It was the type of win that resembled Urban Meyer’s debut in the SEC in 2005. The 6th ranked Florida Gators pitched a second half shutout, defeating the 5th ranked Volunteers in Gainesville. After that game concluded, Meyer was jumping around and high fiving fans in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. After this game concluded, Meyer was giving bro hugs to Mike Vrabel and, yes, jumping around and high-fiving Ohio State fans who made the trip to East Lansing. Ohio State was not going to win this going away, but its defense did just enough to start conference play right. Ohio State prevailed in a tough one this afternoon in Spartan Stadium.
The game certainly started in a dandy way. Braxton Miller was dinged on a late hit out of bounds to begin the game, but drove the Buckeyes into Sparty’s half of the field. Kenny Guiton came in with his smooth, smooth jazz to finish the drive with a Jordan Hall 1 yard touchdown run. The rest of the offensive series did not go as smoothly. Sparty did what we expected them to do. It presented numbers in the box, blitzed routinely, and dared Ohio State to throw. It also did an excellent job of forcing Braxton Miller to tease out the designed option plays, making Miller second-guess the decision to pitch or keep. The Spartans knew Miller’s knee-jerk reaction was to always keep and make the play himself, which can work to Miller and Ohio State’s detriment. This forced two fumbles by Braxton Miller, in addition to an interception in traffic. Miller left serious points on the board that could’ve allowed the Buckeyes to distance themselves from a Michigan State team struggling to make the base plays work. Fortunately for Ohio State, Miller burned Michigan State’s defense just once. After the Spartans took a 13-10 lead, Miller found Devin Smith on a go route for a 63 yard touchdown. Michigan State added a field goal, but did no more. That play was all we needed in a game where, as I expected, the first to 17 would win the game.
Defensively, well? It was much, much better than it was in the past four weeks. I don’t mind the overall idea that conceding 269 passing yards to Andrew Maxwell was okay because that wouldn’t be sufficient for victory. The defensive line kicked Michigan State’s ass. Hankins could not be blocked, and, thus, Bell was never going to gain more than 60 yards. Maxwell’s pockets were seldom clean. However, that lone touchdown for Michigan State should be singled out and panned as the collectively dumbest defensive play in Ohio State’s program history. It was heinously stupid and everyone involved should feel bad. Is that hyperbole? No. I’d actually remove Buckeye stickers from the helmets of everyone involved in that sequence. Indeed, secondary play was better all around this game, but a switch would be hit that would devolve the back seven into sheer lunacy. Sparty didn’t take full advantage of this, but the same problems were apparent. Ohio State struggled with play action, which allowed Maxwell the opportunity to find someone in the flats to move the chains or find Dion Sims down field. It was better overall, but will it be better going forward? I’m not sure. Michigan State was held to 303 yards of offense total for the game.
There were a lot of things to like in this game, in addition to some things to Ohio State. If we really believe we can get 4 yards a pop, all else equal, with inside zone plays for Carlos Hyde, why not feed him more? Hyde ended the game with his tough running, but we can probably take pressure off Miller’s knees if we give him more touches. Meanwhile, Philly Brown’s 12 receptions this game for 84 yards is something I don’t think we’d ever see again at Ohio State. Sabino was excellent this game, finishing with eight tackles and a sack. Roby had his moments, both good and bad.
Overall, I’ll take this win knowing it was going to be difficult. Next, Ohio State hosts the Nebraska Cornhuskers under the lights of Ohio Stadium. Hope to see you all there.