Buckeye Watch - Michigan State
By Tony Gerdeman
That was a pretty entertaining game.
It was refreshing to see the Buckeyes go out and seal a game against a quality opponent, rather than having to find a way to win it in the closing moments.
It was interesting to see that Michigan State didn't think they would be able to run the ball on Ohio State. Le'Veon Bell doesn't have the speed to get outside, and it almost seemed like they ran the ball between the tackles out of muscle memory.
Bell had about two big holes all afternoon long, and they went for eight and five yards. That was tremendous pursuit by the Buckeye defense and they certainly kept Bell from picking up any steam at all. This was absolutely an offense that played into the Ohio State's defensive strengths.
Despite the rough season they have had, the Buckeye defense did enough to win the game. They had one terrible play on the day – and it was one of the most terrible of the last decade, but at this point, one bad tackling spree is a number that you should be happy to live with.
Offensively, the Buckeyes became the first team since Wisconsin last season to rush for over 200 yards on the Spartans. They were able to do it at a time when Michigan State knew it was coming.
People questioned whether Ohio State would be able to run power football in the Big Ten out of the shotgun. I don't think they'll question it anymore.
10:00 Gameday opens up with the Big Ten coaches talking about how pained their eyes are watching their own product. ESPN has gotten so tired of bashing the Big Ten that they're just going to let the conference's own coaches do it now.
10:49 This is my first time watching ESPN's Gameday this year. They are trolling the Big Ten more than John L. Smith is trolling Arkansas right now.
11:59 Everybody on Gameday picked the Buckeyes. Sorry about your luck, Buckeye fans.
3:00 C.J. Barnett made the trip, but Orhian Johnson is warming up with the starters. Looks like he's an emergency option only today.
3:07 Twitter is panicking with the news that Storm Klein is starting at middle linebacker, but I think this game is perfect for him. He doesn't have to run anybody down in space, all he has to do is stay between the hashes and tackle.
3:16 Urban Meyer just told ESPN that he doesn't think Barnett will be able to go today. Fortunately, Orhian Johnson has played well, so there may not be much of a drop off today, especially against this offense.
3:18 Very eager to see Urban Meyer's first Big Ten game. Will he make a statement? Can he? This is a brand new program stepping first foot into a conference that it has dominated for the last decade. Will “normalcy” resume?
3:21 Baylor just scored to make it 63-56 West Virginia. The third down playing of 'Hells Bells' by West Virginia is done ironically, right?
3:31 Well, we are about to find out if this could be a season to remember, or just something to hold us over until 2013.
3:33 Quite a bit of scarlet scattered throughout the stadium today.
3:34 Michigan State wins the toss and defers. The Buckeyes will start with the ball and we'll get a look right away at the side of the ball that will win or lose this game for Ohio State today.
3:35 Miller keeps it and he picks up 20 yards on the zone read. Great read on Marcus Rush, and Zach Boren was there leading him out wide. There will be no protecting Miller today, nor should there be. You can't handicap yourself by limiting your best player.
3:38 Spartans showing corner blitz, Miller sees it. He keeps it on the read and picks up another 20 yards or so. He gets taken down out of bounds by Isaiah Lewis into the sideline equipment and he's down and hurt. There's a flag. Miller hit his head on an equipment case. They're still working on him. He's getting a drink, so it can't be that bad. Kenny Guiton comes in. Why couldn't Braxton have hit that equipment trunk with his butt?
3:40 Guiton is in. Speed option pitch to Jordan Hall for ten yards gets it down to the four-yard line. Very nice look. Miller looks fine, but they'll probably keep him out for the rest of this drive.
3:41 Second and goal from the one-yard line. Hall gets the ball and dives in for a touchdown. That's a very nice leaping touchdown. How's that for a statement drive? That looked easy. 7-0 Buckeyes. Reid Fragel stoned William Gholston, who put zero effort into that play. I guess if he can't rush the passer, he's not interested in putting forth an attempt.
3:43 Now the real game begins. The Buckeye defense has to show that they are capable of stopping a predictable offense.
3:45 Spartans open in a single back set with two tight ends. They run Le'Veon Bell right behind those tight ends and Johnathan Hankins sticks a meat hook into Bell and throws him down after a gain of one yard. “You sit right here and you don't say a word, son. Don't make me take my shoe off.”
