Ohio State finally faces first road game on Saturday
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State is about to find out what life is like on the road.
After opening with five games at Ohio Stadium, the third-ranked Buckeyes take their high-wire act to No. 23 Wisconsin on Saturday.
Based on recent history, the Buckeyes will have their hands full.
Ohio State has split its last four games on its first road trip of the season, including a 23-19 escape last year against Cincinnati when Bearcats receivers dropped two touchdown passes in the final minute.
"If you can't win on the road in your league, you're not going to win your league," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday. "It's a reality we're going to have to play well on the road. This being our first experience, we've got a veteran team in some areas, and so I'm sure they understand what it takes to win on the road. Now we have to make sure that the youth can comprehend and stay poised and patient and do a good job there."
The visiting team has won the last four meetings between the teams -- the last two games decided by a total of eight points.
A year ago, the Badgers led 14-13 at Camp Randall Stadium going into the fourth quarter but Ohio State pulled out a 19-14 win on quarterback Craig Krenzel's 3-yard TD pass to tight end Ben Hartsock with 9:59 left. The Buckeyes' defense made it stand up, one of seven times the Buckeyes won a game by seven points or fewer during their national-championship run in 2002.
"We love going to Camp Randall," said Krenzel, expected to start after being out a month with a hyperextended right or throwing elbow.
"It's a great atmosphere. I think they have one of the biggest crowds, one of the best student sections that I've ever seen. Last year we didn't play as well on the road as we did at home. And this year I don't think we've played as well as we can, period. We've had the first five games at home, and we haven't played a game where we've walked away happy with our play."
With good reason. The Buckeyes don't have a back in the top 10 in the Big Ten in rushing, Krenzel isn't among the top 10 in the 11-team league in passing yards per game and Ohio State is last in the conference in total offense (298 yards a game).
"It doesn't take a real genius to figure out that we're not doing the things we need to do offensively," Krenzel said. "It's something we need to work on and to continue to improve on, and minimize mistakes and make more big plays and more importantly we need to establish a better running game and we need to become more consistent overall."
It's no secret Wisconsin (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) will try to play keep-away, pounding up the middle with talented running backs Dwayne Smith, Anthony Davis and Booker Stanley. That trio has averaged 5.5 yards per carry this season.
"I don't know that there's anyone in our league that has run the ball as consistently over a period of time as they have," Tressel said. "Throw in the fact that they've got game-breakers out wide. It's one thing that you can run, but it's another thing that if you load up too much against that run, those game-breakers will get you."
Ohio State (5-0, 1-0), riding the nation's longest winning streak with 19 in a row, has been a shadow of its usual dominating self when running the ball. The Buckeyes are averaging just 3.3 yards per rushing attempt.
"If we're going to win in the Big Ten conference, we're going to have to run the football better than we've been running it," Tressel said. "The teams we're getting ready to play, starting with Wisconsin, play the run very, very well and the pass as well. And we're going to have to be able to do both."
The Buckeyes have become accustomed to being surrounded by 100,000 adoring fans each Saturday. That will change on Saturday in loud and rowdy Camp Randall.
"Communication is going to be one of the big things on offense, to make sure we can still do that on top of all the noise," Hartsock said. "That's been an advantage in our pocket playing at home. It's going to change this week."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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