The Buckeyes and Spartans met in the game that most people assume will eventually crown the Big Ten champion. Of course, that is discounting the entire B1G West Division and the remaining schedules for both teams, but hey, that’s what people do these days, because they haven’t paid attention to things like yesterday’s Texas A&M win at Auburn.
Jim Tressel’s dark apprentice Mark Dantonio got the best of Urban Meyer last year in the B1G title game, and the year before the two teams played a low-scoring affair in East Lansing that Braxton Miller-to-Devin Smith settled in the good guys’ favor. Sparty has risen as a conference power through defense, determination and Dantonio’s ability to develop the players Ohio State doesn’t recruit hard.
Would Ohio State get revenge for last year’s conference championship tilt? Could freshman J.T. Barrett stay upright and find more success in the MSU “No-Fly Zone” than Miller did last year? Would the Buckeye runners pick up yards with the same success that Carlos Hyde and Miller did last season against that Spartan front? Could the defense contain running back Jeremy Langford and keep Connor Cook from hitting big plays in the passing game?
Yes, yes, yes, and eh…didn’t really do the first but kind of did the second. Ohio State fell behind, and sometimes didn’t even play that well, but still managed to win convincingly on the road. Barrett was well protected most of the night, completing 16/26 for 300 yards and three scores without a pick. The Buckeyes ran for 268 yards, with Ezekiel Elliott and Barrett combining for 240 yards and four touchdowns. Langford ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns, but Cook had a rough first half and finished just 22/41.
Here are your Michigan State game talking points:
Water Cooler prep (Everything you need to know…in one paragraph)
Ohio State fell behind three times in the first half, but overcame some mistakes to take a 28-21 halftime lead. After the first quarter, Ohio State only punted once, racking up 568 yards against an MSU defense that could do nothing to stop it. Elliott ran for 154 yards and two scores. Devin Smith was huge in the first half, finishing with six catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. The defense made enough stops against a good Spartan offense. Barrett accounted for five total touchdowns in the 49-37 win.
Talk before the game
Revenge was obviously a big topic of discussion, but some put it more eloquently than others.
Time for Sparta to burn. #GoBucks— Denny (@dennymayo) November 9, 2014
It was a night game, so what about the uniform situation?
Based on kickers' attire, Buckeyes will be in road-traditional gray pants, white jerseys and regular helmets tonight.— Tim May (@TIM_MAYsports) November 8, 2014
And no pregame is complete without a celebrity in a goofy hat.
Michigan State hoops coach Tom Izzo in the house: pic.twitter.com/basqZalmbz— Tim Shoemaker (@TimShoemaker) November 9, 2014
How were visiting Buckeye guests treated on the road by their Big Ten brethren?
Now the Double Script Ohio is getting booed. But this is the state that continues to pay the bills for the Insane Clown Posse, so...— Tony Gerdeman (@GerdOzone) November 9, 2014
Oh, you'll pay for booing the Script Ohio, Sparty.
Talk in the aftermath
“Revenge!” – Virtually everyone in my Twitter timeline
This satisfactorily echoes my thoughts on Tom Herman, who called perhaps his best game since joining the OSU staff:
Someone buy Tom Herman a beer.— Buckeye Ninja (@TheBuckeyeNinja) November 9, 2014
Former Buckeyes were excited:
How about them Buckeyes!!!!!!— Boom herron (@BOOMHERRON1) November 9, 2014
And let’s hear from Dino’s defensive coordinator:
Pat Narduzzi says "it seemed like they were one step ahead of us all day."— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) November 9, 2014
Give that man a buckeye leaf (Player of the game)
Barrett did it with his arm, throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. He did it with his legs, rushing 14 times for 86 yards (6.1 YPA) and two more scores. But more than anything, Barrett is our player of the game for the poise, toughness and leadership he demonstrated all game long. He got Ohio State back in the game with the play in the next section, stood tall against the rush, picked up tough yardage for first downs when the Buckeyes needed them, and kept his entire team focused and in control. That was some next-level stuff from J.T.
Did you see that?! (Play of the game)
The Buckeyes trailed 14-7 at the start of the second quarter and had been bullied for a couple of series by Michigan State’s defense. Facing a third-and-23 from his own 36, Barrett coolly stepped back, found Devin Smith deep down the field, and dropped a perfect pass over the shoulder where only his receiver could get to it. Smith made the catch at the MSU 21 and four plays later Elliott busted in from a yard out to tie it at 14.
Slobber Knocker of the Game
There were a lot of good hits in this game, and it was physical, but aside from an illegal hit by a Michigan State freshman out of bounds on Elliott, I didn’t remember any hits that really made me say, “oooh!” That said, Ohio State got a great play out of an active Michael Bennett that fits the bill here.
The Spartans had a first down at their own 45 following the Elliott touchdown that tied the score at 14. Connor Cook gave the ball to Nick Hill on a delayed handoff and Bennett came plowing through the line to drop Hill for a five-yard loss.
Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment of the game
Ohio State’s former head coach was in his crafts room, watching the Buckeyes on TV while he worked. A master creator of stained glass windows, Tressel’s leanings are toward religious pieces. Ohio State took its opening drive down the field while Tressel sketched his masterpiece on a piece of mylar, then he began selecting glass, scoring it, and cutting the sizes and shapes he needed to re-create the Last Supper. Freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger lined up a 47-yard kick that would give Ohio State the early lead. The kick started wide right, then hooked back nicely to center…only to fall about a foot shy of the crossbar. Tressel spiked Judas Iscariot’s glass face, muttering something unintelligible about the weight room.
When you sank into your chair (The moment Buckeye football disgraced your family)
Quite simply, when Dontre Wilson was allowed to return kickoffs after fumbling two of them, I felt like throwing up. But, to his credit, he made a couple of big catches in the second half, including a great grab for a touchdown. And he didn’t fumble any more kickoffs.
What you texted your friend at the end of each quarter
First: “Ugh. The tackling, the mistakes, the refs. Ugh.”
Second: “J.T. is the man! Go freshman!”
Third: “Good quarter! One more to go.”
Fourth: “Didn’t even give them our best game and still won.”
It was over when
Michigan State stubbornly refused to go away, pulling back within 11 points with 9:15 remaining on a Cook-to-Josiah Price touchdown pass. Fans began to worry Ohio State had taken its foot off the throttle. Balderdash, said the Buckeyes. Elliott capped a four-play, 78-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown run to effectively end Sparty’s chances. The score made it 49-31 at the time, only a couple of plays after Barrett ripped off a 55-yard run.
The Buckeyes stay on the road next week with a tough trip to Minnesota. The Golden Gophers improved to 7-2 (4-1 in B1G play) yesterday with a 51-14 beatdown of Iowa. The Gophers are a perfect 6-0 at home this season, outscoring their opponents 215-120 in those games. Sure, Minnesota lost on the road at Illinois, but this isn’t going to be an easy game, especially coming off an emotional road win in East Lansing.