Saturday was Mark Dantonio’s 142nd game as the head coach at Michigan State.
It was not a notable number for Dantonio, but the Buckeyes decided to honor him anyway by rushing for more yards than any other team has in his nearly 11 years at Michigan State.
Ohio State ran the ball 42 times for 335 yards, setting a record against a Dantonio-coached Michigan State team that the Spartans head coach certainly wants nothing to do with.
Tailbacks Mike Weber (9-162) and J.K. Dobbins (18-124) both went over the century mark, combining for 27 carries and 286 yards rushing.
Michigan State came into this game allowing just 87 yards rushing per game. The Buckeyes had 102 yards rushing in the first quarter, which also matched the most rushing yards the Spartans had allowed in any Big Ten game this season.
How did the Buckeyes do it?
“When you execute, good things happen,” said senior center Billy Price.
He’s not wrong. The Buckeyes averaged eight yards per carry, and that’s even with a 17-yard loss on a snap through quarterback J.T. Barrett’s hands.
When told the OSU ran for more yards against a Dantonio-coached Spartan team ever, senior left tackle Jamarco Jones was a bit surprised.
“Wow. That just speaks to our guys, our running backs hitting the holes, all five of us up front, the tight ends blocking the perimeter,” he said. “It’s more than just the guys up front. We had a lot of big plays because our receivers — I think our receivers are the best blocking receivers in the country. It’s just a team effort. It just took all of us today to get that done and I’m glad we were able to do that.”
Urban Meyer said after the game that he laid down a mandate to get back to the running game, and the Buckeyes did just that against Michigan State. The offensive linemen and the running backs were happy to hear it earlier in the week and were looking forward to the responsibility of carrying the offense forward against a formidable defense.
“The motto of our team is that we’re an O-line driven program,” said right guard Demetrius Knox. “[Meyer] always says if we can control the line of scrimmage, we can win the game. That’s what we did. We rolled off the ball, we pushed them off the ball, the holes were there and the running backs hit them.”
They sure did.
Weber had touchdown runs of 47 and 82 yards, while Dobbins brought up the rear with a mere 35-yard scamper. It wasn’t just home runs that did the damage, however. The Buckeyes ran the ball consistently well, and the only third-and-long situation they had in the first half was due to the aforementioned snap through Barrett’s hands.
“It just speaks to our coaching staff,” Knox said of the dominating ground game, crediting offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. “They put the template out in front of us. They put all of our assignments that we had to do. Coach Stud worked extra time on this game for us. So all we had to do was do what they said.”
And all Michigan State could do was beg the clock to tick faster.
In this game, the Buckeyes did what no other team has been able to do over the last decade. They put more rushing yards on Mark Dantonio than any other team since he joined the Spartans in 2007. That is an accomplishment to be proud of.
It’s also an accomplishment to remind the offensive line of the possibilities when they are as tuned in as they were this week.
“That’s our culture,” Knox said. “We’re an O-line driven program. If we run the ball and we can establish the line of scrimmage, we’ll win the game.”