While it was certainly a more valiant effort on the part of Michigan State (3-2, 0-1), the Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0) and namely, quarterback Braxton Miller, proved to be too much to handle despite being in the thunderous atmosphere of Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
Miller was a dynamo all day long; passing for 179 yards and adding another 136 on the ground running and keeping seemingly-dead plays alive. The Spartans failed to find a balance on the defensive end of the ball that would allow for them to cover receivers they Miller was capable of hitting and keeping the quarterback from busting out of the pocket for an easy run.
“We said earlier in the week he’s a great quarterback who can run the ball. We just didn’t make enough plays on him,” MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. “Good players make you miss.”
Nothing came too easy for Miller and the Buckeyes though. The talented Ohio State quarterback was noticeably banged-up on a couple of key plays, including one that caused Miller to fumble and gave the Spartans a chance to fight back for a chance to take the lead.
First-season OSU head coach Urban Meyer recorded his first-ever Big Ten victory with the win and talked after the game about just how tough it was going to be all along.
“This was a war. This was two sledgehammers going at each other,” Meyer said. “I know the Big Ten has taken some heat. That was a great game. Great atmosphere, a bunch of great players on the field that are going to be playing at the next level, and that was good for college football and good for the Big Ten.”
Good for the Big Ten, maybe, but more and more quickly, the Spartans’ hopes at a shot for a successful post-season grow slimmer and slimmer, despite the loss coming to the Buckeyes who play in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten Conference (Michigan State plays in the Legends Division). Still, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio seemed much more pleased with his player’s performance against the Buckeyes.
“I thought our guys played extremely hard. I was very proud of our effort,” Dantonio said in his post-game press conference. “We’ve got to be able to run the ball more effectively. I was impressed with (quarterback Andrew) Maxwell throwing the football.”
Maxwell was 22 for 42 for 269 yards and did look a bit more poised against a tough Buckeyes defense. So stout were the Scarlet and Grey, that star MSU running back Le’Veon Bell was held to just 45 yards and 17 carries. Throughout the first half, Bell looked more like a receiver than a big back, catching eight passes for 58 yards.
“They made us pass the ball,” Bell said. “The safety wasn’t actually on the line of scrimmage, but they brought him down. … They played man on the outside and made sure to stop the run.”
With Ohio State off to a great start to the Big Ten season, coach Meyer now turns his focus on some of the team’s bigger, loftier goals, while the Spartans have to figure out how to salvage a season that once held so much promise.
“A great team win,” Meyer said. “We found out something about our team today, to go on the road in a hostile environment against a quality, quality football team and find a way to win.”
Follow MSU Examiner, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.