Buckeyes' speed and execution too much for Spartans to handle
COLUMBUS, Ohio — At least for one quarter, Michigan State was there to compete. That was when the Spartans kept the game within a single possession, was flying around the field defensively and was opportunistic on offense.
That could only last for so long until speed, athleticism and execution took over for Ohio State. The fourth-ranked Buckeyes defeated No. 25 Michigan State 34-10 Saturday night at Ohio Stadium in a game that wasn't as close as the score made it.
OSU defeated the Spartans for the fourth consecutive year.
"Disappointing outcome, obviously that we came in here, and thought we had the right mindset coming in," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.
Sixteen Yards Turns Into 312
While Michigan State's offense was trying to get in rhythm, the Spartan defense was on fire. But, when MSU's offense looked ready to make some plays, the defense didn't.
MSU fumbled on the second play of both its first-two offensive possessions, first by Cody White after making a catch crossing the field, and then by Elijah Collins when he couldn't handle a pitch from Brian Lewerke.
But, Michigan State's defense held firm, holding Ohio State to only 16 yards through 15 minutes and three points, on a 39-yard field goal by Blake Haubeil.
After a 60-yard touchdown by Binjimen Victor game the Buckeyes a 10-0 lead, MSU's offense responded in a hurry. Lewerke led MSU on a five-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Stewart Jr. to cut OSU's lead to 10-7.
Lewerke finished 20 of 38 for 218 yards while also throwing for one touchdown and an interception, while Stewart caught six catches to lead the Spartans in receiving.
"I think I played alright," Lewerke said following the game. "I missed the touchdown to Cody [White] but they're a really good team, so it is difficult to get points on them. I think we moved the ball a little well, but just got to finish in the end."
When MSU's offense was ready to put up a fight, its defense wilted. The Buckeyes gained 296 yards and scored 24 points in the the second quarter to go into halftime with a 27-10 lead.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields connected with Luke Farrell for a 21-yard touchdown to put the Buckeyes up 17-7. Then, running back J.K. Dobbins busted through the middle of Michigan State's defense for a 67-yard touchdown to put OSU up 24-10 after a Matt Coghlin 39-yard field goal.
Fields finished 17 of 25 for 206 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while Dobbins added 172 yards on the ground on 24 carries.
"You also have to give them credit with the way that they played," Dantonio said. "They are a very explosive team. Justin Fields, we got people covered, we can't quite get to him and he sneaks out of there and runs for 20 yards, or 10 yards, or five yards, whatever he needs to do. But he had some explosive plays, and then Dobbins got loose on us."
Haubeil added a 43-yard field goal before time expired to give the Buckeyes a commanding lead at the break.
Missed Opportunities And Out Of Ideas
The Spartans came out of the break, needing to put together a drive, and did so before the offensive possession stalled out inside the red zone. Then, the Spartans came up empty when Coghlin shanked a 27-yard field goal.
After Josiah Scott intercepted a pass from Fields — his first intercention of the season — MSU's offense struggled to move the ball, going three-and-out, after a questionable wildcat play-call with Collins and La'Darius Jefferson lined up in the backfield, and then a Lewerke completion to Trent Gillison that didn't make the sticks.
"It was a roll-out play, and Garrett Wilson was playing X, he was supposed to clear the corner out," Fields said. "They were in zone, and the corner fell off K.J. [Wright]. That's what happened. I didn't see the corner falling off, so it's on me."
Scott led the Spartans' defense with 12 total tackles added to his second takeaway on the season.
Collins ran for 63 yards on 12 carries, while Gillison added three catches for 34 yards.
And when Michigan State's offense couldn't keep up, it was all but over.
Fields capped an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive with a 1-yard scamper to put the Buckeyes up 34-10 early in the fourth quarter to put the final nail in the Spartans' coffin.
MSU's defense gave up 529 yards of offense, the most the Spartans have surrendered to a team this season.
Michigan State (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) goes back on the road next Saturday when it travels to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the eighth-ranked Badgers (3:30 p.m. ET, 2:30 p.m. CT, BTN).