On a day of offensive explosions all over the college football landscape, Ohio State and Michigan State staged an old fashioned defensive battle.
The 14th-ranked Buckeyes had just enough offense, though, to overcome three turnovers and deal the 20th-rated Spartans a 17-16 defeat in the Big Ten opener for both teams before 76,705 Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium.
The win gave Urban Meyer his first Big Ten victory as the OSU head coach. (Check out video of Meyer’s postgame press conference above.)
“We beat a good team,” Meyer said. “This was a great team win. We found out something about our team today to go on the road and win in a hostile environment. We found a way to win. When it was time to go make a play, they did.
“This was a war and this was two sledgehammers going at each other. I thought that was a great game, great atmosphere and a bunch of great players on the field.”
Quarterback Braxton Miller was 16 of 23 passing for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0). He also carried 23 times for 136 yards. Miller lost a pair of fumbles in addition to his pick.
“He’s got to take care of the ball,” Meyer said. “But we’ll worry about that. We’re going to enjoy this win.”
Miller added, “Mistakes will happen. That’s football. You just have to forget about them. This was a good team win. We fought through it.”
Philly Brown had a career-high 12 catches for 84 yards for the Buckeyes. Devin Smith had two catches for 79 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown. Carlos Hyde had 11 carries for 49 yards, playing most of the second half after Jordan Hall went down with a knee injury.
Bradley Roby blocks an MSU punt
MSU quarterback Andrew Maxwell was 22 of 42 passing for 269 yards and a touchdown. Le’Veon Bell came into the game third in the country in rushing at 152.3 yards per game. He ended up with 45 yards on 17 carries and also caught eight passes for 58 yards for the Spartans (3-2, 0-1).
“That’s a good back,” Meyer said of Bell. “He won’t be held to (such low yardage). I’m venturing to say that won’t happen again to that guy. He’s a good player.”
Ohio State came into the game ranked 12th in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing 394.8 yards per game. But the Buckeyes allowed MSU 303 yards, including just 34 yards rushing on 22 attempts. The Buckeyes allowed MSU to convert just 4 of 15 third-down predicaments. Meyer was asked if he had confidence in his defense.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I thought our defense was good enough to play better the first four games. That’s how much confidence I have in our players and coaches. I think we’ve got really good players.”
MSU coach Mark Dantonio was left to bemoan the little things that cost his team a key win in its quest to win the Legends Division for the second year in a row.
“I thought our guys played extremely hard and I am proud of them,” Dantonio said. “When you lose a game 17-16 you have a tendency to say what if a lot and look at single plays and how they would have made a difference. But I was proud of our football team.
“We have to stay balanced as a team and run the ball more effectively. I was impressed with Andrew Maxwell throwing the football today.”
As It Happened
Michigan State won the toss and elected to defer. Ohio State opened the game on its own 25 after a touchback. The Buckeyes moved 75 yards in eight plays to the game’s first points.
On the very first play, Miller kept it and skitted for 20 yards. Miller then converted a third-and-5 with an 8-yard toss to Philly Brown. Miller then kept it left and picked up 13 yards before he was smacked out of bounds by MSU’s Isaiah Lewis, who drew a flag for a late hit. The play knocked Miller out of the game for the rest of the drive with Kenny Guiton filling in.
On first down from the MSU 14, Guiton ran the option left and hit Jordan Hall with a perfectly timed pitch. He got 11 yards down to the 3. Two plays later, Hall leaped over the pile for the 1-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 12:09 left in the first quarter.
The Spartans came right back with a nine-play, 50-yard scoring march that netted a field goal. Maxwell completed passes of 20 yards to Keith Mumphery and a pair of 13-yarders to Bell. But on third-and-7 from the OSU 17, Maxwell rolled left under pressure and threw it away incomplete. Dan Conroy’s 34-yard field goal made it 7-3 in favor of OSU.
The respective defenses then went to work. MSU’s R.J. Williamson broke up a third-down pass to force an OSU punt. OSU’s Nathan Williams stopped Bell on a third-down reception to force an MSU punt. The Buckeyes then went three-and-out with MSU’s Max Bullough stopping Brown on a third-down catch. OSU’s Bradley Roby then broke up a third-down MSU pass.
