The No. 20 MSU football team may be considered by some as a program on the rise, but if the Spartans’ 45-7 loss to No. 12 Ohio State proved anything Saturday, it’s that the Spartans have a long way to go before they’re on the same level as the Buckeyes.
Ohio State (7-1 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) jumped to a 21-0 in the first quarter, and by the time the third quarter rolled around, the MSU student section had left the southeastern corner of Spartan Stadium in 2006 fashion as the Spartans fell to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten.
“Give credit to Ohio State; they’re an excellent football team, they have been for years and they’ll probably continue to be,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said. “The object of playing top teams in your conference is to measure up. We did not measure up today.”
The Buckeyes set the measuring stick high during the first quarter, when Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor began the scoring spree by capping off a 47-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown run with 8:25 remaining in the first quarter.
On the Spartans’ ensuing possession, senior quarterback Brian Hoyer and freshman wide receiver Keshawn Martin hooked up for a 14-yard screen pass. Two plays later, Hoyer found Martin on the left side of the field for what appeared to be another successful screen pass.
Martin shook Buckeyes safety Kurt Coleman and went up-field, but then fumbled near the sideline. Ohio State’s Donald Washington picked up the loose ball and returned it 44 yards to the MSU 17-yard line. The Buckeyes capitalized when Pryor found wide receiver Brian Robiskie in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
On Ohio State’s next possession, Pryor hit wide receiver Brian Hartline for a 56-yard reception, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Chris “Beanie” Wells that gave the Buckeyes a 21-0 lead.
“They came out and jumped on us and we couldn’t really get anything going,” Hoyer said. “When you get behind a team like that it’s going to be hard to come back.”
Ohio State’s final score of the first half came on a 12-yard touchdown run by Wells, who carried the ball 31 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
MSU’s offense — led by redshirt freshman Kirk Cousins, who came into the game because of hand and head injuries to Hoyer — opened the third quarter with an 87-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to sophomore tight end Charlie Gantt, cutting the deficit to 28-7.
Cousins continued his strong play on MSU’s next series, taking the Spartans down to the Ohio State 23-yard line to begin the fourth. But on third-and-11, Ohio State cornerback Malcom Jenkins blitzed, sacking Cousins and forcing a fumble. Buckeyes defensive end Thaddeus Gibson recovered the fumble and rumbled 69 yards for a touchdown that extended Ohio State’s lead to 35-7.
Ohio State’s Aaron Pettrey hit a 40-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter and Jermale Hines scored Ohio State’s final touchdown on a 48-yard fumble recovery with 15 seconds remaining for the game’s final points.
Senior running back Javon Ringer finished the game with 67 yards on 16 carries — a 4.2 yard average — while sophomore wide receiver Mark Dell had four receptions for 53 yards. Hoyer was 5-for-13 for 27 yards and one interception, while Cousins had 161 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 17-for-24 passing.
Despite Cousins’ strong play in the third quarter, Dantonio put to rest any thought of a quarterback controversy, naming Hoyer as next week’s starter.
“It’s good to have him have my back, it’s not like they took me out because I was playing bad — I wasn’t playing well — no one was, but I was begging them to go back in and they couldn’t because I wasn’t passing any of the tests,” Hoyer said. “It’s obviously good to have his support and I’ll come out and be fired up for this week.”
Sophomore linebacker Greg Jones had 13 tackles to lead the MSU defense, while senior strong safety Otis Wiley and junior linebacker Adam Decker each had 10.
Despite MSU’s loss in front of 77,360 fans and a nationally televised audience, Wiley said he’s a firm believer in finding victory in defeat.
“As a whole, the biggest game on our schedule is Michigan in the Big House and it’s a test for our team,” Wiley said. “I’m going to be strong, I know we’re all going to be strong and I know there’s victory in defeat.”
MSU returns to action against Michigan at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 25 in Ann Arbor, while Ohio State hosts Penn State at 8 p.m. the same day.
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