This was sent as a test of manhood for Ohio State.
Instead, it was men against boys.
The Buckeyes scored No. 3 touchdowns on their first four drives as they stymied Wisconsin’s offense and rolled to a 52-21 victory Saturday night in front of 105,473 at Ohio Stadium.
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For a Buckeye team eager to prove its toughness, it was close to a perfect Big Ten opener. The Badgers’ DNA is to play power football, but this was inconsistent from the start.
Taking a 28-0 lead, Ohio State (4-0) outscored Wisconsin 241-23. The Buckeyes played without injuries to starting cornerbacks Denzel Burke and Cam Brown on defense, but the Badgers (2-2) aren’t built to win through the air. Wisconsin didn’t try to take advantage of freshman Jyaire Brown and freshman JK Johnson, who filled in.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes’ offense was unaffected by the absence of star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba due to a lingering hamstring issue.
Quarterback CJ Stroud was sharp at the start, and the offensive line constantly opened up gaping holes for running backs Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson. Both running backs ran for more than 100 yards, with Henderson running for 121 yards in 21 carries and Williams 101 with two touchdowns in just 11 carries.
“This was a big time game, and we wanted to start early and have fun,” Stroud said. “We did that.”
Wisconsin’s star running back, Braelon Allen, racked up a staggering 165 yards in 23 carries. He had just 36 yards at halftime, and 75 of his total came on touchdown runs against Buckeye backups in the fourth quarter.
Stroud finished 17 of 27 for 281 yards and five touchdowns.
The tone was set on the opening drive of the game. Stroud completed passes to Marvin Harrison Jr. for 18 yards, Cade Stover for 22 and Emeka Egbuka for 33 to set up Williams’ 2-yard touchdown run.
Ohio State safety Tanner McAlister intercepted Graham Mertz’s first throw on Wisconsin’s first possession and returned it 29 yards to the Badgers’ 16.
Two plays later, Stover caught his first career touchdown pass, a 13-yarder on a nicely designed play in which Stroud rolled left and then threw to his right to the open tight end.
Stover scored his second touchdown on the next possession, after a three-and-out by the OSU defense. Henderson set up the score by gaining 26 yards on two carries to the Wisconsin 2.
Until then, Stroud was 8 for 8 for 126 yards.
Stroud finally threw an incomplete on the first play of Ohio State’s next drive, which went 67 yards for another touchdown to make it 28-0. Williams did most of the heavy lifting, including a 21-yard run in which he bounced off several Badgers to set up his 3-yard scoring run.
At that point, the game resembled OSU’s 59-0 bludgeoning of Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten championship.
But his offense finally found Wisconsin for a 10-play, 72-yard touchdown drive, the only one of its first eight possessions that lasted more than five plays.
The Badgers then held Ohio State to a field goal on their next drive, and Stroud threw his first interception of the season on the ensuing drive when he stripped Harrison and was picked off by John Torchio.
Leading 31-7 at halftime, Ohio State went 72 yards for another touchdown, with Stroud and Julian Fleming connecting for a 31-yard gain and a 12-yard completion for the score.
Stroud’s final two plays to Egbuka, an 8-yard dart between two Badgers to make it 45-7 and then a 32-yarder.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State Buckeyes beat Wisconsin Badgers in Big Ten opener