24 straight games makes losing almost not a possibility in the minds of the players and fans alike. The Urban Meyer era had gone two straight seasons unblemished – until now. No. 10 Michigan State upset No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday night to a tune of 34-24. In an eerie, Tressel-like fashion, the Spartans upended the Buckeyes by holding them to a season-low 24 points en route to their first Big Ten Championship game win and appearance in the Rose Bowl on January 1st.
Michigan State also crushed the dreams of Ohio State advancing into the BCS Championship Game for the first time since 2007. The Buckeyes would have played Florida State, and had the opportunity to silence the doubters and bring home a national championship in the process. Unfortunately, Ohio State wouldn't make it past Indianapolis with an unblemished record. Despite outstanding rushing performances from the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in Braxton Miller, who rushed for 142 yards on 21 carries, and the Big Ten Running Back of the Year, Carlos Hyde (118 yards on 18 carries) the Buckeyes couldn't find enough magic to pull out with a win in this game.
Credit Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, running back Jeremy Langford, and the Spartans' defense for coming up big when it counted. Cook went 24-40 passing, for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns. Langford became the first player to rush for 100+ yards against Ohio State's defense, ending with 128 on 24 carries and one touchdown.
The first quarter was a defensive showcase for the most part, as both sides couldn't find the endzone. Multiple penalties by Ohio State's defense on third downs would allow Michigan State put one through the uprights on the first drive, to put the Spartans up 3-0. From there, the Buckeyes offense came out a bit jittery and went three and out. The Spartans would punt on the next drive, but after another sputtering effort by Ohio State, Michigan State would end the first quarter with possession.
The first play of the second quarter set off some fireworks that would last the rest of the night, as Connor Cook found Keith Mumphery wide open on a miscue by defensive back Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown for a 72-yard touchdown pass that put the Spartans up 10-0. A shocked Ohio State team found themselves in a position in which they had to find some answers, and despite a couple of nice plays from Corey "Philly" Brown and a scramble by Braxton Miller, the offense would again have to give the ball back to Michigan State.
The Spartans continued executing their offensive gameplan as Cook found Tony Lippett on a 33-yard play-action passing touchdown that gave Michigan State a 17-0 lead. Facing what seemed like an almost insurmountable margin, Braxton Miller got to work and began taking the game over with a 48-yard run into Michigan State territory. From there, a Philly Brown catch and a Carlos Hyde run would evolve into a great 20-yard touchdown catch by Philly Brown to get the Buckeyes on the board, 17-7. Things seemed to settle down after Miller's 48-yard sprint, and it showed on both sides of the ball.
A defensive stand by Ohio State with time winding down in the first half, led by true freshman defensive end Joey Bosa, would force Michigan State to punt, but despite another big 21-yard run by Miller, Ohio State would have to return the ball right back to the Spartans. Cameron Johnston provided an excellent punt, as he had all year, and eventually the Buckeyes would get another chance on offense. With the clock working against them, Braxton Miller would find Jeff Heuerman for a 36-yard reception with less than 10 seconds remaining on the clock. From there, Drew Basil would provide some momentum going into halftime, cutting Michigan State's lead to 17-10.
The second half started off exactly how the Buckeyes needed it to. Led by Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, the running game completely had its way with Michigan State's defense. Starting with an 18-yard rush by Hyde, followed by a 24-yard dash by Miller. The thunder and lightning combination resulted with another Miller run, this time coming from 8 yards out for a touchdown and a tied game at 17.
Things got really interesting on Michigan State's next drive, as in the first couple of plays, Connor Cook was intercepted by senior safety C.J. Barnett for the only turnover of the night for either team, giving the Buckeyes great field position and all of the momentum. The Spartans defense came up big, though, and was able to force another punt with just over nine minutes left in the third quarter.
After trading possessions again, Ohio State would take over and continue to force the running attack on Michigan State. Starting in Spartans' territory, a Jordan Hall carry would go for 13 yards and put the Buckeyes at MSU's 14-yard line. Braxton Miller would cap off yet another successful Ohio State drive with a 6-yard rushing score to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the night, 24-17.
Michigan State would end up responding with a field goal, after a huge 4th-down conversion, cutting Ohio State's lead to 24-20. The Buckeyes would enter the final quarter of play with the ball and the lead, which makes this entire game seem more impossible. After a failed third down conversion, Cameron Johnston would come on the field to punt yet another time for Ohio State. Starting from their own 10-yard line, Cook led the Spartans on a 90-yard drive that included a 48-yard strike to Macgarrett Kings Jr.. to help set up Michigan State for a go-ahead 9-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-8 from Cook to Josiah Price. The Spartans would never look back from that 27-24 lead.
A failed onside kick put Ohio State in favorable field position, but the Buckeyes reverted back to first half form, and could not get anything going on offense. With the clock running down to only 10 minutes and starting to turn into a factor, the Buckeyes would be able to keep Michigan State at bay and force a punt, giving Ohio State life. The defense even did one better, as Ryan Shazier came away with the credit for getting a hand on the punt, and putting Ohio State on MSU's 47-yard line. With 7:36 remaining, all Ohio State would need was a field goal to at least tie it up. A series of predictable play calling and even poorer execution cost the Buckeyes an excellent opportunity. Michigan State took advantage of the miscues on offense, as the turnover on downs led to the dagger score for the Spartans, putting them up 34-24.
The Buckeyes now wait to hear their official post-season plans. Due to BCS bowl replacement selection procedures, it's all but guaranteed the Orange Bowl will select Ohio State. Though the Orange will have the first pick to replace #1 Florida State, they'd need the Sugar Bowl's permission to snag the top at-large team, Alabama. With that all but impossible, they're likely to select either the Buckeyes or ACC (whom has a relationship with the Orange Bowl)'s Clemson. The Orange would then have the top at-large pick after the Sugar Bowl picks Alabama and given how Ohio State fans travel, the Buckeyes seem to be a safe bet.