Last March, I wrote about how the Ohio State athletics’ program’s rivalry with Wisconsin has reached a new level since Buckeye Sports Bulletin started printing in 1981.
The column was written after the Badgers had knocked the football and men’s basketball programs from the ranks of the unbeaten in the span of a few months, and it was printed in advance of the Badgers’ return to Columbus for a late-season hoops showdown.
Ohio State won that game going away, dominating the Badgers by a 93-65 count that seemed to satisfy Buckeye fans sick of watching the Cardinal and White have their way with OSU.
Then came last year’s football showdown between the two schools when revenge was again served cold. Playing under the lights in Ohio Stadium, Wisconsin seemed on the verge of a stunning late comeback win over the Buckeyes until Braxton Miller hit Devin Smith with a now-famous touchdown pass to clinch a 33-29 win that at the time seemed to salvage OSU’s season and put the Buckeyes in the driver’s seat for a Big Ten Leaders Division title.
By the time the men’s hoops squad downed Wisconsin by a 58-52 score last year in Madison, it seemed the pendulum had swung back Ohio State’s way. That happiness lasted less than a month, though, as the Badgers ruined Ohio State’s Senior Day last year with a 63-60 victory thanks to Jared Berggren’s three-pointer in the last minute.
Those Badgers simply don’t go away, it appears, and the latest installment of what OSU players admit is a burgeoning rivalry will take place Saturday when the unbeaten Buckeyes travel to Camp Randall Stadium to take on the 7-3 Badgers.
Another potentially historic OSU season could be derailed against Wisconsin, one reason I’m reprinting this story. In addition, there are a few more games that should be added to the list of OSU frustrations vs. the Badgers.
I focused on the BSB era in the original list of difficult Wisconsin defeats of the Buckeyes, but in truth, the story goes back exactly seven decades. In 1942, Ohio State was ranked the No. 1 gridiron team in the country at 5-0 going to Madison for an Oct. 31 game against the No. 6 Badgers. In that one, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch threw for a touchdown pass and had a long run that set up another score as the Badgers posted a 17-7 win in front of a rowdy home crowd. That game became known as the “Bad Water Game” as numerous Ohio State players battled a stomach virus thought to have been caused by an unsanitary drinking fountain.
The loss dropped OSU to sixth in the country, but the Paul Brown- and Gene Fekete-led squad clawed back and won its last four games to claim the school’s first national championship.
It’s also fair to say the basketball rivalry goes back 50 years as well, to a time the Badgers ended the Buckeyes’ 47-game regular-season winning streak. When Wisconsin upset the top-ranked Buckeye cagers in 2011, it was the program’s second-ever win against a No. 1-ranked OSU team, following a similar victory in 1962. The Buckeyes went 26-2 that year, losing only two games – a 71-59 final to Cincinnati in the national title game and an 86-67 game at Wisconsin on March 3. Donald Hearden had 29 points for the Badgers on 14-of-23 shooting while Kenneth Siebel had 22 and Thomas Hughbanks had a double-double. Jerry Lucas had 23 and 15 for Ohio State.
In other words, Wisconsin has a long history of playing spoiler – or even worse – against the Buckeyes.
Will that continue on Saturday? Time will tell, but in the meantime, check out my original list of painful, recent Wisconsin victories over the Buckeyes, and try not to gnash your teeth too much before Saturday’s game as a result.
Oct. 10, 1981 – The Badgers won their first football game against Ohio State since 1959, downing the No. 18 Buckeyes by a 24-21 score in Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium. To let you know how poorly the day went, the front-page headline on only the sixth-ever Buckeye Sports Bulletin read “A Rare Bright Spot: Gary Williams scores.” Two turnovers led to 11 Badger points in the final 18 seconds of the first half, allowing UW to take a 17-14 lead into the break. “Obviously, our own mistakes are killing us,” head coach Earle Bruce said.
Oct. 9, 1982 – If the ’81 loss was tough, it was nothing compared to a 6-0 finale the Badgers claimed in Columbus. With a driving rainstorm soaking the field, Wisconsin won for the first time in Ohio Stadium, which had just turned 60 at the time. The Badgers had lost 59-0 to the Buckeyes during their last trip to Columbus. Brent Offenbecher completed only 10 of 22 passes for OSU, which committed two turnovers.