3:46 Interesting alignment. Screen pass to Bell with a slew of blockers to the left side blocking for him. Only picks up twelve yards. I'm guessing Michigan State was hoping for more.
3:47 Maxwell is going deep, and it's dropped by Travis Howard. I think he lost it in the sun. I didn't realize the sun shone on the state of Michigan. Seems like a waste of energy to me.
3:48 Slip screen to Bell for 14 yards. Ah yes, the screen game. How could I forget you. I wonder how often you will pop your head into this game.
3:49 Bell loses two yards on second down. The defensive line won that battle. John Simon and Garrett Goebel just cast the Michigan State offensive line aside like they were junk mail. “A coupon for Little Caesars? Am I really that poor?”
3:50 Third and seven. Immediate pressure, Maxwell has to scramble and throws it away. Great hold by the Buckeyes. Michigan State is going to have to have a cute offense, because ugly isn't going to work today. Dan Conroy sets up for a 34-yard field goal attempt... and it's good. Buckeyes lead it 7-3.
3:51 That was a very good drive by the Spartans. They came out and did stuff that they haven't shown this year in an effort to have a touchdown drive. The Buckeyes held when Michigan State tried their bread and butter. That's a good sign because eventually Michigan State will have to revert back to who they are, and it appears that Ohio State is just fine with that.
3:53 Michigan State has a “School of Packaging”? I wonder how many kids get booted per year by sitting in a refrigerator box and pretending that they're in a rocket ship.
3:55 Third and one. Quarterback power for Miller behind Boren to the left and he picks up about ten yards. Some really great blocking on that play from everybody. I wonder if they can tackle as well as they block.
3:57 Third and eight. Empty set. Quick pass to the slot and R.J. Williamson jumped it and almost pick sixed it. It's a good thing that that was such a bad pass. Had it been on target, it would have been intercepted. A most fortunate mistake.
3:58 Buckeyes punt. There's a silly penalty by Jamal Marcus on the punt catch at the ten-yard line. It was a blow to the head of Nick Hill and Meyer is super upset because there was no signal for the fair catch. “Hit above the shoulder” is what the ref calls it. The problem is that Nick Hill is 4-foot-3, so every hit is above the shoulder. That worst part is that instead of a two-forearm shiver, a standard hit in the gut probably ends up in a fumble.
3:59 Still, Hill has had issues with fumbles, so a sending a little bit of a message isn't a bad thing. Lloyd Carr used to do it back in the day.
4:05 The Buckeyes need more pass rush. Or any, for that matter. Maxwell rolls left, throws a corner route to Andre Sims, but it's broken up by Orhian Johnson. Corey Brown lost the ball, but Johnson was there doing what you want your safety to do. Every time Johnson makes a good or bad play, we have to ask if C.J. Barnett would have done the same thing.
4:06 Third and seven. Watch the screen to Bell here. Shotgun. There it is, but Nathan Williams was there to stop it for a pick up of three yards. Slip screen again. Williams was playing the middle and “spying” Bell. Says something about Bell's lack of speed when a team is comfortable spying him with a defensive end. Michigan State punts.
4:08 Inverted veer to Hall, and Gholston throws him down for a loss of six. Wrong read by Braxton, but Gholston was there for both of them. An equal opportunity rampager.
4:08 Miller drops back, then runs a QB draw for 13 yards. He's shaking fools like they're hobos and he's got the last can of beans. Wow, you think he's done, and he just makes another cut.
4:09 Third and three. Quick pass to Philly Brown over the middle for a yard. How is the coverage that tight? You have to make them pay for that. Just too many bodies around the ball right now. Gotta back them off. The Buckeyes punt as the first quarter ends. Ohio State still leads it 7-3.
4:11 That was a very quick quarter. This game might not reach more than three hours. I think Urban Meyer would be fine with that, provided he's still leading, of course.
4:14 Another middle screen to Bell for about seven yards. He's just not shifty enough to make the Buckeyes flail for him. He's too tackleable.
4:16 Sparty goes three and out. The punt is nearly blocked.
4:18 Braxton Miller has rushed for 81 yards more than he did against Michigan State last year. (He currently has 54 yards rushing.)
