Takeaways from MSU's win: Scott surging at just right time
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Even with Connor Cook on the sidelines because of a bad shoulder, the Michigan State offense moved efficiently, and much of that was due to the play of the offensive line. The front five has been scrutinized all season for MSU's inability to run the ball consistently, but against the Buckeyes the Spartans controlled the line of scrimmage and ran for 203 yards.
Gerald Holmes was effective early before LJ Scott finished strong. It's the type of performance the offensive line has been seeking all season, and now relatively healthy for a couple of weeks, it's all starting to come together.
The defensive front was also dominant at Ohio State, something that has been the case often this season but was especially eye-opening against the Buckeyes. Ohio State entered the game as the No. 1 rushing team in the conference and second in overall offense. The Spartans held them to five first downs, 132 total yards and 86 on the ground.
In addition to the defensive line, the linebackers were active and the secondary was solid, though OSU only threw 16 times.
The special teams might have had their best game of the season. Kevin Cronin recorded a touchback on all three of his kickoffs while punter Jake Hartbarger was solid, saving a 51-yarder for the fourth quarter that was key. And kicker Michael Geiger, who missed from 43 yards earlier in the game, hit the winner from 41 as time expired.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Not a lot, as Michigan State was solid in nearly every aspect. The Spartans didn't throw the ball much because of the conditions, but even that wasn't bad as Tyler O'Connor was 7-for-12 and had a 12-yard touchdown pass to fullback Trevon Pendleton. Turnovers were probably the biggest issue and, quite frankly, were the only reason Ohio State was in the game.
Both Ohio State scores came off turnovers and the drives totaled a combined 38 yards. The first came after Damion Terry was sacked and fumbled at the MSU 32. The second came when Macgarrett Kings Jr. muffed a punt and Ohio State recovered at the MSU 6.
It turns out this Michigan State team can run the ball, and that will be vital down the stretch. The offensive line was outstanding and Holmes was good again. But the biggest news might have been the way Scott ran late in the game. He had fumbling issues last week and nearly lost one early against Ohio State, but he ran with force late in the game and proved he can be a difference-maker for this offense.
The defense also looked fast and aggressive, and though the secondary was rarely tested, it looked as solid as it has all season.
MOST TELLING QUOTES
Mark Dantonio: "Huge win for our program. When you really look at it we sat around all day and listened how we were underdogs, and I think that motivates people. … We came in with something to prove and usually when you have that you have a little chip on your shoulder and maybe even play a little better."
Center Jack Allen: "I still think we make a lot of people look foolish. You look on TV and we're supposed to get blown out or get beat pretty good. I think it's good to look back on that and see the people who said that."
Kicker Michael Geiger: "That was the most important kick I've ever made in my entire life. I rehearsed that as a kid over my swing set ever since I could kick a ball. I would say, 'This is the kick to beat Ohio State. This is the kick to beat Ohio State.' Being from Toledo, it means the world."
Backup quarterback Tyler O'Connor: "I had an idea (I would start). The reps (during the week) were more in Damion's and my favor, but it was never for sure. Even (Saturday) morning Connor was going to give it a go. I got the opportunity and I texted my family and said, 'Hey, you'll see a lot more of me tomorrow.' It was a blessing to have the opportunity. To play in a stadium like this against a team like this is incredible."
Quarterback Connor Cook: "It's just a sprain right now. Rest it and rehab it to get back to full strength and be back out there throwing again. The only thing that held me back was a little bit of pain. So get back in the treatment room this week and get after it, and try and get it back for next week."
Michigan State hosts Penn State to close the regular season with a chance to win the Big Ten East Division for the first time and reach the conference championship game for the third time since it began in 2011. Michigan State lost the inaugural game that year to Wisconsin before returning in 2013 and beating Ohio State to go to the Rose Bowl.
The Spartans will also try to bolster their playoff resume with a win on Senior Day, followed by a matchup with an Iowa team that will be unbeaten if it can close the regular season with a victory at Nebraska on Friday.