Wisconsin turns attention to No. 1 Ohio StateBy COLIN FLY, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Oct 10, 2010
MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Wisconsin lineman John Moffitt received an unusual request running down the field carrying Paul Bunyan’s Axe. A photographer wanted him to slow down for a picture.
Moffitt kept going. The way Moffitt and the offensive line dominated in their win over Minnesota, no one could blame him. The group’s forward momentum will be key when the 18th-ranked Badgers host No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday night.
“He said, ‘Slow down,’ and I’m not going to slow down,” Moffitt said. “I’m the athlete.”
The Badgers (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) addressed many of their perceived problems by pushing around Minnesota (1-5, 0-2) in a 41-23 win that sets up a showdown with the Buckeyes.
The offense was efficient and the Badgers’ defense held Minnesota to just nine points until the game was well out of reach.
Now, Wisconsin puts its 25-3 record in the last 28 night games on the line.
One of those losses came in 2008 to Ohio State, when Terrelle Pryor scored on an 11-yard run with 1:08 left to give the Buckeyes a 20-17 victory.
“Playing at night is going to be awesome,” linebacker Mike Taylor said.
So is the push the offensive line has given the Badgers.
The group averages 320 pounds and has nine players who’ve started at least one game. Sometimes 318-pounder Bill Nagy lines up at tight end and 307-pounder Ryan Groy is at fullback.
“Everybody wants to turn their attention to the backs, but for us, our offensive line is the key to our success. Even going back to fall camp, those guys really established a leadership role,” Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. “At other schools, people put five wide in the game because they’ve got five wide receivers. At Wisconsin, we put seven O-linemen in the game because we’ve got a lot of good O-linemen.”
Against the Gophers, Scott Tolzien wasn’t sacked and the Badgers lost a total of 3 yards all day, finishing with 473 yards of total offense on 69 plays.
“It all starts with the big guys up front. They never get enough credit and quite frankly I don’t think they’d want it any other way,” Tolzien said.
Reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year John Clay ran for 111 yards and three touchdowns on 21 attempts. Freshman James White added 118 yards and scored twice on 19 carries.
“That means we did our job,” Moffitt said. “If we’re moving the ball, then the offensive line is executing.”
Wisconsin also went 7 of 9 on third down a week after going 3 of 13 in a loss at Michigan State and scored on all six of its red zone opportunities thanks to the beefy boys up front.
“I think we just have too many fat guys. I think that’s the problem,” Moffitt quipped. “There’s just a lack of skinny guys.”
Meanwhile, Minnesota saw another chance to regain the Axe pass, but not before an angry ending when Bielema decided to go for a 2-point conversion leading by 25 with 6:39 left.
“I know when Wisconsin comes back to Minnesota next, it’s something to remember for these younger guys,” said Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber, who’ll graduate without ever touching the trophy. “That’s what keeps rivalries going. That’s what fuels you because there’s bad feelings between everybody.”
Wisconsin knows about bad feelings, too, after two frustrating losses to the Buckeyes.
In 2008, Pryor’s big TD run sealed the Buckeyes’ rally, and last year, Wisconsin dominated statistically but lost in Columbus because of a kick return and two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
Now the Badgers get another chance to foil the Buckeyes’ big plans and have faith in their offensive line to lead the way.
“Great players step up in big games, and we just have to come out and be ready to play,” Tolzien said. “We know they’re going to make their share of plays and we just need to be able to match that.”