4:20 Third and six. Miller drops back, scrambles, finds Philly down the sideline at the Ohio State 40-yard line. Tiptoes got down? They're saying yes. Miller stayed alive and found Brown. They're taking a look, it's close, but looks like two feet down, or certainly not enough to overturn it.
4:21 Miller is already running for his life in this game. He's going to be gassed by the fourth quarter. Just like the OSU defensive line probably. Catch is confirmed.
4:22 Corner blitz. Speed option away from it and Miller keeps it and picks up eight yards, spinning for an extra two. Big hit as two Spartans are knocked out. It's not good. Gholston is out. He got drilled by Isaiah Lewis. Miller is down as well. Gholston is laying on top Miller. This is very bad. Miller is up. Gholston got knocked out. Miller is fine, he just wasn't moving for Gholston's benefit. Would Gholston have done the same thing? I doubt it.
4:25 Quick pass to Philly for four yards. The Buckeyes are doing what others have done to them, quick hitches wide on soft coverage. Tom Herman is a MENSA member, so he picks up on stuff that works.
4:26 Play-action, intercepted by Kurtis Drummond. Miller tried to fit it into a window that wasn't open. Actually, it was open for a second, but Drummond ran into the room and slammed it shut. I think I heard him saying something about Miller trying to “heat the whole damn neighborhood”. Everybody in green is catching the ball today somehow.
4:27 That's a killer drive because it left points on the field that the Buckeyes will need later tonight. Though maybe seven points will be enough. Still, Miller has to become safer with the ball because he's thrown two interceptable passes today and one of these times he's also going to take a shot that jars the ball loose as well.
4:28 The Buckeye defense has to step up for their offense right here. Time to return a few favors.
4:30 Bell carries it from the I-formation and picks up two yards, tackled by Simon. Update on Gholston, they say he didn't lose consciousness, he just had the wind knocked out of him. Um, my television begs to differ. He got hit square in the head and had the wind knocked out of him? Are his lungs in his brains?
4:31 Now Travis Jackson is down for the Spartans. That's not good for them. Looks like a leg injury. I think he just had the wind knocked out of his knee.
4:36 Joel Hale is in for Goebel. Mike Vrabel is learning. He can't afford to wear this defensive line down today. He will need them fresh in the fourth quarter.
4:36 Third and two. Bell picks up four yards, but there's gonna be a holding call on Sparty. Dantonio is so displeased. I assume, anyway. Tough to go through life known as “the boy who couldn't smile”. Skyler Burkland tackled Johnathan Hankins on that play. Pretty cool of Burkland to demonstrate the proper tackling technique to a defense who needs it.
4:37 Third and twelve. Christian Bryant comes on the blitz, and Maxwell again throws the corner route to Bennie Fowler and Orhian Johnson broke it up again. He got there early. No call. They are attacking Corey Brown right now, and again OJ was there to rescue him. Would C.J. Barnett have been there?
4:38 Huge punt inside the 10 and rather than let MSU try to pin them, Jordan Hall catches it on the bounce and picks up ten yards on the return. 71-yard punt. Not sure if it was gonna make the endzone or not. Tough call, can't argue with what Hall did there in the moment.
4:41 Speed option with an overhand pitch to Hall for about eleven yards, and Hall is down and hurting. He comes out. Interesting little look there. Haven't seen a tomahawk pitch in a while.
4:43 Third and 14. Miller scrambles, finds Jordan Hall for eleven yards. He's still hurting. Hall caught that with one leg. He's done. He can't run on that leg. Buckeyes punt. So much for having Hyde and Hall together. It lasted one half and we never got to see the triple option out of it.
4:45 Bell up the middle for five yards. The biggest hole of the game, but he could only get five yards. That's a very good sign for the Buckeyes. The margin for error is much greater against this offense than any others the Buckeyes have played the last three weeks.
4:47 Third and nine. Shotgun. Going downfield to Keith Mumphery, and it's dropped on the post. Bryant with a big hit, and fortunate not to be a penalty in today's game. And then talked trash, making him double fortunate not to be penalized.
