds remaining. Ohio State knocked off Wisconsin, 33-29, and all but ended the Badgers' hopes for a Rose Bowl berth. Handing out grades for Wisconsin's performance: Rushing offense: C As usual, Montee Ball put together a stellar game, this time against one of the toughest defenses in the country. Ball rushed 17 times for 85 yards with a touchdown. He also contributed a crucial 40-yard run that set up a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Jared Abbrederis in the fourth quarter. Ball has scored at least one touchdown in each of his last 14 games and has 36 total touchdowns over that span. But for as solid as Ball was, that's how ineffective the rest of Wisconsin's run game looked. Teammate James White has served as a nice complement to Ball this season, but White had his worst game of the season, rushing for just 16 yards on five carries. As a team, Wisconsin carried the ball 29 times for 89 yards, its worst total of the season. The Badgers had been ranked eighth in the country in rushing offense, at 252 yards per game. They slipped to 13th with Saturday's result and are now averaging 232 yards per game. Passing offense: A There really wasn't much more Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson could do. Not every drive can result in a touchdown, of course, and there were some slow moments in the middle quarters. But when Wilson needed to make magic happen, he did, twice leading the Badgers to touchdowns in the fourth quarter. His last touchdown, a 49-yard strike to Jared Abbrederis, gave Wisconsin the lead with 1:18 remaining in the game. Wilson finished the game 20 of 32 for 253 yards passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Dating back to his days at North Carolina State, Wilson has now thrown at least one touchdown pass in 32 straight games, four short of the NCAA record. This season, he already has thrown 19 touchdown passes, which is tied for the second-most in Wisconsin history. The record is 21, set by John Stocco in 2005. Wilson simply ran out of time on Saturday to produce one final memorable drive. Ohio State's game-winning touchdown occurred with just 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Wilson pushed the Badgers to Ohio State's 45-yard line after a facemask call, but his last heave was disrupted at the line of scrimmage and never made it downfield. Rushing defense: C - Buckeyes running back Dan Herron gashed the Badgers' run defense, carrying 33 times for 160 yards. And Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller kept that wound open, gaining 99 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns. Considering Miller passed the ball just four times in Ohio State's previous game against Illinois, Wisconsin should have known better than to allow him to run free. The Badgers never seemed to have any kind of handle on Miller, particularly on third-down scrambles. Miller is an athletic freshman, so he deserves some credit for making the Badgers look foolish at times. Still, Wisconsin possesses a veteran team on defense that should have kept its eyes on Miller at all times. Perhaps the Badgers' performance can be blamed on fatigue. Ohio State's time of possession was 35:48 -- 11 minutes more than Wisconsin -- mostly because of the Buckeyes' ability to run the ball. The Buckeyes ran the ball 58 times on Saturday. They passed just 12 times. Passing defense: B - Of all the quarterbacks Wisconsin will face this season, Braxton Miller poses the least threat to accomplish anything in the passing game. Against Illinois, he completed one of four passes for 17 yards. As a whole, the Badgers did a commendable job of bottling up Miller in the pass game. But for a second straight week, Wisconsin allowed the inexcusable, surrendering a touchdown in the final minute to lose the game. In this case, the Badgers' secondary bit hard when Miller rolled to his right out of the pocket with less than a minute remaining. Miller kept his eyes down field, ultimately connecting with Devin Smith, who snuck behind the entire Wisconsin secondary for a 40-yard touchdown reception with 20 seconds left. Miller finished the game 7 of 12 for 89 yards passing. His last completion should haunt Wisconsin's secondary for the rest of the season. Special teams: C The most glaring problem on Saturday in the special teams area was another blocked punt off the foot of Brad Nortman. The block wasn't his fault because he did not have enough time to kick the ball before Ohio State's Ryan Shazier came barreling toward him. The Buckeyes recovered the ball at the 1-yard line and scored a touchdown three plays later, giving them a 17-7 lead in the third quarter. But perhaps also unnoticed was that punt returner Jared Abbrederis gained just six yards on three return attempts. That is notable because Abbrederis entered the game leading the nation in punt return average at 22.3 yards per attempt. That 20-yard difference makes a huge difference in a game decided by just four points. Wisconsin also committed an error on its final kickoff, after the Badgers had taken a 29-26 lead. Ohio State's Jordan Hall returned the kickoff 42 yards, setting up Ohio State with great field positioning at its own 48 with 1:10 remaining in the game.
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