The Buckeyes and Spartans met in a head to head clash for the Big Ten Championship. In a battle that swung back and forth all night, the Spartans got the upper hand on the Buckeyes, securing the first B1G Championship for the Legends division with the 34-24 win. Braxton Miller was ok today against the stout Spartan defense, throwing 8/21 for 101 yards and a touchdown, while running 21 times for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns. Connor Cook was much more impressive, connecting on 24/40 passes for 304 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception.
Carlos Hyde broke 100 yards again, carrying 18 times for 118 yards. Corey “Philly” Brown led the Buckeyes with 5 receptions for 53 yards. Jeremy Langford of MSU was the first back to carry for more than 100 yards against OSU, running 24 times for 124 yards and a touchdown. Keith Mumphery led the Spartans in receiving with 2 catches for 84 yards.
We got a chance to see the Spartan offense take the field first against the much maligned OSU defense. The Bucks did an excellent job of slowing down the MSU offense early, forcing a third and long on the very first possession. A poor play by Doran Grant kept the drive alive on an overthrown ball, and began to give MSU some confidence. On another third and long, Ryan Shazier made contact with Langford with the ball sailing over his head, again extending the drive. MSU wasn’t able to do much more than that, settling for a field goal deep in OSU territory.
Then it was time to see what the MSU defense could do against the high powered Buckeye offense. Carlos Hyde made himself known on the first play, pounding up the middle for seven yards. Unfortunately, a bad snap from the center on 3rd and 3 destablized the offense enough to throw off the timing of the play. Ohio State was forced to punt after a three and out that was obviously self-inflicted.
Michigan State took over again after the punt on their own twenty yard line. Things were beginning to start clicking for the boys in green. The blocking up front was beginning to open holes in the Buckeyes line that Langford could get a head start in. With Langford getting things going, it seemed like MSU was going to score again. A false start followed by a stuffed run on first down put MSU in a hole deep enough that they couldn’t quite dig themselves out of it.
The Spartan defense finally got a chance to show what they could do on the subsequent drive. Carlos Hyde was gashing the Spartan defense up the middle, but the Buckeyes didn’t seem willing to stand success. They went away from what was working, and ground to a halt without crossing the 50 yard line. There was some promise, however, as Corey “Philly” Brown found himself open against the “No Fly Zone” defense repeatedly, but couldn’t hang on to an underthrown Miller pass down the field.
The Ohio State defensive line was clearly ready for this game, disrupting the Spartan backfield on a regular basis. Connor Cook regularly found himself facing pressure on passing plays, and Langford typically encountered his first Buckeye in the backfield. To Langford’s credit, he did a very good job of making the first guy miss, but usually that was followed by several other players in white shirts.
However, that didn’t stop Michigan State from scoring. On a long pass play, Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown went for the big play rather than playing his assignment. Connor Cook connected with Keith Mumphery over his head, and Mumphery went 72 yards untouched into the endzone. That gave the Spartans the biggest lead anyone had held on the Buckeyes all season, tying Northwestern’s 10 point lead from earlier in the year. That lead expanded by another seven after the Buckeyes again failed to move the football. Connor Cook connected with Tony Lippet for a 33 yard touchdown and everything looked to be going Michigan State’s way.
Until the following drive.
The Buckeye offense finally got the spark they needed when Braxton Miller ran free on the right side for 48 yards. That play very nearly scored, and was stopped only by a Buckeye blocker down field that unfortunately got in the way. A couple plays later, a suddenly confident Miller zipped a pass over three MSU defenders to Philly Brown for OSU’s first score of the game. The Buckeye offense had similar success on the second drive, banking on Miller’s legs for much of it. Unfortunately, they weren’t able score and were forced to punt with scant minutes left in the half.
The Bucks were able to shut down the MSU offense deep in MSU territory, getting the ball back with a minute and a half left. Braxton Miller engineered a fantastic quick drive to put the Buckeyes in easy field goal position with 4 seconds left in the half. The play setting up the field goal was a beautiful 30 yard pass play to Heuerman over the middle where MSU didn’t have anyone in their zone coverage. Drew Basil had no trouble putting up the field goal, closing the gap to a single score at intermission.
After the half, the Buckeyes got the opportunity to get their offense moving again. Banking on the momentum from the first half, and a few smart adjustments, the Bucks found no trouble moving the ball against the Spartan defense. Carlos Hyde, who had been “stymied” at only 4.6 yards per carry in the first half, gained huge yardage on his first two carries of the half and brought his rushing numbers closer to his season average. Miller added a smart pass to Devin Smith at the sideline, followed by a quick QB keeper to the left edge to knot the game up at 17.
Michigan State tried to respond in kind, hoping to regain the momentum. The running game was struggling to get going against the Buckeye D-Line. Cook was responding well, standing in the pocket and delivering great passes to his receivers. However, a poor decision by Cook put the ball in the arms of CJ Barnett. It was the first turnover the game, giving the Buckeyes the ball at midfield. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes weren’t able to get a score, despite a couple nice throws into the endzone. Both were perfectly defended by Drummand and Darqueze Dennard – though Dennard definitely made contact before the football got there.
The subsequent drive was a killer for Michigan State’s defense. Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, and Jordan Hall simply attacked the defense up the middle, gaining yardage in 5 to 10 yard chunks. Braxton Miller was eventually able to plunge into the endzone to complete the drive and secure the first OSU lead in the game.
Things were looking desperate for the Green and White. Their offense was no longer moving the football, and their defense was struggling to stop the OSU attack. Facing their first deficit of the day, the Spartans buckled down and focused on what needed to be done. A huge Langford 34 yard run, which doubled his rushing numbers for the day, put life back into the offense. Connor Cook was also able to make a few things happen with his arm, but it wasn’t enough to keep from bogging down deep in OSU territory. A field goal on fourth and ten closed the deficit somewhat. That was aided when the subsequent OSU drive stalled.
Despite being pinned deep, the Spartans rode their passing game into scoring position. Another pass interference call on Doran Grant helped MSU out in a big way. Finally facing a third and goal, Connor Cook executed a throw back to Josiah Price for a 9 yard touchdown. The score gave the momentum back to the Spartans, as well as giving them the lead again at a three point margin.
Mark Dantonio finally attempted his trickeration play on the subsequent play. Hoping to take advantage of the momentum, Michigan State ran an unusual onside kick to the right side of the field. The ball fell more than 10 yards downfield from the kicker, with two Buckeyes and a Spartan in the area. The players scrambled for the ball, which eventually dribbled out of bounds. That gave Ohio State fantastic field position, starting the possession past their own 40 yard line – but they weren’t able to do anything with it.
The Buckeyes got the ball back in a big way. Ryan Shazier got deep with tough effort up the middle to get a hand on the MSU punt. That put the Buckeyes on the MSU side of the 50 with seven minutes left in the game. Again, Michigan State’s defense stood tall and forced the Buckeyes to turn the ball over on downs when Miller was unable to gain a yard on the right edge.
A defensive breakdown for the Buckeyes allowed Langford to finally break one up the middle for a score. The touchdown gave Michigan State a 10 point lead with 2 minutes left. Braxton Miller was not able to get the offense in gear one final time, and the Buckeyes turned it over on downs again to give the game to Michigan State.
Give credit to Mark Dantonio’s Spartans in this one. They came in with a fantastic game plan and executed well enough to throttle the OSU offense. They did exactly what they needed to in order to secure the win, and should probably be in good shape in the Rose Bowl.
The Buckeyes are now waiting word on their Bowl Game for this season. Stay tuned to the BBC to find out what location that will be.