All season, Ohio State fans have hoped the team could avoid any letdowns in order to get to the back-loaded schedule unbeaten. That happened. The Buckeyes avoided all the traps, pulled out wins that were close, but never really had to do much more than exert some muscle down the stretch to squeeze a team and thwart their comeback attempt.
Michigan State came into last night looking like the team’s first real test of the season. But with a recent loss at Nebraska, the game in the Horseshoe on Senior Day, and the unavailability of starting quarterback Connor Cook, Buckeye fans had to feel pretty good about Ohio State’s chances of getting to Ann Arbor unscathed.
Would the defense take advantage of Cook’s absence and strangle the Michigan State offense? Could J.T. Barrett find ways to get Braxton Miller the ball in his last home game? Would the Buckeyes handle the wind and rain and take it to Sparty? Could Ezekiel Elliott keep his streak alive and take a giant leap to the forefront of the Heisman conversation?
No, no, no, and God no. The Buckeyes were pushed around on drives twice after taking the lead, allowing the Spartans to march right down the field to tie the game both times — and to get into position for a game-winning field goal. Miller had just one catch for three yards and two carries for nine yards. Ohio State played like there was a foot of snow on the ground, with a heavy dose of quarterback runs. Zeke carried only 12 times for 33 yards (and a score), with only two rushes after halftime.
Here are your talking points from yesterday’s 17-14 home loss to the Spartans:
WATER COOLER PREP (EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW…IN ONE PARAGRAPH)
The Buckeyes put up the fewest yards ever by an Urban Meyer team, with just 132. Elliott carried eight times on the first touchdown drive and four times the rest of the game combined. The staff called a bunch of designed rollouts by Barrett early, which only served to make him look uncomfortable or tuck and run. He was 9/14 for 46 yards and a touchdown and ran 15 times for 44 yards. The defense allowed a touchdown drive on which Michigan State didn’t even throw one pass. It was won in the trenches and Sparty won it. Ohio State played scared and lost in front of a record crowd of 108,975.
GIVE THAT MAN A BUCKEYE LEAF (PLAYER OF THE GAME)
This is a pretty tough call, but I’ll settle on Joshua Perry, who finished with 15 tackles and half a tackle for loss. No one’s play particularly stood out, although several Buckeyes had flashes. Jalin Marshall caught a touchdown one-handed but dropped a couple of passes. Bosa played well at times but had the three offside penalties. Even Perry was beat for a touchdown on a pass to the fullback but it took a great pass and an even better effort by Trevon Pendleton on the play. Perry was at least solid and made a lot of plays that probably should have been made by others before he got there.
DID YOU SEE THAT?! (PLAY OF THE GAME)
This is one of those rare I’m going with one play to serve two purposes. This is partly due to a lack of big plays by Ohio State and partly due…well, OK, it’s entirely due to a lack of plays by the Buckeyes. Please see the next section for your play of the game.
SLOBBER KNOCKER OF THE GAME
Sam Hubbard set up the game’s first score by drilling quarterback Damion Terry near the end of the first quarter, forcing him to cough up the football. Adolphus Washington fell on it and the Buckeyes scored on the ensuing drive, shortly after the start of the second quarter. That blast by Hubbard looked particularly painful and I’m glad I never find myself standing in his way.
— Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) November 21, 2015
TALK IN THE AFTERMATH
Ramzy always says the things we’re all thinking.
Ohio State's game plan was a slow death, so in that sense it was an uncompromised success. Nice job, everyone.
— Ramzy Nasrallah (@ramzy) November 21, 2015
This is what an ugly tweet looks like:
OSU finished with five first downs (!), 132 yards (!), 46 passing yards (!) and 45 offensive plays (!)
— Jeff Svoboda (@JeffSvoboda) November 21, 2015
The play calling made many of us long for happier times.
Please go back @CoachTomHerman
— corey brown (@phillybrown10) November 21, 2015
And it's understandable that there were some overreaction tweets about a team that’s lost four games in Urban Meyer’s tenure and just fallen on a wet night against a ranked team.
SEC fans said this is when Urban starts declining. Starting to see it.
— Zo (@ZoForeman) November 21, 2015
None of us are happy today, but to suggest Meyer's losing it after one loss over two seasons, is perhaps jumping the gun juuuust a bit.
Oh, and there was the small matter of Ezekiell Elliott burning the coaching staff to the ground.
JIM TRESSEL'S LEAST FAVORITE MOMENT OF THE GAME
At long last, Tressel finally had his entire milk bottle collection on display. He spent several hours putting up shelves in the den to house more than 150 vintage glass milk bottles, which he had proudly emptied himself, over the course of his lifetime, because milk does a body good. He got the last one into place as Ohio State gave up a touchdown on defense in the second quarter and then proceeded to go three and out.
Tressel stood in front of the TV with great expectations for a booming Cameron Johnston punt. Instead, the Aussie mishit the ball sending it off a Spartan and a Buckeye, giving Michigan State the ball in great field position. Tressell stretched out his arm and walked along the wall, sending dozens of milk bottles to their deaths.
WHEN YOU SANK INTO YOUR CHAIR (THE MOMENT BUCKEYE FOOTBALL DISGRACED YOUR FAMILY)
It happened more than once. On Michigan State’s drive to tie the game at 14, both Joey Bosa and Tyquan Lewis jumped offside on critical downs, giving Michigan State much easier conversions. They did convert and today they’re happy and we’re not. Perhaps the Buckeyes can stop a 4th-and-8 but they sure didn’t stop 4th-and-3. Bosa’s was particularly bad because it was the third time he did it in the game.
WHAT YOU TEXTED YOUR FRIEND AT THE END OF EACH QUARTER
First: “If we add 20 herbs and spices, this offense can reach vanilla.”
Second: “Everything after our touchdown was terrible.”
Third: “Not sure if I’m more worried about the offense or the defense after the offense scores.”
Fourth: “SMH. Pushed around and played scared in our own house.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN
When Geiger’s field goal sailed just inside the left upright with all zeroes on the clock, the longest winning streak in the nation was gone.
There is still a little matter of The Game on Saturday. The game means a whole lot less unless Sparty wangs it against Penn State, which was terrible and dumb all day against Michigan yesterday, falling to TTUN, 28-16. If Ohio State plays scared again, it’ll be back-to-back losses. If not, pray for chaos elsewhere.