Oct. 27, 1984 – A sixth-ranked Buckeye team looking like a Rose Bowl favorite fell 16-14 in Madison. Heisman Trophy candidate Keith Byars ran for 142 yards and caught 91 yards worth of passes, but OSU could not come back from a 16-7 deficit in the fourth quarter. “Our second loss in the conference has devastated us,” Bruce said. Wisconsin ran for 303 yards on the day, 202 of which came from Columbus native Marck Harrison. OSU fell one game behind Iowa – though the Buckeyes did come back to qualify for the Rose Bowl.
Nov. 16, 1985 – OSU dropped its fourth in five years vs. the Badgers, and Bruce used the same word as the year before when his third-ranked team fell 12-7 in Columbus. “You just saw a devastating loss to Ohio State University,” the beleaguered coach said after the Buckeyes’ bid to return to the Rose Bowl appeared to go up in smoke. The Buckeyes committed four turnovers and ran for only 102 yards in the absence of Byars. “This is the lowest I’ve been in quite a while,” flanker Mike Lanese said.
Nov. 7, 1987 – Bruce’s tenure at Ohio State was in its last days, and surely a 26-24 loss in Camp Randall Stadium didn’t help. The loss dropped the coach to 4-5 against the Badgers in his career. For the season, OSU lost its second in a row and fell to 5-3-1. A week later, the Buckeyes lost at home to Iowa, and Bruce was relieved of his duties days later.
Oct. 3, 1992 – Bruce’s replacement, John Cooper, had the Buckeyes ranked 12th in the nation, but his second trip to Madison ended with a 20-16 loss to the unranked Badgers. A penalty on a fourth-quarter point-after try prompted Cooper to go for two points, but Raymont Harris was stoned and Wisconsin held on to its four-point lead with a stop inside its own 30 late in the game. “I wasn’t going for a tie,” Cooper said. “If we can’t make a yard and a half, we probably don’t deserve to win the game, and it really boiled down to that.” Fans tore down one goalpost after the win, and UW head coach Barry Alvarez said, “I think we won national respect today.”
Nov. 6, 1993 – Alvarez was prophetic, as his team would be Rose Bowl bound a year later. However, it didn’t get a win vs. Ohio State in a return engagement in Madison, as Marlon Kerner blocked a 32-yard field goal as time expired to preserve a 14-14 tie that serves as one of the most memorable games in series history. It didn’t do much for unbeaten the Buckeyes, though; after OSU’s loss to Michigan, both teams finished with a 9-1-1 record, but the Badgers went to Pasadena and the Buckeyes to the Holiday Bowl. “Ties suck because you don’t know how to feel,” OSU backup quarterback Bret Powers said after leading a late 99-yard drive that tied the score.
Nov. 2, 1999 – Ohio State saw a three-game gridiron winning streak against Bucky go up in smoke in the most stunning of ways, as Ron Dayne keyed a run of 42 unanswered points in Wisconsin’s 42-17 humiliation of the No. 12 Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium. “I guess we’re kind of shell-shocked,” defensive end Rodney Bailey said after Dayne ran for 161 yards and four second-half touchdowns. “I am embarrassed by the way we played in the second half,” Cooper said.
Oct. 13, 2001 – The No. 21 Buckeye gridders led 17-0 at one point – just as they did two years before – but Jim Tressel’s first Ohio State team allowed 20 straight points to fall 20-17 in Columbus. It was Tressel’s first Big Ten loss and his initial loss in the Horseshoe. “It was disappointing, obviously, losing a ball game in our stadium, which we feel horrible about,” the coach said. Steve Bellisari completed 10 of 21 passes for 132 yards and an interception. Mark Neuser kicked a 33-yard field goal with 2:10 left for the winning points.
Oct. 11, 2003 – No. 4 Ohio State’s 19-game winning streak came to an end on a cold, rainy night in Madison. Backup quarterback Matt Schabert hit Lee Evans for a 79-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and Wisconsin handed OSU its first loss in 21 months by a 17-10 final. A 46-yard pass from Craig Krenzel to Drew Carter set up the Buckeyes’ lone touchdown, but Evans’ replied 49 seconds later to set the final score. “Like a punch in the stomach,” punter B.J. Sander said. “It sucks,” Michael Jenkins and Dustin Fox agreed. OSU also drew controversy as linebacker Robert Reynolds was caught on video appearing to choke UW quarterback Jim Sorgi.
