Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
MADISON, Wis. – They came, they saw and, yes, they conquered for all of Camp Randall Stadium to see.
The dream of a perfect season – Ohio State’s first since 2002 – is still alive after the Buckeyes stonewalled Wisconsin in overtime, 21-14, in Madison, Wis., Saturday.
But not without a scare.
Wisconsin senior running back Montee Ball, who tied the NCAA record for career-rushing touchdowns, did all he could to ensure that his final exit from Camp Randall was a victorious one.
He and the Badgers came awfully close, nearly dashing No. 4 OSU’s hopes of running the table in a year guaranteed to end Nov. 24 against Michigan.
NCAA sanctions stemming from 2010’s “Tattoo-Gate” scandal have forfeited the Buckeyes’ prospects at a Big Ten Championship or bowl game.
In their place, the vision of a 12-0 campaign became the only tangible spoil to glean from a championship-caliber year with nothing to actually show for it.
Against Wisconsin, an undefeated season – a mission that’s seemed possible since a 63-38 statement win against Nebraska – might’ve never been so mired.
That, though, is hardly a novel concept – Camp Randall’s long been a graveyard of past summits at perfection for the Buckeyes.
In 2010, then-No. 1 and undefeated Buckeyes were rolled, 31-18, in Madison against an inspired Badgers team.
Seven years earlier, in 2003, Wisconsin shattered the Buckeyes’ 19-game win streak and toppled the defending national champions, 17-10.
This time? Things were different – even against a gritty Wisconsin team determined to salvage its last home tilt of the season.
Under the direction of first-year coach Urban Meyer, OSU ransacked Camp Randall’s house of horrors.
And redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby said all of Madison got to see.
“You just go into someone else’s home, in front of their fans, their moms, their girlfriends, sisters, and we just wanna dominate them,” he said. “I mean, what’s better than that? Going into someone’s house and taking everything they own and they can’t do nothing about it.”
To the victors go the spoils, right? It’s a mentality, Roby said, that Meyer preaches.
“I mean we pride ourselves on that gladiator mentality,” he said.
It seemed to be evident Saturday some 500 miles away from Columbus.
While it might be “crazy,” Roby said the Buckeyes play better in foreign venues than in the familiar confines of Ohio Stadium.
“I feel like you see that when we play away games. We play way better than we do at home,” he said. “I mean, that’s just the mode this team is on right now, that’s just our thing this year.”
Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier said the Buckeyes thrive in places like Camp Randall.
“I love playing at Ohio Stadium but I feel that we do almost even better when we’re away and playing in big atmospheres and gladiator-type environments,” said Shazier, who recorded 12 tackles and a forced fumble against the Badgers.
And while OSU’s overtime triumph against the Badgers isn’t exactly the Greeks conquering Troy, its resume suggests that Roby and Shazier’s notion has some realness to it.
In 2011, a year that saw OSU finish 6-7, the Buckeyes lost four of five road contests to the likes of Miami, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan.
This season, OSU secured wins away from home against Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State and now Wisconsin.
The difference? It could be a number of things but, Meyer is arguably the variable that’s turned OSU from road kill into road warriors.
“We have a saying, and I just shared it with them,” Meyer said. “A team that refuses to be beat, won’t be beat.”
At least so far, that’s been the case for Meyer and the 11-0 Buckeyes.
OSU will take its last shot at perfection against Michigan Saturday at noon at the Horseshoe.