Work in Sports
MADISON, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- This year it is Barry Alvarez, and not John Cooper, who is feeling the heat.
Derek Combs ran for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns and seventh-ranked Ohio State built a big early lead and coasted to a 23-7 Big Ten Conference win over No. 22 Wisconsin.
Combs, who carried 11 times, had TD runs of 80 and 21 yards for the Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), who remained the only unbeaten team in the conference and made last year's disappointing 6-6 season under Cooper more of a distant memory.
"You're looking at one happy football coach," Cooper said. "I can't say enough nice things about our football team."
With a big lead, Ohio State was able to control the game defensively, sacking struggling Wisconsin quarterback Brooks Bollinger nine times.
Wisconsin (3-3, 0-3) won Big Ten titles under Alvarez each of the last two seasons and entered the season with aspirations to a national title. But the Badgers now have lost three straight games for the first time since the end of the 1997 season.
"I don't think we played very well because we didn't start the game very well," Alvarez said. "I thought we had a chance to get back into the game but then we couldn't get anything going. That was a good football team we beat today."
It has been a trying season for Alvarez, whose program was rocked by the suspensions of 26 players by the NCAA for receiving illegal benefits from an area shoe store. While Alvarez was able to stagger the suspensions and was at full strength for the second straight week, it appears his team has yet to recover.
"Let me tell you this, nothing will surprise me ever again because just about anything that could have happened has happened," Alvarez said.
The Badgers, who lost to Northwestern and Michigan the last two weeks, played with little spark and were quickly behind by two touchdowns.
In a strange twist, Combs broke through the line and lost his right shoe before racing to the end zone on Ohio State's second play from scrimmage. Combs was barely touched by Wisconsin defenders when he went 21 yards for his second score for a 14-0 lead.
Combs played sparingly in the second half with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
Steve Bellisari made it 20-0 with a 20-yard TD pass to tight end Darnell Sanders 72 seconds before halftime. Bellisari completed eight-of-13 passes for 143 yards and a score. Kon-Yon Rambo caught five passes for 97 yards.
Wisconsin's only score came on a 35-yard TD run by Michael Bennett in the third quarter. Bennett, who entered the game ranked third nationally in rushing, had 106 yards on 20 carries -- 60 less than his season average.
"We heard all week about how fast Michael Bennett is, and he is fast, he's a great football player," Cooper said. "But Derek Combs is fast too."
Bollinger completed just 19-of-34 passes for 209 yards and carried 23 times for three net yards. Nick Davis caught seven passes for 53 yards.
Dan Stultz capped the scoring for Ohio State with a 24-yard field goal late in the third quarter.