The first loss of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State was a painful one.
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The second-ranked Buckeyes needed a win over Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game to punch its ticket for the BCS National Championship Game.
But the 10th-rated Spartans had other ideas. They knocked off OSU 34-24 before 66,002 at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, locking up their first outright Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth since 1987 and snapping OSU’s 24-game winning streak.
At 12-1, Ohio State seems certain to get a BCS at-large berth to either the Orange or Sugar Bowls. But that isn’t much consolation for a team that was trying to get back to the national title game for the fourth time in the 16 seasons of the BCS format.
The Buckeyes spotted Michigan State (12-1) a 17-0 lead and rallied with 24 straight points. But MSU scored 17 straight themselves to wrest away the lead and take the win.
Afterwards, OSU coach Urban Meyer was left to reflect on his first loss in two seasons as the Buckeyes mentor.
“Well, I just went around the room and told the players I love them,” Meyer said. “I don't like to use the word 'proud', but I am proud of them. They fought against a very good team. We dug ourselves a hole. Went 17 0, came back, tried to seize momentum in the third quarter after halftime, then let it get away from us.
“We’ve got to do things a little bit better. I don't want to take anything away from our opponent. That's a heck of a team, man. Good players, good scheme. But I love my guys.”
He added, “You know, it's going to haunt all of us I imagine for a little while, but that's part of the game.”
The warning signals flashed by the OSU defense in recent weeks became alarms Saturday night as the Buckeyes allowed MSU quarterback Connor Cook to enjoy a career day in leading his team to its first Rose Bowl in 26 years. OSU’s opponents have thrown for an average of just over 340 yards in the last four games.
Cook earned game MVP honors as he completed 24 of 40 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
“I am disappointed with our pass defense,” Meyer said. “We have to get this fixed. We're going to get back to work.”
Running back Jeremy Langford became the first OSU opposing back to rush for 100 yards against the Buckeyes. He had 24 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown.
The Spartans set a new school record for single-season wins at 12-1. MSU coach Mark Dantonio and his team reveled after a breakthrough win and securing the school’s first-ever BCS bowl bid.
“We’re 12-1 and we’re going to the Rose Bowl and that’s something we have worked very hard for,” Dantonio said. “A lot of people didn’t give us a chance to be here, but we persevered through all of it and proved them wrong. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this football team.
“It’s hard to put into words. The Rose Bowl is something we’ve dreamed about and talked about since day one. This is a program win.”
OSU quarterback Braxton Miller carried the ball 21 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 8 of 21 passes for 101 yards and a score.
“You know, just grow together as a team,” Miller said. “Things happen in games, really don't go your way. You got to come back and fix the mistakes. Keep your head high, come back stronger.”
OSU running back Carlos Hyde had 118 yards on 18 carries.
The big debate coming into the game was how Ohio State would attack MSU’s staunch defense. The Spartans were fourth nationally in scoring defense (11.8 points allowed), first in rushing defense (64.8 yards per game) and first nationally in total defense (237.7 ypg).
It took the Buckeyes about a quarter-and-a-half to loosen up the Spartans defense. The Buckeyes ended up with 374 yards, including 273 on the ground. But it was not enough to knock off the Spartans.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier, who led the Buckeyes with 12 tackles, said the team will regroup for the bowl game.
“We went through some adversity,” Shazier said. “We’ve got to stick together as a team, try to win this next game. We’ve got to come out, start working for this next one.”
As It Happened
OSU won the toss and deferred its choice to the second half. MSU started from its own 30-yard line and moved it 47 yards in 14 plays, eating up almost 6-1/2 minutes of clock time.
The Spartans benefitted from pass interference penalties by Doran Grant and Ryan Shazier to prolong the drive. But Cook threw a pair of incompletions from the OSU 23 and the Spartans settled for Michael Geiger’s 40-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 8:31 left in the first quarter.
The teams then traded punts. Ohio State started on its own 15 and eventually moved it out to the 40. But a Miller deep pass was dropped by Philly Brown and the Buckeyes had to punt it away. On the punt, OSU gunner Devin Smith plowed into the MSU returner before the ball arrived. The 15-yard interference penalty gave MSU a first down at its own 32.
After a 4-yard loss on first down, Cook executed a fake and hit Keith Mumphery on an out-and-up move for the 72-yard touchdown. OSU safety Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown bit on the out move, allowing Mumphery to go unfettered down the left side of the field for the score and a 10-0 lead with 14:50 left in the first half.
