Montee Ball leaped over the pile toward the goal line, holding the ball out in front of him.
The major college career touchdown record, the tying score, the momentum — it was all right there for Ball and the Wisconsin Badgers.
And then it wasn't, as Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier punched the ball out of Ball's hands.
Wisconsin still managed to force overtime on Jacob Pedersen's 5-yard catch with eight seconds left. But the Buckeyes wouldn't let Ball and the Badgers near the end zone in the extra period. Carlos Hyde scored on a 2-yard run as Ohio State clinched the Leaders Division title outright with the 21-14 win.
"Extremely bittersweet," Ball said. "It would have been perfect to score the winning touchdown in overtime and to break the record. But Ohio State played well and they deserved it."
Ball at least got a share of the FBS record, scoring his 78th touchdown in the second quarter to tie the mark set by Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) in 1999. And odds are good he'll have the record to himself before the season is over, with three more games still to play.
"I'd like to have seen him break it," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "He'll get it, and we'll celebrate at that time."
Ball finished with 191 yards on a career-high 39 carries. His total of 4,727 yards rushing is second on Wisconsin's career list, trailing only 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne.
Not bad for a guy who wasn't even a starter until midway through his sophomore season.
"He's had to share the load with a lot of people, so it's truly an amazing performance," Bielema said.
The Badgers (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) were hoping for a better outcome against the Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0) to prove they deserve their spot in next month's Big Ten title game. Wisconsin is third in the Leaders Division, but will play for a trip to the Rose Bowl because neither the Buckeyes nor Penn State are eligible for the postseason.
Instead, by locking up the division crown, Ohio State kept its slim hopes for another title alive.
Because they are banned from the postseason as part of its punishment for NCAA violations under former coach Jim Tressel, the best the Buckeyes can hope for is to finish the regular-season unbeaten. Then, if the teams above them all lose at least once, it would give the Buckeyes a shot at playing spoiler for The Associated Press title.
"We have a saying, 'A team that refuses to be beat won't be beat,'" Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "Somehow, someway."
That's what the Badgers were saying in the fourth quarter. Their defense was stellar all afternoon, limiting the high-powered Buckeyes to a mere 236 yards of offense, more than 200 yards below their average, and allowing them to cross midfield only once after halftime.
The offense, meanwhile, kept giving the ball to Ball and then let him pound away. He ran for all but 1 of Wisconsin's 44 yards as the Badgers moved to the Ohio State 1 with 2:46 left in regulation, and everybody in Camp Randall knew who was getting the ball.
"We knew that he needed two to break the record," Shazier said. "We were not going to allow him to break it on us."
Ball, who had never fumbled the ball until this year, took full blame for the turnover.
"Stupid play, my stupid decision," he said. "I just felt like I had to do something in that situation because they submarined a lot. ... One thing I should have done is just dove."
The Badger defense came up with another big stop, and the Wisconsin offense got the ball back in Ohio State territory. It was the first two-minute drill for Curt Phillips, the third-string quarterback who was making his second start, and he got off to a rough start, sacked on the first play. He settled down from there, though, converting a fourth down with a 14-yard pass to Jared Abbrederis and finding him for another long gain to set up Jacob Pedersen's 5-yard scoring catch that tied the game with eight seconds left.
"Everybody kept the faith. We drove right down and scored," Phillips said. "I was very confident going into the overtime."
But overtime was all Buckeyes. Hyde ripped off a run of 11 yards on the first play and, two plays later, strolled virtually untouched into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
He also had a 15-yard scoring run in the second quarter, and finished with 87 yards on 15 carries. Braxton Miller was 10 of 18 passing for 97 yards, and had another 48 yards rushing. He also was sacked three times for a loss of 27 yards.
"We just wanted to pound the ball and give the ball to Carlos and let the O-line block for Carlos because we knew it was over," said Corey "Philly" Brown, who returned a punt 68 yards for a score. "That O-line is something else. We don't think there is any D-line that can stop them when you have a back like Carlos running the ball."
The Badgers have a good back of their own, but the Buckeyes knew the game was theirs.
"We knew that if our offense scored, we were going to win," cornerback Bradley Roby said. "The touchdown they scored (at the end of regulation) gave us motivation to win it in overtime."
Ball gained 6 yards on Wisconsin's opening play, but that was all the Badgers would get. Phillips threw an incompletion, Ball was hauled down for a loss and Bryant batted down a Phillips pass intended for Pedersen to end the game.
The loss was the second straight for Wisconsin at Camp Randall, both coming in overtime.
"It hurts to do everything you can in your power and still fall short," Ball said. "And it's happened twice to us, back to back at home. It's not a good feeling."