COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Points off of turnovers have been a key cog in Wisconsin's formula for success this season. But in Saturday's 31-13 shellacking at the hands of Ohio State, it was their bane.
The Buckeyes returned two interceptions from junior quarterback Scott Tolzien for touchdowns and added a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to dominate a Wisconsin team that only allowed 10 points on defense.
""Anytime you give Ohio State at Columbus 21 points without our defense being on the field, you don't have a very good chance at winning the football game,"" said head coach Bret Bielema.
Although Wisconsin outgained Ohio State 368-184 and had possession of the ball for nearly 43 minutes to Ohio State's 17, poor blocking and costly penalties ultimately killed the Badgers' chances of starting 6-0 for the first time since 2004.
Tolzien was sacked six times, four more times than he had been all season prior to Saturdays' game, and struggled to find any consistency under the constant pressure of the tenacious Ohio State defense. However, it was Tolzien's two interceptions, both of which he threw with Buckeye defenders in his face, that put Wisconsin in a hole it was never able to climb out of.
After the game, the junior quarterback refused to make excuses for the first poor performance of his young collegiate career.
""The easy thing would be to say is the line could have been more solid, but what I can control is making better decisions, being better in the pocket and being better with the reads,"" Tolzien said.
Junior guard John Moffitt said the Wisconsin offensive line failed to win its one-on-one battles against Buckeye defenders, thus making Tolzien's job that much harder.
""I think the big thing was not finishing,"" Moffitt said. ""We need to finish drives and put as many yards up on the board, but what it all comes down to is putting points up on the board too and I think that was the issue today.""
Tolzien's struggles were also compounded by seven penalties setting the offense back 60 yards, often halting momentum and putting them out of scoring position more than once.
The Badgers only penetrated the Ohio State 35-yard line five times the entire game and, with the exception of junior defensive back Chris Maragos' 9-yard touchdown scamper on a fake field goal, came out with just six points on two Phillip Welch field goals.
The defense, led by senior defensive end O'Brien Schofield, succeeded in containing Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor both on the ground and through the air. But because the unit was on the field for less than a third of the game, it's hard to say it had a substantial impact on the outcome of the game.
The loss was Bielema's third straight versus Ohio State, and he remains winless against the Buckeyes in his four-year tenure as head coach.
Bielema and the Badgers will need to have a short memory this week, as Kirk Ferentz and the undefeated no. 11 Iowa Hawkeyes visit Camp Randall Stadium for a homecoming showdown Saturday.