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2002 Rewind: Bucks Nip The Badgers

EDITOR’S NOTE – This season marks the 10-year anniversary of Ohio State’s 2002 national championship season. We will share stories on all 14 of OSU’s wins that season, including this look at the win over Wisconsin. That game was played exactly 10 years ago today on Oct. 19, 2002.

Michael Jenkins vs. Wisconsin

It was a game Ohio State and its fans had been pointing to for a long time.

The general sentiment went something like this, "Sure, you could be 7-0, but then you have to go to Madison."

And, OSU's Oct. 19 visit to Wisconsin -- for the Badgers' Homecoming game, no less -- proved to be one sticky wicket.

But the fourth-ranked Buckeyes rallied for a fourth-quarter touchdown and took a hard fought 19-14 win over the Badgers before 79,729 at Camp Randall Stadium.

"You knew it was going to be a battle up here in Madison, Wis.," said OSU coach Jim Tressel, whose team improved to 8-0 overall and 3-0 in Big Ten play. "I thought our guys played all the way. They played the 60 minutes they need to play and kept finding ways to hang in there and succeed and stop them."

OSU won for the third time this season after trailing at halftime, this time by a margin of 14-13. Just as in the previous wins over Washington State and Cincinnati, it was a strong defensive effort and a handful of big offensive plays that spelled the difference.

On offense, OSU struck for three pass plays in excess of 40 yards. Included in those were a 47-yard touchdown from Craig Krenzel to Michael Jenkins that opened the scoring and a 45-yard strike with the same combo that set up OSU's game-winning touchdown.

"We felt like we had to strike with some big ones if we were going to have a chance to beat them," Tressel said.

Maurice Clarett vs. Wisconsin

Krenzel had another fine performance, completing 12 of 19 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns. Jenkins finished with five catches for 114 yards and the one score.

"This was a big win to come into Camp Randall," said Krenzel, who threw the 3-yard game winner to tight end Ben Hartsock with 9:59 left. "They are a physical team and it's a tough place to play."

Tailback Maurice Clarett established a new OSU freshman record with his sixth 100-yard game in seven appearances. He finished with 133 yards on 30 carries. That showing lifted his season rushing total to 980 yards.

The OSU defense also came up huge. After allowing UW to gash them for 204 first-half yards, the Buckeyes slammed the door in the second half.

UW netted just 41 yards on 21 second-half rushing attempts.

"We knew we had to stop the run," said OSU defensive end Kenny Peterson. "We tried our best to do that. We made some mistakes, but we got after it in the second half."

Wisconsin tailback Anthony Davis had 144 yards on 25 carries, including a 41-yard touchdown run.

OSU knocked starting quarterback Brooks Bollinger out of the game in the second quarter. Backup Jim Sorgi, who finished 7 of 15 for 137 yards with a touchdown, led the Badgers on a drive to take the lead just before halftime.

But he left a fourth-quarter pass short and OSU's Chris Gamble, a receiver by trade doubling as an emergency red zone cornerback, easily intercepted it to thwart a UW threat with 7:09 left.

"We were defeated by a very good football team today," said Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, whose Badgers (5-3, 0-3) dropped their third straight game.

"No one likes to lose, yet I thought we showed improvement. I like the way my guys competed. They made a couple of more plays than we did," he said.

As It Happened

The Buckeyes had the ball to open the game and moved 75 yards in a quick three plays to open the scoring.

Clarett got everything rolling on the first play from scrimmage. He went left, then cut back for a 25-yard gain to midfield. Then, Gamble picked up 3 yards on a reverse. Finally, Krenzel took a shotgun snap and threw to Jenkins on a quick slant. The play caught UW with eight men in the box as Jenkins was gone for the 47-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 1:30 into the game.

"Early in the game, that was a great play," Jenkins said. "I know they didn't give us another slant after that, but it was good to hit them with it early in the game like that."

"The look we gave them, we were spread out," Krenzel said. "We had three receivers to the right and two to the left. They were trying to play man to man on Mike and Chris' side. That's two tough guys to play man on. Mike ran a good route, I got the ball there, and he did the rest."

Wisconsin answered with a three-play, 66-yard scoring drive of its own on its second possession. Davis ripped off a 20-yard run to open the possession. Bollinger then hit fullback Matt Bernstein for a 5-yard gain. Finally, Davis took an inside handoff out of the shotgun, cut outside to the right and avoided OSU safety Donnie Nickey on a 41-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 7-7 with 5:49 left in the first quarter.

Ohio State then moved 70 yards in eight plays, but could not find the end zone. The key play was Krenzel's 48-yard play-action pass to Gamble, who was free behind the UW secondary but stumbled and fell at the Badgers' 32. OSU had a first down at the UW 14 after Gamble, who finished with three catches for 65 yards, made a sliding grab of a Krenzel pass.

But Clarett was subsequently slammed for a 2-yard loss and Krenzel's third-down pass to Jenkins fell incomplete when the receiver slipped. Mike Nugent came on and hit a 27-yard field goal -- giving him the OSU record for consecutive made field goals at 16 -- to put the Buckeyes up 10-7 with 2:48 left in the first quarter.

The Buckeyes then got a huge break as Bollinger fumbled a center exchange and OSU's Mike Doss recovered at the UW 32 with 1:55 left in the first quarter.

But, again, the Buckeyes could only muster a field goal. Clarett had an 11-yard run and Krenzel found fullback Brandon Schnittker for an 11-yard gain and a first down at the UW 7. But Clarett got no gain on first down, Krenzel was sacked for a 1-yard loss on second down and Krenzel's third-down pass to Jenkins was behind him incomplete.

