COLUMBUS — No. 4 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0) came into Saturday’s game averaging 22 points in the second quarter this season, so it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise to see the Buckeyes use 24 second-quarter points and 296 yards of total offense in that same 15-minute span to propel themselves to a 27-10 halftime lead that would eventually end in 34-10 win over the No. 25 Michigan State Spartans (4-2, 2-1)
Junior running back JK Dobbins continued his dominating season, rushing for 172 yards on 24 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields completed 17-of-25 passes for 206 yards with two touchdowns and the first interception of his career.
Ohio State outgained the Spartans 529 total yards to 285, with just 67 of those yards for Michigan State coming via the ground.
Things did not begin so swimmingly for the Buckeyes, however, as they went three-and-out on their first possession. They got another crack soon after as Spartan receiver Cody White was stripped by cornerback Damon Arnette after a 9-yard completion. Buckeye linebacker Malik Harrison recovered the fumble at the MSU 27-yard line. Ohio State failed to convert a first-down and kicker Blake Haubeil missed a 37-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Two plays later for the Spartans, quarterback Brian Lewerke fumbled and it was again recovered by the Buckeyes, this time at the Michigan State 22-yard line. Fields completed two passes for zero yards and Dobbins carried it once for no gain as well. Haubeil then came in and made it 3-0 with a 39-yard field goal.
The two teams traded punts for the remainder of the quarter before things got started for real in the second quarter.
Following a Michigan State punt, the Buckeyes began their first touchdown drive at their own 14-yard line. After a 1-yard rush and then a 2-yard rush by Dobbins, Fields found KJ Hill for a first down on a gain of 10 yards. With the defense loosened up a bit, Dobbins peeled off a 13-yard run to put OSU on their own 40-yard line. On the next play, Fields faked a hand-off, then tucked the ball up under his right arm and began to run a sweep. The Spartan defense bit hard, and that’s when he pulled the ball out and hit Binjimen Victor in the flats. Victor took off down the sideline, made a slight juke to get the last defender off balance and then raced into the end zone, diving the final two yards for the 60-yard score.
“That was a great play, great play by Coach [Ryan Day], just the way we practiced it,” Fields said after the game. “Just going over it a lot of times in practice, I think that helped execute it in the game.”
Michigan State immediately answered that touchdown drive with a 5-play, 75-yard drive of their own, which ended with a 20-yard Darrell Stewart touchdown reception from Lewerke to make it 10-7. Stewart, who is one of the leading receivers in the Big Ten, finished with six receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown. He did have a couple of crucial drops, however.
The Buckeyes had a couple more explosive plays on their next drive. Fields got it started with a 35-yard run over the left side, then he ended it with a 21-yard strike to tight end Luke Farrell who barrelled in off of a few defenders to reach the end zone.
Trailing 17-7, Michigan State continued to fight right back, driving 34 yards in eight plays for a 39-yard field goal from Matt Coghlin.
One minute later, Dobbins took a hand-off and slipped through the line of scrimmage and then kept racing through a final pair of defenders for a 67-yard touchdown, making it 24-10.
“That was a home run hit right there that I think really changed the game,” Day said. “Any time you can hit home runs like that in the run game, boy, it’s a huge one.
“But it’s one thing to get a 20-yard gain, but to come out the back end, and that was 60-some yards, that’s a game changer.”
The Spartans could only manage a three-and-out on their next possession. With just 1:46 remaining in the half, the Buckeyes went 45 yards in 10 plays and settled for a 43-yard field goal from Haubeil to make it 27-10 at the half.
The third quarter went scoreless for both teams, and not entirely from lack of trying. The Buckeyes got back on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter via an 11-play, 80-yard drive, bolstered by a 29-yard run from Dobbins and capped by a 1-yard Fields run for the touchdown.
It was the final score of the night for the Buckeyes, but it almost wasn’t, as senior safety Jordan Fuller intercepted a Lewerke pass a few minutes later, seemingly returning it 86 yards for the touchdown. The play was wiped out by a questionable illegal block call on junior linebacker Baron Browning.
Enough damage had already been done, of course.
Fuller led the Buckeyes with seven tackles. Junior defensive end Chase Young was only credited with 0.5 sacks, but he was crucial in creating opportunities for his teammates throughout the game.