At this point, OSU had more penalty yards (42) than offensive yards (28). After outscoring their opponents 220-52 in the first quarter this season, the Buckeyes went scoreless in the first period.
The Buckeyes needed to answer on their ensuing possession. Miller hit Brown for a 9-yard gain and a first down. He then kept it for 10 more and another first down. But on third-and-6 at the OSU 49, Miller was blitzed and fumbled. He recovered it at the 37 for a 12-yard loss and the Buckeyes had to punt it away.
MSU’s Macgarrett Kings Jr. returned the punt 16 yards, giving the Spartans possession at the MSU 34-yard line. The Spartans went on a five-play, 66-yard march to extend the lead to 17-0. On third-and-3 at the 41, Cook threw down the middle to Aaron Burbridge for a 14-yard gain. He then spotted Mumphery going left out of bounds for 12 more.
Finally, on first down at the OSU 33, the Buckeyes brought cornerback Bradley Roby on a blitz off the right edge. Cook spotted it and went to a wide open Tony Lippett, who got behind safety C.J. Barnett, for the 33-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead with 9:01 left in the first half.
The Buckeyes now desperately needed an answer … and they got one with a five-play, 84-yard scoring march. The key play came on second-and-8 from the OSU 18 as Miller ripped off an amazing 48-yard run as he stopped and started and weaved through traffic. He then found Brown for an 11-yard gain. Two plays later, Miller stood in under pressure and lobbed it over MSU’s Isaiah Lewis to Brown on a post route for the 20-yard touchdown. The Buckeyes had stopped the bleeding and cut the lead to 17-7 with 6:26 left in the half.
The Ohio State defense then forced punts on MSU’s next two possessions. The Buckeyes took over on their own 36 with 1:23 left in the half. MSU’s Max Bullough sacked Miller for a 6-yard loss on first down and the Buckeyes casually allowed 30 precious seconds to roll off the clock. Miller then slipped through for 15 yards and Hyde converted a third down with an 8-yard run.
After a spike to stop the clock with 13 seconds left, Miller dialed up wide open tight end Jeff Heuerman down the middle for a 36-yard gain and a first down at the 11. The Buckeyes spiked it to stop the clock with four seconds left, giving Drew Basil a chance for a 28-yard field goal that cut the MSU lead to 17-10 as time expired in the half.
The Buckeyes wasted no time tying the game on their first possession of the second half. OSU moved 75 yards in eight plays. Hyde ripped off an 18-yard run to get it started. Miller then followed a block by Heuerman for a 24-yard gain on a quarterback draw. Miller hit Smith for a 9-yard gain and a first down at the 8. On first down there, Miller followed blocks by Heuerman, Hyde, Brown and Evan Spencer on a sweep left and into the end zone for the 8-yard touchdown. The game was tied at 17-17 with 12:21 left in the third quarter.
OSU’s Barnett then intercepted a Cook pass. Although the Buckeyes did not convert that into points, they did back MSU up to its own 4-yard line. The Buckeyes forced a punt, which Brown returned 11 yards to the MSU 44-yard line.
The Buckeyes needed five plays to find the end zone. Hyde rambled for 10 yards before Miller picked up 7. Backup Jordan Hall gave Hyde a break and ripped off a 13-yard run of his own. After Hyde gained 8 yards down to the 6, Miller took the shotgun snap. The line went right, while he went left on a naked misdirection run. He dove at the goal line for the 6-yard touchdown to put the Buckeyes up 24-17 with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
Michigan State then drove from its own 25 down to the OSU 27. But a third-down incompletion brought Geiger back in to attempt a 44-yard field goal. His kick barely cleared the crossbar to cut the OSU lead to 24-20 with 2:29 left in the third quarter.
The MSU defense then forced a punt and took over on its own 10. Cook found Bennie Fowler for 13 yards and Kings for 38 more. A pass interference penalty on OSU’s Doran Grant moved the ball down to the 11. On third-and-8 at the OSU 9, Cook rolled right and took a play from the Devin Gardner playbook. He threw back across the formation to wide open tight end Josiah Price for the 9-yard touchdown. This was not a good series for OSU’s Barnett as he gave up the long Kings play and looked lost on the touchdown. MSU had pulled ahead 27-24 with 11:41 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, MSU’s Kevin Muma tried a squib kick to catch OSU off guard. There was a mad scramble for the ball that skitted out of bounds at the OSU 41-yard line.
