Buckeyes run out of luck, answers

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 13, 2003

MADISON, Wis. - Throughout a 19-game winning streak, Ohio State always found ways to win games like this.

But it was the Wisconsin Badgers who had all the answers Saturday night as they fended off a fourth-quarter rally for a 17-10 victory over the defending national champions.

They did it behind backups Booker Stanley, who rushed for a career-best 125 yards against the nation's top run defense, and Matt Schabert, who threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Lee Evans with five minutes left after replacing an injured Jim Sorgi.

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''If you went into the season and asked me if we'd beat Ohio State without Jim Sorgi in the fourth quarter of a tight ballgame and without Anthony Davis, I wouldn't have put too much money on it,'' Badgers offensive coordinator Brian White admitted.

The Buckeyes (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) were due for a change in fortune, however. They had won just three of their last 12 games by more than seven points and they weren't tested on the ground in their first five games, all at home.

''One thing that concerned me going into it was I didn't think we had given our guys as much of a look at the run as perhaps they needed,'' Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said. ''We played five games where there was very little run.''

Stanley became the first player to top 100 yards against the Buckeyes since Davis gained 144 yards in a 19-14 loss to Ohio State last season. Stanley and Davis are the only players to rush for more than 100 yards against the Buckeyes in Ohio State's last 23 games.

The Buckeyes slipped five spots to No. 8 in poll Sunday, and the Badgers jumped nine spots to No. 14.

The Buckeyes, who hadn't lost on the road since Penn State beat them 29-27 on Oct. 27, 2001, saw plenty of handoffs in a steady rain from the Badgers (6-1, 3-0), who took control of the Big Ten race.

And after linebacker Robert Reynolds - who had a career-best 12 tackles - jabbed Sorgi in the throat, sending him to the sideline late in the third quarter, Ohio State put eight and nine defenders in the box to stop the run.

It worked until Schabert hit Evans with the 79-yarder - the only catch of the night for Evans, the Big Ten's leading receiver who was blanketed all night by cornerback Chris Gamble.

Evans ran an out and up, and Gamble, who was in man-to-man coverage, bit on the out, jumped the rout and couldn't chase down Evans.

Gamble wasn't made available to reporters after the game.

Neither was Reynolds, who could face disciplinary action from the league for what he did to Sorgi, who couldn't talk and had difficulty swallowing and breathing after getting jabbed in the throat at the end of a third-down keeper.

Reynolds issued a statement Sunday night through Ohio State, saying that he had apologized to Sorgi and Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez.

''I lost my poise and there is no excuse for that,'' Reynolds said.

The school had no update on Sorgi's injury Sunday.

League spokesman Scott Chipman said the Big Ten would have no comment Sunday but added that the play is up for review Monday for possible punishment, including a suspension.

Reynolds wasn't flagged on the play, which turned the tide of the game.

After Sorgi was taken to the sideline, Mike Allen's 38-yard field goal gave Wisconsin a 10-3 lead with 5:09 left in the third quarter.

Craig Krenzel led the Buckeyes on a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to tie it at 10 with 6:09 left.

After Stanley gained 1 yard on first down - giving him minus-2 yards on his previous six carries, Schabert hit Evans with the game-winner.

The Badgers forced a punt with 3:27 left and ran out the clock behind key plays by Schabert and Stanley.

Yet, for a while it appeared a though the Buckeyes were going to pull out the victory thanks to what Reynolds did to Sorgi because the Badgers' offense sputtered without the threat of the pass.

Badgers coaches and players fumed as Sorgi lay on the field getting medical attention and the officials said they didn't see anything to merit a flag.

''That's one of the lowest things I've ever seen in a football game,'' Evans said.

Center Donovan Raiola came to Sorgi's rescue in the pile, shoving Reynolds off his prone quarterback.

''After that, I lost all respect for any of them, the whole bench, the coaches, whoever was on that sideline, whoever was in that game,'' Raiola said.

Tressel said Sunday night that he apologized to Alvarez on behalf of Ohio State and Reynolds.

''Having known Rob for three years, I believe this is an isolated incident and out of character for him,'' Tressel said. ''He has apologized to me and is willing to accept the consequences of his behavior.''