Badgers run out of gas, succumb to Barrett, No. 2 Ohio State

Ohio State looks like the best team in the loaded Big Ten, as the conference enters the final week of the regular season. 

Image By: Gage Meyer

Corey Clement is already done thinking about the Wisconsin Badgers’ (1-2 Big Ten, 4-2 overall) 30-23 overtime loss to the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0, 6-0) on Saturday night. Of course, he and his teammates will still go over the film from the game this week, but the senior running back sees no point in dwelling on the outcome.

“As soon as I leave this room, that’s when it ends and we turn the page,” he said after the game. “Now we look forward to Iowa. Now we’ve got to try and win out the rest of the season to get to the Big Ten Championship.”

With two losses on their record, the goals for this team aren’t changing. The four-team College Football Playoff is still in their sights as UW tries to build off of what they have been able to accomplish even in losing efforts in the last two games to top five opponents.

For one thing, the Badgers started to find their running game again. After averaging just 3.2 yards per carry in conference play to this point, Clement found his groove against the Buckeyes, taking 25 handoffs for 166 yards, sparked by a 68-yard sprint up the left sideline in the first quarter.

“I had to do my part and just allow myself to be patient and allow the holes to open up,” Clement said. “I just allowed the game to come to me, and it showed.”

Wisconsin’s defense also continued its dominance for much of this game. They were the first group this season to keep Ohio State out of the end zone in the first half, and through three quarters, they held one of the nation’s highest scoring offenses to just 13 points.

“What team wouldn’t be comfortable going in like that?” senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton said. “Especially the way we were rolling, knowing we were going to get the ball back in the second half.”

When the fourth quarter arrived, though, the Badgers were getting worn out, as their offense mustered just 11 total yards on 11 plays in the third. The Buckeyes took over the time of possession battle, and UW started running out of answers for junior Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.

There were many plays where it felt like Barrett was single-handedly taking down Wisconsin’s defense. The dual-threat passer finished with 21 rushes for 108 yards on top of his 226 yards through the air, and he made the Badgers’ defense look silly at times as he slipped through their tackles and picked up first downs.

“You put so much work into this and to not get what you want, it absolutely is a gut check,” redshirt junior outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. “We’re close. We’re real close.”

For the second straight game, that’s all anyone can really say about this team. They played the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines close and let it slip away. Then they get their redemption opportunity against the No. 2 team in the country and it’s the same story—close. Football isn’t horseshoes, but this one did feel more like a hand grenade.

“Nobody feels good about playing well and then coming up short,” a passionate Shelton said. “It doesn’t matter what happens if you have an ‘L’ in the column.”

The Badgers can’t afford to take any more ‘Ls’ this season. This team is now through the toughest part of its schedule on paper, and the players know that they have to win out to keep any playoff hopes alive.

An overtime loss to a championship contender isn’t changing Wisconsin’s outlook on the season. The Badgers are already moving on and focusing on doing all they can moving forward to stay in the mix.

“Anything is possible,” Clement said. “The way this year is panning out, teams are losing left and right, winning upsets, hopefully we’ll squeeze right back into it.”

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