The Buckeyes got a big break when Ryan Shazier deflected a Mike Sadler punt. It went 19 yards and OSU took over at the MSU 47. The Buckeyes faced fourth-and-2 at the 39, but Miller went right and was swarmed under by MSU’s Denicos Alllen after just a 1-yard gain. The Buckeyes turned it over on downs with 5:41 left.
“It was my call,” Meyer said. “I wanted to put the ball in the hands of our best player, Braxton (Miller). We usually run that play a lot. We ran it to the boundary. I knew they'd pressure us. Thought he might be able to come out the other end of it. That's why. It was a chance to go try to win the game.”
MSU picked up first downs on a 16-yard run by Langford and a 5-yard toss from Cook to Lippett. Langford broke through for a 26-yard touchdown run to settle the matter. That made it 34—24 with 2:16 left.
On OSU’s ensuing possession, Miller threw four straight incompletions and MSU took over with 1:13 left.
* Redshirt freshman Pat Elflein started at right guard in place of senior Marcus Hall, who was held out as a result of his actions after being ejected last week at Michigan.
“I just feel it wasn't right to play him,” Meyer said.
* Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is now 1-1 against Michigan State. MSU coach Mark Dantonio is now 2-5 against OSU. He was OSU’s defensive coordinator under Jim Tressel from 2001-03.
* This was the 42nd meeting ever between OSU and MSU. Ohio State leads the all-time series 28-14. This was their first meeting ever on a neutral field. Ohio State leads 14-8 in Columbus and 14-5 in East Lansing.
Ohio State had won eight of the last nine meetings, dating to a loss at MSU in 1999. MSU’s lone win in that stretch came in 2011 in Columbus (10-7).
The teams did not play this season. OSU and MSU will move to the Big Ten Eastern Division next year as Maryland and Rutgers join the conference.
* Ohio State is now 15-6 all-time in games played indoors. The last indoor game was the 2011 Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas.
* OSU is 39-21 all-time in night games.
* This was OSU’s fifth appearance ever on FOX, following bowl losses in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the regular season game at Cal earlier this year.
* This is the third year the Big Ten has hosted a conference championship game. Wisconsin, from the Leaders Division, won the first two games. The Badgers defeated Michigan State 42-39 in the first game in 2011 and crushed Nebraska 70-31 in last year’s game.
* Officially, Ohio State was going for its 34th Big Ten championships. OSU’s 2010 Big Ten title was vacated due to NCAA sanctions. So the Buckeyes’ last official title was in 2009 – a drought of four years. That is OSU’s longest title drought since it went seven years without a title between 1986-93.
Michigan State has now won eight Big Ten championships. MSU shared the 2010 title with OSU and Wisconsin. MSU’s last outright championship and Rose Bowl bid came in the 1988 season.
Michigan is the all-time leader with 42 Big Ten championships.
* Both teams went 8-0 in conference play. The only other time that has happened since 1943 was in 2002 when Ohio State and Iowa both went 8-0.
* Ohio State’s 24-game winning streak was the nation’s longest current active streak and is the longest in school history. The previous school record of 22 was set by the teams between 1967-69. OSU had streaks of 19 straight wins in 2005-06 and in 2002-03. This is the 15th winning streak of 10 or more games in OSU history.
OSU’s last loss was to Florida in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 2012 (24-17).
* The Big Ten record for the longest winning streak by a member school is 29, set by Michigan from 1901-03. OSU’s streak is tied for the fourth-longest in Big Ten history.
* Meyer’s teams are now 9-3 in December/January games since 2003, his first season at Utah.
He also has a record of 2-2 in conference championship games. At Florida, his 2006 team defeated Arkansas 38-28, his 2008 team defeated Alabama 31-20 and his 2009 team lost to Alabama 32-13.
* Meyer’s teams are 14-4 on neutral fields, 26-11 against ranked teams and 11-5 against top-10 teams.
At OSU, Meyer is 5-1 against ranked teams. The Buckeyes defeated No. 20 Michigan State (17-16), No. 21 Nebraska (63-38) and No. 20 Michigan (26-21) last year and No. 23 Wisconsin (31-24) and No. 15 Northwestern (40-30) this season.
* Ohio State is now 1-2 in games trying to reach 13-0. The Buckeyes defeated Illinois 23-16 in overtime in 2002 and lost to Florida 41-14 in the BCS national title game after the 2006 season.
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