Jan. 28, 2004 – An unraveling Ohio State men’s basketball team lost its sixth of seven, falling 69-57 to No. 17 Wisconsin in Value City Arena behind 29 points from Devin Harris. The Badgers opened up a 20-point lead early in the second half and cruised home from there. The only drama came in the stands, as security guards and OSU assistants confronted a teenage fan holding a sign that read “The wrong Jim O’Brien resigned,” referencing the Boston Celtics coach with the same name as OSU’s head man. The Buckeyes were further embarrassed by Wisconsin by a 78-48 score in Madison two weeks later.
March 26, 2004 – One week after the Ohio State men’s hockey team stunningly won the CCHA championship for the first time in 32 years, the Buckeyes crashed out of the first round of the NCAA tournament with a 1-0, overtime loss to the Badgers. Dan Boeser scored the game-winning goal 12:03 into overtime, OSU’s third extra-time contest in four games.
Oct. 9, 2004 – A year after breaking the Buckeyes’ overall winning streak, No. 15 Wisconsin broke No. 18 Ohio State’s 18-game Ohio Stadium winning streak with a 24-13 win. “It’s absolutely devastating, demoralizing,” defensive lineman Jay Richardson said. OSU’s tailbacks ran only four times for 3 yards in the second half, while Justin Zwick was 15 of 31 overall for 125 yards and Santonio Holmes fumbled a punt deep in Buckeye territory. “At Least The Defense Played A Little Better,” rued one BSB headline.
Feb. 27, 2005 – Ohio State retired Buckeye cage legend John Havlicek’s No. 5, but the play on the court didn’t match the energy in Value City Arena as No. 20 Wisconsin posted a 64-56 win that wasn’t that close. “With the atmosphere we had, with the crowd, with John Havlicek sitting in the stands, there’s just no excuse for it,” Matt Sylvester said. “Personally, I am utterly ashamed of myself.”
Feb. 11, 2006 – Playing in a historic outdoor game against Wisconsin in Lambeau Field, the Ohio State men’s hockey team fell 4-2 to the Badgers in front of a packed house of 40,890. Dave Barton and Sam Campbell scored for the Buckeyes but the eventual national champion Badgers held on for the win. OSU was incensed by having a first-period goal waved off under questionable circumstances.
Feb. 15, 2006 – On the way to a Big Ten title in Thad Matta’s second year in charge, the 12th-ranked Buckeyes were upset in Madison by a 78-73 score. Alando Tucker led all scorers with 27 points while Brian Butch added 17. Tucker added 16 rebounds, prompting UW head coach Bo Ryan to crack, “He sold programs and popcorn, too.”
Jan. 9, 2007 – In a clash of titans, the fifth-ranked Buckeyes of Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Ron Lewis dropped a 72-69 final at the Kohl Center to the third-ranked Badgers. Kammron Taylor had 25 points while Tucker added 17 as UW opened up a 16-point lead with a 14-0 second-half run. OSU would get revenge later that year, winning a hyped No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle in Value City Arena to close the regular season on the way to the national title game.
Feb. 14, 2009 – There was no love lost on Valentine’s Day, but Wisconsin grinded out a 55-50 win in Madison against the No. 24 Buckeyes despite 23 points from Evan Turner.
Dec. 31, 2009 – Ohio State was on its way to a share of the Big Ten men’s basketball title behind the heroics of Turner, but the No. 15 Buckeyes were embarrassed at No. 23 Wisconsin by a 65-43 final. “We were allowing them to have their way,” Matta said. With Turner out while recovering from a back injury, William Buford led OSU with 14 points and the Buckeyes shot only 32.6 percent.
Oct. 16, 2010 – One game after moving up to No. 1 in the country, the football Buckeyes were ambushed by the No. 18 Badgers by a 31-18 score. David Gilreath returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and Wisconsin built a 21-0 lead before holding on for the win. John Clay and James White combined to run for 179 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. “They just kept running and running and running,” defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said. “We didn’t seem to have an answer for it.”
Feb. 12, 2011 – Wisconsin rebounded from a 15-point deficit in the second half to post a 71-67 win in the Kohl Center against the No. 1 Buckeye cagers. The 13th-ranked Badgers used a 30-8 run, keyed by guard Jordan Taylor and the three-point heroics of Mike Bruesewitz, to take the victory.
Hey, at least the Badgers haven’t beaten the Buckeyes in baseball in recent years.