Nugent's chip shot 25-yard field goal extended the OSU lead to 13-7 with 13:14 left in the first half.

Bollinger left the game after UW's next series. He was smacked hard by OSU's blitzing linebacker Cie Grant, then again a play later as OSU linemen Simon Fraser and David Thompson combined on a sack.

With Bollinger out and backup Sorgi in, the Badgers accentuated the running game on their next possession. Davis had runs of 13 and 11 yards to open the drive and give Sorgi some breathing room. Finally, on third-and-9 from the OSU 42, he dropped and threw a post pass to Jonathan Orr. Orr hauled the ball in at the 5 and took OSU cornerback E.J. Underwood with him into the end zone on the 42-yard touchdown.

Mike Allen's PAT kick gave the Badgers their first lead at 14-13 with 1:55 left in the first half.

The teams traded punts to open the second half before OSU received another huge break. UW punter R.J. Morse took a high snap and, under pressure from OSU's Darrion Scott, could not get his kick away. OSU's Simon Fraser swarmed in and tackled Morse at the UW 42 with 6:06 left in the third quarter.

OSU came away with nothing, though, as two Clarett runs netted 6 yards and Krenzel's third-down pass was tipped incomplete by UW's Darius Jones. The Buckeyes had to punt the ball away.

The Buckeyes finally got into gear early in the fourth quarter, even though it took a desperation 45-yard heave from Krenzel to Jenkins on third-and-6 from the OSU 16. Jenkins went up and took the ball away from UW's B.J. Tucker and Brett Bell.

"We really needed that play," Jenkins said. "They had been double teaming me at times and we just took a shot deep. The line gave Craig a chance to set his feet and throw and I was able to go up and make a big catch."

Krenzel then kept the ball for a 16-yard gain and a first down at the UW 15. A pair of 6-yard Clarett runs gave the Buckeyes first-and-goal at the 3. Krenzel faked a pitch and threw to tight end Ben Hartsock on the back side for the 3-yard touchdown. That capped a nine-play, 88-yard drive and gave OSU a 19-14 lead with 9:59 left.

"That play was a carbon copy of the one San Jose State used to beat us," Hartsock said. "We decided to borrow it. I ran the route, and they hadn't gotten adjusted to it. I saw the ball in the air and said, 'Time to make it or break it.' "

"That was just a little naked route," Krenzel added. "We tried to get the flow going one way and we had Ben in the flat. I saw Ben out there and I was able to flip it out to him before I got hit."

OSU then opted to go for a two-point conversion. Krenzel seemed indecisive as he faked a handoff, then tried to run for it before throwing high and incomplete for tight end Ryan Hamby in the back of the end zone. Still, OSU clung to a five-point advantage.

Once again, Sorgi found third-down magic. Facing third-and-11 on the UW 30, he threw deep to Orr on a post pattern. The freshman beat OSU's Harlen Jacobs, who had replaced Underwood, for the 42-yard gain and a first down at the OSU 28.

But Sorgi's third-down success ran out. On third-and-11 at the OSU 29, he threw down the left sideline. But his pass was short and OSU's Gamble, subbing in on defense, easily intercepted it for a touchback with 7:09 left.

"We had a safety blitz," said Gamble, who made a similar late-game pick in the win over Cincinnati. "They told me to play man. I read the receiver's eyes. I saw the ball in the air and I attacked it."

The win was far from clinched, though. OSU punter Andy Groom uncorked a 74-yard punt for a touchback that helped change the field position with 5:31 left.

Wisconsin then went three-and-out on its final possession as Sorgi threw twice incomplete.

OSU got the ball back with 4:29 left and, behind the determined running of Clarett, never gave it back after converting a pair of first downs.

Game Notes

* The win was the 150th of Tressel's career. His record stands at 150-62-2 in his 17th year as a coach, including 15-5 at OSU.

"It is a round number," Tressel said. "I haven't thought a lot about it, being right in the middle of it (the season). But I know I'm glad we got it. I'll remember the 150th win."

* OSU avoided a loss in its fourth straight trip to Madison, dating to a 1992 defeat. The teams tied in 1993, before OSU won in 1995 and 2000.

OSU is now 50-15-5 all-time against Wisconsin, including 23-9-2 in Madison.

* OSU converted on all three of its trips inside the red zone (two field goals, one touchdown), giving the Buckeyes a 34-of-36 mark in that category this season.

* The crowd was the largest at Camp Randall Stadium this year and fifth-largest in stadium history.

Next Up: The Buckeyes hosted Penn State on Oct. 26, 2002.

Previous Installments

2002 Rewind: OSU vs. Texas Tech

2002 Flashback: OSU vs. Kent State

2002 Flashback: OSU vs. Washington State

2002 Flashback: OSU vs. Cincinnati

2002 Flashback: OSU vs. Indiana

2002 Flashback: OSU vs. Northwestern

2002 Flashback: OSU vs. San Jose State

Relive The Memories

You can still purchase our book on the 2003 Ohio State-Miami (Fla.) Fiesta Bowl, "The Greatest Game Ever Played," directly on eBay with a credit card.

You can click here for more details on the book, including sample pages of the cover, table of contents, my introduction and the chapter on the pivotal second overtime.

To order directly online, click this link for eBay.

Or you may send a check or money order for $20 ($17 for the book, $3 for shipping) to:

Steve Helwagen
P.O. Box 34
Pataskala, OH 43062
Allow 2 weeks for shipping.

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