4:48 Time to punt. It's blocked! Bradley Roby got a hand on it and the Spartans had no shot to get it off. There is no return, but they've got it at the Spartans 35-yard line with 2:27 to play. The Freak Show finally got their first block.
4:50 More blitzes coming for Miller. Speed option and Miller fumbles it right back to Sparty. He just had the ball slapped right out of his hands. That's a very, very, very blown opportunity. Marcus Rush defended two men and forced the fumble on the same play.
4:51 Maxwell finds Sims down the seam for about 20 yards with 1:20 to play. Why have they waited so long to go to him? Has he really been defended that well today?
4:54 Third and ten. Blitz from Shazier forces an incompletion on a screen attempt to Bell. That leaves Dan Conroy with a 42-yard field goal attempt. And he missed it! There's a whole lot of bullet dodging going on tonight. First Michigan State gets away with a punt getting blocked, then the Buckeyes get away with fumbling the ball right back.
4:57 We have reached the end of the half. The Buckeyes lead it 7-3. Urban looks pretty serious right now. I bet the chalk board in Michigan State's locker room will have a Dantonio fist-sized hole in it pretty soon.
4:58 Meyer says they have to do a better job of attacking the “blitzathon” in the second half instead of just taking it. You mean it's time to stop with the rope a dope?
5:00 Buckeyes have given up just 26 yards rushing. They need to get to Maxwell though, because he's not getting touched right now. He's not nervous or jittery, except about his receivers, of course.
5:01 Ohio State has gotten away with two turnovers. They can't keep losing the turnover battle.
5:03 Much of the frustration with this offense is that it's completely different than last season, yet too often the results are exactly the same.
5:05 Michigan State has 26 passes to nine rushes. It may seem shocking, but it's not that unusual considering they don't think they can run and instead want to spread it out to attack OSU's weaknesses.
5:16 I'm interested to see how the Buckeyes are going to attack the blitz, and whether MSU has already devised a way to attack them attacking it.
5:20 Game on. Single back. Bell gets the ball and picks up a yard. Big Hank blew it up, then Shazier and Roby cleaned it up. I imagine Hankins is a lot like me when I broke a jar of apple sauce at Kroger a month back. Yeah, I broke it, but I wasn't going to clean it up, so I just walked away. Ain't my job.
5:21 Bigger hole for Bell, but he picks up three yards and gets blown up by Shazier for his troubles.
5:22 Third and six. Buckeyes come on a late blitz, and the pass is incomplete. There's a flag down. Holding on Bradley Roby. That's okay, those negative plays will keep him from leaving early for the NFL. Good call. I thought it might have been roughing the passer because Hankins laid on top of Maxwell like he was a water bed and Hankins was a trucker from the 80s who just got home from a two-week haul.
5:24 By the way, there has been terrible camera work in this game. Hankins on the pressure again, but Maxwell somehow finds Bennie Fowler for a huge gain to the Ohio State 34-yard line. The pass defense, woof. Should have been a pick, but Johnson came too far up field.
5:28 Third and ten from the Ohio State 33-yard line. Is this four-down territory? Shotgun. Going down the sideline and Fowler drops it after a huge Johnson hit, once again saving Corey Brown on the corner route. That's the third time that Brown has lost the ball. Not sure why Doran Grant can't play in that role on passing downs.
5:32 Dan Conroy comes in to kick a 50-yarder, and he gets it! Buckeyes lead it 7-6, but the corner with momentum is the green one.
5:33 Buckeyes have to answer now. Though I'm not sure MSU can move without broken plays, but good luck keeping the broken plays from happening.
5:34 QB power to the left for 14 yards and I keep waiting for somebody to knock the loaf of bread out of Miller's arms. If you wanna keep that butt big, you can't let go of the bread. You need the carbs, baby.
5:35 Miller no gain on the “run around and try to find a hole play, but there is no hole where you think there should be one, so just go try to find something before finally deciding to just lay down”.
5:36 Getting to be time where a homerun is needed in order to loosen things up. Play-action, and Miller finds Philly Brown for 15 yards. Gholston gets flagged for hands to the face. Clearly he is still trying to gain his wind.
5:37 Miller rolls left, jitters out and picks up three yards on “run around and try to find a whole where there is no hole because these run blitzes are clogging everything up." It's amazing they can get that play called without the play clock running out considering everything that is involved with the required hand signals on that play – imagine those dudes who land planes on aircraft carriers.
