COLUMBUS — No dancing on the O.
After Wisconsin beat Ohio State 24-13 three years ago, a Badgers linebacker danced on the big Block O that straddles the 50-yard line at Ohio Stadium, touching off a bunch of pushing, taunting and shoving between the teams.
Buckeyes fans were aghast.
Ohio State has not forgotten. Neither, apparently, has Wisconsin.
“We had a little postgame situation because Dontez (Sanders) felt the need to dance around on the O,” said Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, who was the Badgers’ defensive coordinator in ’03. “We obviously discourage that behavior.
“Tez called me this (week) and he wanted, I think, 32 tickets. He’s now a high school coach in Ohio. So we’ll keep Tez away from our guys.”
Bielema laughed long and hard. Sanders’ action might have angered Ohio State, but it underscores how Wisconsin has owned the Buckeyes on their home turf.
The Badgers have won their last three games at the Horseshoe.
Ohio State and Wisconsin meet again today, with the Buckeyes No. 1 in the nation and the Badgers trying to groom themselves for bowl representatives.
Maybe it’s because Ohio State has won its last 19 Big Ten games, tying the record.
Maybe it’s because the Buckeyes haven’t had many close games this season. For whatever reason, they’ve latched onto Sanders’ defiant act for motivation and vowed to avenge it.
“My freshman year they came in here, danced on the Block O a little bit, got out with a victory,” Ohio State captain and fullback Dionte Johnson said. “You kind of want to get back at them for that.”
To put the Badgers’ recent domination — 3-0 in Columbus since 1999 — into perspective, Minnesota has won three games in Ohio Stadium in the last 67 years. You’d have to go back 60 years to find three Indiana wins, 48 for Iowa, 44 for Penn State and even 14 years for Michigan’s last three wins at the old concrete structure on the banks of the Olentangy.
No one knows exactly why the Badgers seem to have the Buckeyes’ number at home.
“A good team is a nemesis,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. “It’s tough to beat good teams.”
(bullet) In 1999, Ohio State led 17-0 and then watched as Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne rumbled for four second-half touchdowns in the Badgers’ stunning 42-17 upset of the 12th-ranked Buckeyes.
“Guys, it’s been a long time since we’ve been physically whipped like that in a game,” Ohio State coach John Cooper said back then.
(bullet) In 2001, Wisconsin spotted No. 21 Ohio State a 17-0 lead again, and then came back to win 20-17 on Mark Neuser’s 33-yard field goal with 2:13 remaining.
(bullet) Finally in 2004, the 18th-ranked Buckeyes held a 10-0 lead and appeared headed for their 19th straight home victory before Anthony Davis slashed for 168 yards and a touchdown to lead No. 15 Wisconsin to a 24-13 win.
No opponent has won four in a row at Ohio Stadium since Illinois did it from 1988-94.
This year, the Badgers are coming off wins over Northern Illinois and Indiana by a combined score of 77-6 — “their best football collectively,” Bielema said of his charges.
The big question mark is tailback P.J. Hill, who has rushed for 1,066 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. But he has been hobbled all week by a bruise atop the plate which was surgically put into his broken left leg when he was a freshman two years ago.
If Hill can’t play, the Badgers will go with third-stringer Zach Brown because the backup, Lance Smith, is not permitted to go to road games after a domestic dispute last summer.
The Buckeyes are coming off perhaps their most impressive win of the season, 37-17 at No. 24 Penn State last week. Tressel didn’t allow much time to enjoy it.
“In the locker room he made sure that we remembered that we had lost to them (the Badgers) the last three times,” linebacker Marcus Freeman said.
Tressel has turned all of the Buckeyes into history majors.
“The facts for this week are that they have beaten us in the past and they have beaten us at home,” tight end Rory Nichol said. “Losing is a disgusting thing. No one wants to lose. Just saying that, ‘Hey, they’ve had our number at home’ is enough.”
Apparently not everyone is dwelling on that, though.
Wisconsin linebacker Jonathan Casillas was asked if the Badgers were psyching themselves out because of how good Ohio State is.
“Oh no, not at all. I mean, they’re in the same conference that we are,” he said. “I think the last time we played there, we beat them at their house — I don’t even know if that’s correct.”
Told that the Badgers had actually won the last three trips to Ohio Stadium, he broke up laughing and said, “Oh, there you go then!”
BUCKEYE BUZZ: Ohio State can set a Big Ten record with a 20th consecutive conference win today against Wisconsin.
Big deal, says coach Jim Tressel.
“I’ve never even seen the Big Ten record book. I don’t even know where you find it,” he said.
The coach did say there was a common thread that links the people who have been a part of that streak.
“It is a focused group of people that are very objective about where we’ve got to get better, what needs to get done, the difficulty of the tasks ahead,” he said. “They’re hardworking. They’re smart enough to know that you’re four mistakes away from not performing as well as you need to to win. They understand what we need to do to be successful. Now, we’ll find out because that gets retested each week. But I think they understand that.”
PUNTER RECOGNIZED: A.J. Trapasso is one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award, presented annually by the Greater Augusta (Ga.) Sports Council to the best punter in college football.
Two other players from Ohio colleges are also on the list: Toledo’s Brett Kern and Cincinnati’s Kevin Huber.
THE OTHER CAPTAINS: The defensive game captain for the Wisconsin game (noon) is LB Marcus Freeman. The honorary captain is Dan Wilkinson, an All-America DT at Ohio State before playing 14 years in the NFL.
— The Associated Press
No. 1 Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
WHERE: Ohio Stadium, Columbus
TV/RADIO: Big Ten Network; WEOL 930-AM, WKNR 850-AM
RECORDS: OSU 9-0, 5-0 Big Ten; Wisconsin 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten
COACHES: Jim Tressel is 71-14 in his seventh season at Ohio State and 206-71-2 in his 22nd year as a head coach. Bret Bielema is 19-3 in his second year at Wisconsin and in his career.
SERIES: The Buckeyes lead 50-17-5 but the Badgers defeated them 24-13 in their last meeting in 2004 in Columbus.
THE SKINNY: The Buckeyes defeated No. 24 Penn State 37-17 in State College on Oct. 27. The win extended Ohio State’s record consecutive regular-season win streak to 27 games. Todd Boeckman threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns, while Chris Wells ran for 133 yards. Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins returned an interception 24 yards for Ohio State’s fourth touchdown. Ryan Pretorius kicked three field goals of 50, 37 and 35 yards. The Buckeyes outgained the Nittany Lions 453-263 in total yards as they had almost 16 minutes more in time of possession.
Wisconsin trounced Indiana 33-3 at Camp Randall Stadium, the second straight game the Badgers have allowed just a field goal. The Badgers got a field goal out of the game’s opening drive and added a 1-yard TD run by P.J. Hill in the second quarter. Unfortunately, Hill left the game with a lower leg injury after his score. Wisconsin added another second-quarter touchdown before the Hoosiers got a 49-yard field goal, giving the Badgers a 17-3 halftime lead. The Badgers capitalized on an Indiana turnover in the third quarter for a 24-3 lead. A 39-yard field goal and Lance Smith’s 19-yard TD run closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter.