FINAL: Buckeyes earn victory in East Lansing on Spartans senior day
The MSU Spartans (3-8, 1-7 Big Ten) welcomed No. 2 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) to East Lansing and barely fell to the heavily-favored Buckeyes 17-16. It was senior day at Spartan Stadium with the wind and weather playing a large part in the final outcome.
Sophomore running back LJ Scott, native of Hubbard, Ohio, came to play on Saturday afternoon, running for 160 yards and a touchdown and catching a 64-yard touchdown. Trailing 17-10, the Spartans relied on Scott’s legs, as he carried the ball all eight times on a 56-yard touchdown drive, capping it off with a one-yard score.
A failed two-point conversion left it 17-16 with just under five minutes to play. Ohio State got the ball back and the Spartan defense held strong, forcing the Buckeyes to punt with 2:12 on the clock. MSU took over from their own 20, and fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor threw an interception on the second play to seal the Buckeyes victory.
MSU celebrated senior day prior to the game, and players like receiver R.J. Shelton, tight end Josiah Price, and linebacker Riley Bullough were among some of the biggest ovations from the Spartan Stadium crowd. Shelton started the first offensive drive of the game for the Spartans with an 11-yard jet sweep run.
The next play for MSU found paydirt. A screen pass from fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor hit Scott right in the chest. With fifth-year senior lineman Benny McGowan paving the way, Scott burst down the sideline for a 64-yard touchdown. Just like that, MSU was up seven on the Buckeyes.
The offense performed admirably against an Ohio State defense that has started the same 11 players since week two and ranks second in the Big Ten in total defense, rush defense, pass defense and interceptions.
A 10-10 tie at halftime after touchdown throws from each side in the first quarter and field goals from each in the second. Ohio State broke through first in the second half on their third offensive drive, as running back Mike Weber and quarterback J.T. Barrett rushed for 69 yards combined in four plays, capped off with a four-yard touchdown scamper from Weber.
Weber finished the day with 111 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Barrett had 191 total yards (86 passing, 105 rushing) and one touchdown pass in the first quarter.
MSU had garnered a large amount of momentum following a Mike Sadler-esque fake punt, a 25-yard run by the up back Chris Frey on the play. After that, they lost all momentum after a holding call and negative run quickly sputtered an otherwise promising MSU drive.
MSU generated three sacks against an Ohio State offensive line that has started the same five at each position since the start of the regular season, a season-high for them. The Spartans had only had seven sacks heading into the contest and hadn’t recorded one since playing Maryland one month ago.
MSU’s defense despite holding a potent Ohio State offense to just 17 points, gave up seven of 17 third-down conversions, a category MSU has struggled with all season long. The offense didn’t do itself any favors either, only converting three of 12 third-down opportunities.
Defensively, MSU was led by junior Montae Nicholson (13 tackles, seven solo) and senior Bullough (11 tackles, three quarterback hurries). True freshman Mike Panasiuk looked like everything but a true freshman, turning in a solid performance of seven tackles, and a half-sack. Other underclassmen on defense stepped up, such as freshman Auston Robertson (tackle, forced fumble) and sophomore Robert Bowers (five tackles, half-sack).
The Spartans now look to No. 8 Penn State next week on the road in the last game of the season.