5:40 The Buckeyes are grinding this drive out right now. There's a big hole for Hyde as he picks up nine yards up the gut. He's fired up. Blasted the line on the left side and he hit the hole at 100 mph.
5:43 Third and ten from the twelve-yard line. Empty set. Inside screen to Brown for three yards. Yeah, this team still has some work to do on the screen play. Twelve years of not knowing how to run it can really take its toll on a program. That leaves Drew Basil to attempt a 26-yard field goal. He squeaks it in to make it 10-6 Buckeyes. That was closer than it needed to be.
5:45 It's only three points, but it was a commensurate answer to Michigan State's field goal. It set a tone, and provided some answers against the Spartan blitzing.
5:48 Sabino on the blitz, Maxwell finds Sims again for another big gain. Penalty on Ohio State. Personal foul facemask on Roby. Another big penalty for him. He needs to redeem himself with an interception or something.
5:49 Holy crap. Keith Mumphery just scored a ridiculous touchdown as every Buckeye on the field tried to rip the ball out or shoulder him down. That was the Ohio State defense in a nutshell this season. Michigan State leads it 13-10. If Christian Bryant had hands coming out of his shoulder, he might lead the nation in tackles this season. How can you continue to throw shoulders like that with no intent to wrap up?
5:50 I can't even type right now. My eyes are watering from all of the vomiting.
5:55 Hyde up the middle and he actually makes a move to the outside, picking up four yards. Is that the first time Hyde has kicked it out this year?
5:57 I don't care how tired Miller gets, and he is getting tired, he has to be able to carry the ball 10-15 more times if necessary. Buckeyes in an empty set. Miller drops back, he's going deep to Devin Smith, and Smith stays on his feet for the touchdown! Perfect throw by Miller for the 63-yard touchdown. The Buckeyes have now answered the Spartans twice. Miller is 14-19 for 157 yards and a touchdown. That's pretty good. Zach Smith is hugging Devin Smith. The entire Smith family is happy! The Buckeyes lead it 17-13 with 3:05 to play in the third quarter.
6:00 Nick Hill loses three yards on the sweep as Ryan Shazier hit him above the shoulders and threw him down below the shoulders.
6:02 It's late in the third quarter, Michigan State is driving, and by the looks of it, I think Urban Meyer is enjoying this quite a bit.
6:03 Third and seven. Shotgun. Sabino comes on the blitz and gets the sack to end the quarter. That's a nice way to end it. Luke Fickell doesn't look happy, but he should be. Aside from that ridiculous touchdown, of course. Buckeyes lead it 17-13.
6:04 Meyer looks like he is completely in his element right now. The key will be for everybody else to look that way too. This is where Braxton Miller closes the game out.
6:07 Nice clip of the 1998 game. Did you see me in the stands in stunned silence?
6:08 Time for “Braxton Left, Braxton right”. Sparty blitzes and Miller gets out of it and somehow finds Philly Brown, who turns it up and takes it to the Ohio State 39-yard line. Miller should have been sacked for a loss of six, gets out of Denicos Allen and Gholston's hands, and then finds Philly in the flats. Still not sure how Allen didn't bring him down.
6:10 Another huge hole for Hyde and he picks up eight. Is Michigan State getting tired?
6:11 Hyde breaking tackles, falls forward for nearly four yards. For people that didn't think Ohio State would be a power running team, I give you this game.
6:12 Third and seven. Biggest play of the game. Empty. All out blitz, Miller fakes the throw, escapes. Picks up the first down and now he is hurt. He dropped the ball as soon as he felt something give way in his knee. He's done. He gave up the ball as soon as he got hurt. This will be overturned and be called a fumble. And now it's Kenny Guiton's game.
6:13 The injury is much bigger than the fumble right now. The fumble is secondary. But still, if you're going to lose your quarterback for the year, best do it in a year with no postseason eligibility. Miller walks off. He's got one week to get better. The defense needs to step up.
6:16 Can we call Miller's fumble “as good as a punt”? No? Didn't think so.
