Spartans Break OSU Win Streak to Claim B1G Title
By Rob Ogden
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Urban Meyer's voice trembled as he leaned into the podium. The second-year Ohio State coach was at a loss for words. He lost for the first-time.
Meyer's Buckeyes came into Saturday night's Big Ten championship game with dreams of a 25th-consecutive win and an appearance in the national championship game, but left with a 34-24 defeat at the hands of Michigan State.
The Spartans capitalized on Ohio State's mistakes and jumped out to a 17-0 first-half lead as they exploited an Ohio State secondary for a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes.
Again and again, the Spartans picked on the Buckeyes' soft spots and finished with 304 yards through the air.
The Buckeyes would rally, even taking 24-17 lead in the third quarter, but were shutout in the fourth quarter as Michigan State ran off another 17 points unanswered.
"This is going to haunt all of us, I imagine, for a little while," Meyer said. "But that's part of the game."
It was the first taste of defeat for the subdued coach since accepting the Ohio State job more than two years ago.
It came at a bad time.
After falling down 27-24, Ryan Shazier blocked a Spartan punt inside Michigan State territory and set the Buckeyes up for a possible game-winning drive.
Ohio State drove to the Spartan 42, where it faced a 4th-and-2.
The Buckeyes put the ball in Braxton Miller's hands, but the quarterback was stuffed short of the first-down marker as he sprinted toward the right sideline.
Meyer said he made the call. After the game, offensive coordinator Tom Herman stood by it.
"We were in the gray area of whether we should run or throw," Herman said. "That was the play (Miller) scored the touchdown on, we even practiced it against that blitz. We just didn't execute.
"It was a good call, the right call."
Senior running back Carlos Hyde, who ran for 118 yards on 18 carries, would've like to have had the ball in his hands.
"I felt like we could have ran the ball the whole game in that second half behind that offensive line," Hyde said. "But I'm not gonna question the coaches."
After being limited to 37 yards in the first-half, Hyde routinely gashed the stout Spartan defense for five, six or seven-yard gains in the second half.
He finished with 6.6 yards-per carry on nine carries fewer than he had the previous week against Michigan.
Hyde — the Buckeyes' workhorse all year long — had just four carries after Ohio State took the lead in the third quarter, and only two in the fourth quarter.
Asked after the game if he would have liked to get Hyde more involved, Meyer responded simply.
"Yeah," he said.
After appearing lifeless on the opening three drives, Miller provided the Buckeyes with a spark as a 48-yard scramble put Ohio State deep in Spartan territory. He capped the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Corey Brown — one of just six catches by Ohio State wide receivers on the day.
The Buckeyes added a field goal as the first-half clock expired and struck again on the opening drive of the second half. They took their first lead two drives later when Miller scrambled in from six yards out.
"At halftime we felt like they gave us their best shot and that's all they had," Hyde said. '"Now it's time for our best.' But that's football. You either win or you lose."
Miller finished with 169 yards rushing on 21 carries.
He was forced to do it without his starting right guard, Marcus Hall, who was suspended for the game after flipping the double birds to the crowd after being ejected from the Michigan game a week ago.
The Spartans' pass rush, however, wasn't the problem. The secondary was.
Miller completed a season-low 101 yards on 8 completions through the air. Only Philly Brown had more than one reception.
The Buckeyes didn't help themselves, as they repeatedly hurt themselves with penalties and missed opportunities. Ohio State finished 1-for-10 on third down.
Center Corey Linsley said maybe they over thought it.
"It was like we were playing the Bears or something," he said. "Eventually we settled down and started doing what we did all season, but they played us really well.
"It sucks. It sucks. It's a reality check."
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