Early in the second quarter, OSU drove from its own 20 down to the MSU 25. Miller hit 16-yard pass plays to Brown and Devin Smith. But on first down at the 25, Miller tried to rifle one into Michael Thomas. But MSU’s Kurtis Drummond stepped in front of the pass and intercepted it.
MSU punter Mike Sadler uncorked a 70-yard punt to back the Buckeyes up to their own 11. A sack by MSU’s Chris Norman led to another OSU punt.
OSU’s Christian Bryant then broke up a third-down pass to force a punt, which his teammate Bradley Roby blocked. OSU’s Curtis Grant recovered it at the MSU 35 with 2:27 left in the first half.
“I asked Coach Meyer to call the punt block,” said Roby, who led the Buckeyes with nine tackles. “I saw a chance to get in there and I was able to get back there and block it.”
But the Buckeyes could not capitalize on second-and-13 from the 38, Miller kept the ball on the option and was stripped by MSU’s Marcus Rush. MSU’s Norman recovered it at the MSU 37 with 1:42 left in the half.
On the ensuing drive, Maxwell hit Dion Sims for 19 yards and Mumphery for 18 to get a first down at the OSU 24. But after three straight incompletions, Conroy came on to try a 41-yard field goal. The kick sailed wide right with 33 seconds left in the half. OSU’s 7-3 lead stood at the half.
Michigan State had the ball to open the second half and went 49 yards in 11 plays. The big play was a 35-yard toss from Maxwell to Bennie Fowler. But the Buckeyes forced a pair of incompletions and MSU settled for Conroy’s 50-yard field goal to cut the OSU lead to 7-6 with 11:04 left in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes came back with a 13-play, 63-yard march capped by Drew Basil’s 26-yard field goal that made it 10-6 with 6:08 left in the third.
MSU stormed right back to grab the lead with a three-play, 65-yard drive. Maxwell hit Sims for a 17-yard gain and OSU’s Roby was penalized 15 yards for a face mask. On first down at the 29, Maxwell faked a give and rolled left. He hit Mumphery in the left flat. He broke five OSU tackle attempts. Johnson missed him after the catch, OSU’s Bryant then tried to hit him down and failed and at least three more Buckeyes converged to try and strip Mumphery but he kept rumbling down the sideline for the 29-yard touchdown that put MSU up 13-10 with 4:49 left in the third.
That lead was short-lived as OSU went 74 yards in four plays. Miller hit Smith down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown that put the Buckeyes up 17-13 with 3:05 left in the third. Smith got behind MSU’s Johnny Adams, an All-Big Ten corner last year, and eluded him after making the catch.
“He’s one of my favorite receivers so I’m going to always throw to him,” Miller said.
Smith added, “I think that play gave a little light to the team. Once I made that play everyone on the sideline knew the game wasn’t over. He was playing me in press coverage. I gave him a little move at the line of scrimmage and just ran fast. Braxton threw me a nice ball and I caught it and took it to the end zone.”
The Buckeyes were driving early in the fourth quarter after Miller hit Brown for 24 yards. Miller was scrambling for a first down on third-and-6 at the MSU 46. But he was hit by MSU’s Bullough and fumbled it. He was originally ruled down, but replay review overturned the call. MSU’s Drummond recovered the fumble at the MSU 32 with 12:14 left in the game.
The Spartans moved down with Maxwell hitting Tony Lippett for 13 yards. The Buckeyes appeared to get a fourth-down stop, but corner Travis Howard was flagged for holding. The penalty gave MSU new life with a first down at the OSU 35. But the defense stiffened with end Nathan Williams sacking Maxwell on third-and-3 at the 27. Conroy came on and drilled a 48-yard field goal to cut the OSU lead to 17-16 with 7:07 left in the game.
The Buckeyes then went three-and-out with Miller misfiring on a third-down pass under pressure from MSU’s William Gholston. The Spartans took over on their own 20 after an OSU punt with 5:39 left. Maxwell picked up one first down with an 11-yard pass to Lippett. But on third-and-9 at the MSU 32, OSU brought blitz pressure and Etienne Sabino hit Maxwell to force an incompletion. The Buckeyes got the ball back after an MSU punt with 4:10 left.
