Michigan State entered Ohio Stadium with something to prove and put up a fight the whole night. Unfortunately for Sparty, however, the home team was simply too much, defeating the visitors 34-10.
In today's Three Key Stats, we will discuss how Justin Fields found success despite a tough night through the air, how the wide receivers found their roles, and the reemergence of one of the most underrated players in the nation.
Justin Fields is the only player in the nation to record a passing and rushing touchdown in each game this season.
No one can deny the fact that Justin Fields has been nearly unstoppable this year. In fact, ESPN says he may be one of the most versatile quarterbacks in the Big Ten in the past twenty years.
Justin Fields is the only Big Ten player over the last 20 seasons with a pass touchdown and rush touchdown in six straight games, per @ESPNStatsInfo— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) October 6, 2019
The Michigan State passing defense proved to be all the Bucks could handle, holding Fields and his elite receiving corps to just 211 total yards on 25 attempts. Fields, who threw his first career interception against the Spartans, had arguably the worst game of his Ohio State career and still ended with a passer rating of 155.6.
The Buckeyes were not able to carve up opponents as they have in the past but still managed to put up 34 points on one of the best defenses in the nation.
Different receivers contributed in different ways against Michigan State as K.J. Hill caught seven of eight targets for 57 yards and Binjamin Victor caught three of four targets for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Ohio State's receivers have always had well-defined roles and last night's game was another example of this thought.
K.J. Hill, a sure-handed route technician, was dominant in the short game, acting as Fields' safety valve on critical downs. Hill caught seven of his eight targets for 57 yards and contributed to two first downs.
Meanwhile, Binjamin Victor, who is well-known for his big plays, was able to break another one tonight, taking a simple route to the house for a huge 60-yard touchdown reception.
Incredible play design, incredible execution. pic.twitter.com/XZMI5qQwnV— Eleven Warriors (@11W) October 6, 2019
Tonight's wide receiver performance simply confirms what was already known; each Ohio State receiver has a different role that they can succeed in. Tonight, K.J. Hill proved to be Fields' rock while Victor took advantage of his opportunity.
The Buckeyes' issues through the air should not be a major point of concern, however, as Fields was still able to complete 68% of his passes. The Spartans were able to take away the big plays, leading to a huge increase in production for the rushing game and Hill.
Jordan Fuller reintroduced himself to the nation, leading the team in tackles and added a second interception in two games against Michigan State.
Jordan Fuller was the rock in the defensive backfield last season and has quietly been one of the best safeties in the nation for the second year in a row. Against the Spartans, he recorded 7 tackles and returned a tipped pass for a touchdown.
Oh, I forgot, this is now a penalty.
Here's what the officials called a dangerous blindside block from Baron Browning that wiped a Jordan Fuller pick-six off the board that would have made it 41-10. pic.twitter.com/VaIlHMNNFg— Eleven Warriors (@11W) October 6, 2019
Fuller, despite his relatively low draft status, has arguably been the best defensive player for the Buckeyes for the past two years. He led the team in tackles a year ago and is currently leading the Silver Bullets this season. The senior has been among the most consistent players on a team full of change in recent years.
While his tackling ability has been well-documented, his recent ability to track and find the ball in the air is definitely noteworthy. Fuller has two interceptions in the past two games, tying his previous season-high in just seven days. As he continues to take over the center-field role, his role as a ball-hawk is becoming more and more emphasized.
The Bucks were able to dump the Spartans despite a number of mistakes on both sides of the ball. With an idle week coming, let us hope that Ohio State will be able to execute better as the schedule on the horizon becomes more and more intimidating.