6:17 The Buckeyes are -3 in turnovers. You just can't win that way, especially not on the road. The ACL test comes back negative. Miller has been cleared to return. Wow. Buckeye nation breathes a sigh of relief, then remembers that there is still a game going on.
6:20 Fourth and one for the Spartans. The middle has been tough sledding all day. Play-action, and it's incomplete to Dion Sims, but there is a flag. Holding on Travis Howard. First down for Sparty. Gutsy call, but probably not as gutsy as trying to run into the same wall over and over again, with the same poor results.
6:21 Penalties and turnovers, can't win like this.
6:23 Third and four. Maxwell gets sacked by Williams at the 30-yard line. That is a huge sack because it eliminates the fourth down opportunity. Great job by the defensive line. Dan Conroy will now attempt a 48-yard field goal. Got it! It's 17-16 Buckeyes with 7:07 to play.
6:24 Dantonio is gonna give the ball back to the Buckeyes and see if their hobbled leader can gut out one game-clinching drive. He knows that no matter what happens, his offense will have a chance to tie it or win it.
6:25 Nice job by the defense to hold the Spartans. That was a 38-yard scoring drive, and Michigan State had to work for every foot of it.
6:27 The kickoff goes out of bounds and Braxton Miller is back in the huddle with his helmet on. Keep him moving so his knee doesn't tighten up. It's time to go win this game.
6:29 Buckeyes go three and out and Miller didn't look comfortable on any of the three snaps. How capable would he be of leading a drive if Michigan State scores a touchdown here?
6:31 Well, nothing better for a much-maligned defense than to win a game for an offense that needs them right now.
6:34 Third and eight with 4:28 to play. Here we go. It's Dion Sims time. Blitz, Sabino hits Maxwell on the release and the pass falls incomplete. Sabino has been fantastic today on the blitz. He was watching Bell, then left him and went after Maxwell. The Buckeyes don't have to give the ball back, assuming they don't muff the punt.
6:38 Urban Meyer is telling his team to go get this victory. Carlos Hyde blasts forward for six yards. Somebody is listening.
6:39 Hyde picks up six more. He's running like a determined bull in a very sturdy china shop right now.
6:40 QB power to the left for Miller picks up 14 yards out to the 45-yard line Down under three minutes to play. Good to see that Miller still has the burst. This offensive line is blowing Michigan State's defensive line off the ball.
6:41 Gotta let the clock run. They are. Miller goes over to Boren with 20 seconds left on the play clock. Tells him about his day. “Nearly had a heart attack when I hurt my knee.” “Me too.” Nice job to run the clock and not get any false starts. Power right for Miller for six yards, takes a huge hit from a safety and falls forward. He's 220 pounds with a big booty. No worries.
6:42 Michigan State calls a timeout with 2:06 to play. Third and four for the Buckeyes. A first down here will end the game. This is where you challenge your offensive line. One play for the ball game.
6:44 Hyde gets the ball and picks up five yards, and that will be the ball game! Reid Fragel collapsed the right side of the defensive line and Hyde simply filled the void. There's 1:48 to play. Three knees will win it.
6:45 I think Meyer just told Miller “Hold the ball in your hands and don't let it go.”
6:46 Last snap. Philly Brown telling people to get loud. There's the snap and the Buckeyes win. Nathan Williams runs up for a chest bump with Meyer. Meyer spends time with his quarterback before heading to look for Mark Dantonio. Heather Cox giving Meyer a back rub.
6:47 Braxton Miller is covered in grass stains. He looks like me as ten-year old. Meyer: “Big win against a hell of a football team. That was a good Big Ten football game.” “We've got a good thing going today.” Urban looks pretty dang happy right now.
6:48 Braxton walks away from an interview opportunity, then Heather Cox snags him. “We won on a raggedy game.” Boren and Meyer hugging. Everybody hugging. I think that's the first time Mike Vrabel has ever hugged another human. Meyer is absolutely thrilled right now.
6:49 ABC, why move the camera away from the team to show Big Nut. Just leave it isolated on the coaches. When will somebody with a brain ever step foot in a sports director's chair?
6:50 That was a pretty good game. I've never seen Urban Meyer this happy. I assume he was this happy after his championships, but I could never stand the guy enough to watch him enjoy anything before this year.
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