A fist fight is not the most appealing thing on a cold day in November in East Lansing, but that’s exactly what the Buckeyes (9-1, 6-1) found themselves in for a half against the Spartans of Michigan State (6-4, 4-3).
Neither team could mount any kind of consistent offense in the first half as both defenses dominated play. No points were going on the board but the Spartans enjoyed a field position advantage for most of the half based largely on a shanked punt by OSU punter Drue Chrisman.
On OSU’s second possession Chrisman got off a clunker that traveled just five net yards and gave MSU possession on the OSU 35-yard line. Four plays later the Spartans had moved just one yard and MSU was forced to punt.
The Buckeyes escaped without damage on the scoreboard but took over on their own 10-yard line. The game then settled into a punting duel with the Buckeyes unable to move out of their end of the field in the first quarter after starting consecutive possessions at the 10-yard line. Meanwhile MSU struggled to take advantage of possessions that started near the OSU 30. The punting duel ended with the end of the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter MSU attempted 51-yard field goal that went wide right. The miss finally gave the Buckeyes some breathing room when they took over on the 33-yard line.
The game was still scoreless late in the first half when the Spartans came up with their own weak punt to give OSU their best starting field possession of the day at the MSU 45.
Aided by an MSU penalty, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins drove the Buckeyes to a touchdown with just 1:29 remaining in the half. The 11-play, 55-yard drive featured the passing of Haskins but also saw some life finally come to the OSU rushing game. Parris Campbell and J.K. Dobbins each had enough success on the ground to keep the MSU defense guessing and allowed Haskins to complete passes to Campbell to set up OSU with a first and goal at the six-yard line.
OSU has struggled in the redzone this year, and for the first time the Buckeyes inserted Tate Martell at quarterback with the redzone opportunity. Martell responded by keeping for five yards on first down to set up a second and goal. After Dobbins went for no game Marell flipped the ball to Campbell in the backfield who ran around his left end for the first score of the game.
With time running out in the half MSU pulled starting quarterback Brian Lewerke and inserted backup Rocky Lombardi. Lombardi managed to move the Spartans to a fourth and one at the OSU 26-yard line as time was running out in the half. MSU elected to kick a field goal to make the half time score 7-3.
OSU received the second half kickoff and moved to the MSU 40 where the drive stalled with a fourth and five. That’s when Buckeye Punter Drew Chrisman took over the game.
Chrisman pinned Spartans on their own five. They moved just five yard and punted again. OSU moved to the MSU 33 this time and stalled. Chrisman came in and this time pinned them at the six. On that possession MSU put together drive, but the long field made it tough for them to get to the endzone and the drive ended in a 38-yard field goal.
Over the next the next three OSU possessions Chrisman’s punting pinned MSU on the three, one and two-yard lines respectively. On the possession that began at the one the Spartans did not gain a single yard and elected to take a deliberate safety rather than try to punt from their own endzone. The safety made it 9-6 Buckeyes.
On the next punt exchange MSU began at the two and on first down DreMont Jones recovered an MSU fumble in the endzone for a touchdown to make it 16-6. On MSU’s next possession Jonathan Cooper recovered another fumble to put OSU in business at the MSU 25. The Buckeyes settled for a field goal to make it 19-6.
The Buckeyes closed out the scoring by doing something they have not done particularly well this season, running the football. They drove from their own 49 to the MSU three on a nine-play drive, all on the ground. They were thwarted when a bad snap went wide of Martel and the fumble was recovered by MSU. The Buckeyes got the ball back quickly however when Shaun Wade intercepted to give OSU the ball back at the MSU 45. This time the Buckeyes finished the drive with a touchdown to make the final score 26-6.
The Buckeye rushing game has been absent at times this year, but as the game wore on they found more and more success on the ground. OSU ended up rushing for 120 yards against a stout MSU rush defense. Defensively Ohio State limited MSU to 54 rushing yards and gave up only one big play on the day, and 40-yard rush by Lombardi early in the second half, but for the most part avoided the big plays that have plagued them this season.