“We were in man coverage,” Sabino said. “I was on the running back and he stayed in and blocked, so I went.”
OSU went to work. Carlos Hyde had back-to-back 6-yard runs for a first down at its own 31. Miller then scrambled for 14 yards and another first down. Finally on third-and-4 at the 39, Hyde plowed ahead for a 5-yard gain and a first down with 2:03 left. MSU was out of timeouts, so the Buckeyes just had to kill the remaining clock.
“I think every coach wants that,” Meyer said of his team’s ability to ice the game. “Against that front – when they knew it was coming – to just take the ball and end the game like that, that tells you a lot. I didn’t know we could do that. That was a hell of an effort.”
“Our offensive line played a heck of a game,” Miller said. “You have to give them all of the credit.”
The Buckeyes congregated with the band and their fans in the northeast end zone for a lengthy postgame celebration, complete with dancing to the band’s music and a rendition of Carmen Ohio.
* OSU tailback Jordan Hall left the game before halftime with a knee injury. It’s unclear what his status will be for next week. Hall told reporters afterwards he is fine and should be back in the lineup next week.
* OSU safety C.J. Barnett missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury. Orhian Johnson filled in for him and Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown was the nickel back. Storm Klein made his second start of the season at middle linebacker.
Defensive end Michael Bennett saw his first action of the season after missing the first four games with a groin injury.
* Miller has three games this year with 100 yards rushing and six in his career.
* Philly Brown’s career day was the first for a Buckeye with 10 or more catches since Ted Ginn Jr. caught 10 against Bowling Green in 2006. The OSU single-game record is 14 by David Boston in 1997.
“The plan today was to go ahead and control the perimeter,” Brown said. “We felt if we were able to get out on the perimeter, then we would be successful today.”
* Hall’s touchdown leap was his first score of the season.
* The Buckeyes have come away with points in their last 15 forays into the red zone.
* Roby’s punt block was OSU’s first since Ryan Shazier blocked one against Wisconsin last year.
* This was the 41st meeting ever between OSU and MSU. Ohio State leads the all-time series 28-13, including 14-5 for games played in East Lansing. Ohio State had won seven in a row in the series prior to last year’s 10-7 loss in Columbus. The Buckeyes have also won 13 of the last 16 meetings with the Spartans. OSU has won its last four visits to East Lansing, dating to a 1999 loss (23-7).
* MSU coach Mark Dantonio, now 1-5 against OSU, was the defensive coordinator for Jim Tressel at OSU from 2001-03. He left to become the head coach at Cincinnati in 2004 and moved on to MSU in 2007. His UC teams lost to OSU 27-6 in 2004 and 37-6 in 2006. His MSU teams dropped games to OSU in 2007 (24-17 in Columbus) and 2008 (45-7 in East Lansing) before defeating the Buckeyes last year.
* This is Ohio State’s 100th year in the Big Ten. All-time in Big Ten openers, OSU is now 72-24-4. MSU is 32-24-4. MSU is 1-5 all-time against OSU in Big Ten openers. This is MSU’s 60th year in the conference.
* The Buckeyes reached 5-0 to start a season for the seventh time in 13 years, dating to 2000.
* This is the fifth team Meyer has led to a 5-0 start in his 11th year as a head coach. Only two previous first-year OSU coaches have started 5-0. Carroll Widdoes was 9-0 in 1944 and eventually won his first 12 games before a loss. Earle Bruce posted an 11-0 record to open the 1979 before a Rose Bowl loss to USC.
* Meyer improved to 22-10 all-time against ranked teams, including 6-6 on the road. His teams are also a combined 39-4 in September games.
* The Spartans had won 25 of their last 31 games (.806 winning percentage), dating to the start of the 2010 season.
* ESPN’s College Game Day emanated from East Lansing. OSU is 20-10 in games where Game Day is in attendance, including 7-5 on the road. MSU is 2-4 all-time in hosting College Game Day.
* Ohio State returns home to host No. 22 Nebraska (3-1) next Saturday. That game, set for an 8 p.m. start, will be televised nationally by either ABC or ESPN2.
Here are some postgame video interviews:
John Simon: link
Johnathan Hankins: link
Reid Fragel: link
Devin Smith: link
Braxton Miller: link
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