Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio talks about what went wrong in a 48-3 loss to Ohio State. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Columbus, Ohio — For the past two weeks, Michigan State’s offense had started to take off.
Specifically, it was the passing game that was coming to life as the Spartans threw for 845 yards and six touchdowns in a triple-overtime loss at Northwestern and a victory at home last week over Penn State.
It was that passing attack that No. 12 Michigan State was counting on Saturday when it took on No. 13 Ohio State in a battle for first place in the Big Ten East.
Instead of soaring, however, the air attack was grounded as quarterback Brian Lewerke was limited to 18-for-36 passing for 131 yards and two interceptions while Michigan State quarterbacks were sacked six times in Ohio State’s 48-3 victory at Ohio Stadium.
“I don’t think we threw the ball effectively,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Last week (Lewerke) was on top of it and this week, not so much. Consequently, I go back to what I’ve said, you’ve got to run the ball, too, and take pressure off the passing game and protect the quarterback. They pressured us with a very good front seven, that front four is very good. In the back end they manned us up and pressed us and we didn’t win enough and sometimes when we did win the ball was not there enough, whether that was because of pressure or accuracy, whatever the case.”
The running game hasn’t been consistent all season and did little to help out the offense on Saturday. The Spartans ran for only 64 yards, the fewest they’ve gained in a game all season.
That left it up to a passing game that was under siege most of the game and had Lewerke running from pressure from the outset.
“They would always spy, so they would have a guy wait for me if I scrambled,” Lewerke said. “I wasn’t able to get away from him very easily, or the defensive line. They were very good on the outside. The D-ends were very solid.”
Getting Lewerke on the run was the game plan for the Buckeyes, who sacked the Michigan State quarterback twice on the opening drive of the game.
“I knew we could take advantage of their weak spots on the offensive line,” said Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, who had one of the six sacks and a quarterback hurry. “It was big to put him in pressure situations and make him run, because he loves to roll out.”
It was far from the best game for Michigan State’s young offensive line. Both left tackle Cole Chewins and right tackle Luke Campbell had trouble at times, while the interior players missed a couple of blitz pick-ups.
Senior center Brian Allen did what he could to try and motivate his young linemates, but conceded it was a tough environment as most were playing in Ohio Stadium for the first time.
“We had to answer, we had to swing back,” Allen said. “At times we did and other times we didn’t. It’s hard to win a football game when you go in with that mindset, but we have to learn from it and be more prepared for tough environments like this.”
“Again, we have two true freshmen playing on the O-line all year and another redshirt freshmen and that’s not an excuse. It’s the 10th week of the season, but they never played Ohio State, they’ve never been in The Shoe. It’s another opportunity to grow. It sucks now, but they’ll be better for having gone through today.”