Spartans incur 'meltdown,' bulldozed by Buckeyes
Columbus, Ohio — Michigan State walked into Ohio Stadium on Saturday, its destiny in its hands in the Big Ten East.
The fact the Spartans were in a first-place battle with Ohio State might have surprised some before the season, but with both teams sitting at one Big Ten loss, there was plenty on the line for a young team coming off a big win last week at home against Penn State.
But the Buckeyes are no stranger to big games, either, and it didn’t take long for them to show the young Spartans who the superior team was, scoring on five of their first six drive and cruising to a 48-3 win in front of 107,011 at Ohio Stadium.
“Disappointing outcome, obviously,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “When you look at the other side of the field they got a wave of momentum going and things just didn’t go right. We didn’t separate with our receivers. We didn’t throw the ball accurately. We couldn’t protect the quarterback. We couldn’t run the football. Defensively, we didn’t tackle well. We didn’t pressure the quarterback enough and couldn’t stop the run. Consequently, a meltdown happens.
“These things snowball. There’s other reasons and the first thing that should be said is Ohio State played very well.”
So well that No. 13 Ohio State (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) handed No. 12 Michigan State its worst loss in the Dantonio era, surpassing the 49-7 loss to Alabama in the 2011 Capital One Bowl, and now takes control of the East with two games remaining. The Spartans (7-3, 5-2) are still mathematically alive but will need to win their final two games and hope for Ohio State to lose its last two to reach the conference championship game.
But that was far from the minds of most by the time the Buckeyes were done with their dismantling on Saturday.
Coming off their 31-point loss last week at Iowa, the Buckeyes dominated from the outset, taking a 35-3 lead at halftime, the most points allowed in a first half by Michigan State under Dantonio and matching the most in any half.
The Buckeyes had 320 total yards at halftime and finished with 524. Ohio State also ran for 335 yards, the most allowed by the Spartans under Dantonio. Detroit native Mike Weber ran nine times for 162 yards, adding touchdown runs of 47 and 82 yards. Freshman J.K. Dobbins gained 124 yards on 18 carries while J.T. Barrett ran for 55 yards and two touchdowns. Weber and Dobbins became the first opposing running backs to reach 100 yards against the Spartans this season.
Barrett, who threw four interceptions last week in the loss to Iowa, was 14-for-21 for 183 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted twice, first by David Dowell and in the fourth quarter by Justin Layne.
“Yeah, there was a mandate to make sure (the running backs) touch the ball,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “The flow of the game also dictated that we were controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides. What happened in other games is when you get behind or it just doesn't dictate it that way. But that was a mandate for me and it was, once again mandates are easy. The execution was outstanding.”
Michigan State, on the other hand, did very little offensively, punting eight times and reaching Ohio State territory just four times.
Brian Lewerke, who threw for 400 yards in each of the previous two games, was intercepted twice and finished 18-for-36 for 131 yards. The running game wasn’t any more effective as the Spartans gained 50 yards on 26 carries. LJ Scott gained 30 yards on eight carries, 20 coming on one play.
“We didn’t play well in any area and again, there’s a reason for that,” Dantonio said. “Ohio State played well, but we didn’t play well enough in any area to really make it a game. That’s the bottom line and that’s what’s disappointing.”
It was clear from the outset this one wasn’t going to follow the theme of tight games the series has often produced. Ohio State thwarted Michigan State’s opening drive with a pair of sacks then marched down in the field in just six plays as Weber burst through the line for a 47-yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead with 8:14 left in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes kept rolling from there, adding a Barrett 4-yard touchdown run to go up 14-0 in the first quarter then getting another Barrett 4-yard touchdown run, an 8-yard run from Dobbins and an 82-yard burst from Weber to take a 35-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Spartans managed to get on the scoreboard on the final play of the half as Matt Coghlin kicked a 37-yard field goal.
“I felt like it kept snowballing,” Michigan State safety Khari Willis said. “It’s hard when you get behind that early. It’s hard to turn it around. It wasn’t like they were getting fluke stuff, they were making good plays and when we’re not answering with big plays of our own the momentum goes and goes and they’re at home and we never got a chance to get a grip on it and fight to get it back.”
It kept rolling out of control in the second half as a 48-yard pass from Barrett to Binjimen Victor capped a three-play drive and gave the Buckeyes a 42-3 lead less than a minute into the half. Ohio State added a 27-yard field goal from Sean Nuernberger with 9:17 to go in the third quarter to push the lead to 45-3.
The Buckeyes added 28-yarder from Nuernberger on the final play of the third quarter to go up, 48-3.
“Yeah, we definitely took that one on the chin today,” senior center Brian Allen said. “I didn’t see that coming. But it happened and it kind of sucks.”