'Whupped': Ohio State overwhelms Michigan State in 56-7 rout
Columbus, Ohio — It was clear on Xavier Henderson’s face.
Michigan State’s senior safety, the heart of the team playing just minutes from where he grew up, was physically beaten up.
It was reality smacking Michigan State in the face Saturday, punching it square in the jaw.
That will happen in a game like this where No. 4 Ohio State and its offense ran roughshod over No. 7 Michigan State, rolling to a 56-7 victory and treating the game against the Spartans like it was a midweek practice.
“To get whupped like that, there’s nothing fun about it,” Henderson said. “But that’s what it is playing college football. Regular people don't have to deal with stuff like that, giving it your all and being out in front of 110,000 people and a million more watching (on TV) and getting embarrassed out there.
“Regular people don’t have to deal with that, but that is what college football is, what college sports is. That’s the price you pay to play at a big-time level like this.”
It was a big-time level, indeed. And on paper, it was a top-10 matchup with plenty on the line. In reality, it was one program reminding the other that it still has a long way to go to play with the big boys. Michigan State has had a heck of a season, but Ohio State is elite, steamrolling its way to a possible spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and likely a College Football Playoff berth.
“Give Ohio State a lot of credit,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said. “They’re a very talented team. In all three phases they outplayed us. And so it is what it is. Give them credit, they beat us. They were a much better team today, and that was obvious.”
Now Ohio State (10-1, 8-0) heads into the season finale next week at Michigan with the East Division title on the line. Michigan State (9-2, 6-2) prepares to bounce back at home against Penn State and perhaps earn a New Year’s Six bowl bid.
“We can't lie to ourselves,” Tucker said. “We’ve got to go to the truth, go to the facts, see where we need to improve, and then make those improvements and get ready for a good Penn State team coming into our place.”
The truth is that Ohio State is on another level. On Saturday in front of 101,858 at Ohio Stadium, the gap between the programs was proven to be vast. The Buckeyes piled up 500 yards and quarterback C.J. Stroud threw for six touchdowns — all in the first half. Stroud was 32-for-35 for 432 yards by the time he was pulled from the game in the third quarter as he put forth an impressive performance Heisman Trophy voters will ponder.
Stroud, who completed a school-record 17 straight passes in the first half, had plenty of help as three receivers all went over the 100-yard mark. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson each had seven receptions and a pair of touchdowns with Olave piling up 140 yards and Wilson getting 126. Jaxon Smith-Njigba pulled in 10 catches for 105 yards and one touchdown.
The Buckeyes had 655 yards, though much of the second half was played with backups.
“We’re playing really good, clean football,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “We certainly have a high ceiling. We’re still striving toward greatness. We have a tough opponent coming up this week and all of our focus is quickly going to that game. We’re fresh out of this game, so I’m proud of the way these guys played.”
Michigan State, meanwhile, never built any momentum, its only decent drive in the first half ending in a missed field goal. Quarterback Payton Thorne was 14-for-36 for 158 yards while Heisman hopeful Kenneth Walker III was bottled up, but had only six carries, gaining 25 yards before sitting most of the second half with a sore ankle he aggravated last week. Those numbers won't help him get to New York.
The Spartans got on the board on the first play of the fourth quarter when Thorne hit freshman Keon Coleman with a 12-yard touchdown pass, the first touchdown of the freshman’s career.
“You’ve got to go out there and execute,” Thorne said. “We felt good coming into the game. We thought we had a good plan and we just didn’t get it done. There's no magic behind it. There's no secret formula. You just have to come and execute your stuff and you’ve got to play physical. Really, it goes from there, and we didn't do that today.”
Already without wide receiver Jalen Nailor, Jayden Reed missed the second half, watching from the sidelines with his right foot in a walking boot. The Spartans were also without left tackle Jarrett Horst and defensive tackle Simeon Barrow while linebacker Quavaris Crouch was limited.
Even at full strength, it would have been tough for the Spartans to keep this one close.
The Buckeyes didn’t take long to show they would be hitting on all cylinders, scoring on their first possession. They put together an impressive 12-play drive that ended with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Stroud to Olave. The next possession ended quicker as Stroud connected with Wilson for a 77-yard score. Less than seven minutes into the game, Ohio State led, 14-0.
Michigan State’s only real threat came on the next possession as the Spartans moved deep into Ohio State territory. But a Reed drop — it was first called a catch for a first down but was changed by replay — led to a missed 46-yard field goal by Matt Coghlin, which sailed wide right.
From there, it was all Ohio State as Stroud threw four more touchdown passes to Olave, Wilson, Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming. Miyan Williams had a 1-yard touchdown run as the Buckeyes led, 49-0, at halftime with 500 total yards, 393 coming from Stroud.
The Buckeyes scored a touchdown on every drive of the first half, not counting a kneel down to end the second quarter. Michigan State, meanwhile, went three-and-out three times, had five punts and fumbled the ball away once.
“When we spread the ball around that can happen at any time,” Olave said. “We are all getting targets. When the running backs are clicking, or when our offense is clicking. C.J. is a one-of-a-kind talent. I’m proud of him and can’t wait to see him keep going.”
The second half was more of an exercise of running the clock while trying to avoid injuries.
The Spartans forced a field-goal miss and then got an interception from Justin White, leading to their only scoring drive with Coleman getting Michigan State on the board.
Ohio State capped the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run from Master Teague with 3:30 left in the game.
“Shout out to Ohio State,” Henderson said. “They came out there and executed and played a good game. It's a really good team out there. We fought hard, but definitely weren’t close to getting it done. But it is what it is. We're on to the next one.”