No Sad Pizza.
No post-game takedown of the coaching staff by the running back.
There would be no Michigan State upset of a highly-ranked Ohio State team on Saturday.
Fifty years to the day that No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State played to a 10-10 tie at Spartan Stadium, No. 2 Ohio State edged Michigan State 17-16 on Saturday, a meat grinder, cold mess of a contest that may have undone much of the progress made by J.T. Barrett and Ohio State’s offense in 62-3 blowouts of Nebraska and Maryland in recent weeks. In this author’s opinion, any film of what transpired during Saturday’s mostly-blustery and B1G-y competition in East Lansing should be rounded up and tossed into Lake Michigan.
In the end, the Buckeyes’ defense stood firm. Down one with two minutes remaining in the game and owning zero timeouts, the Spartans had a chance to break Scarlet and Gray hearts at the horn for the second consecutive season. But after Gareon Conley followed up Tyquan Lewis’ first-down sack with an interception of an unwise Tyler O’Connor hoist, Ohio State was able to ice the game in victory formation.
While the Buckeyes still have plenty to work before Michigan beckons, they did move to 10-1, offering a reminder of just how good their fan base has had it in recent years, as Ohio State has now won double digit games in 11 of its past 12 seasons.
And though Michigan State has proven to be a pain in the ass recently, Ohio State still owns the recent series, having now prevailed 10 of the past 13 games. There are also high schoolers in East Lansing who’ve never seen the Spartans win a home game against the Buckeyes; the last time Michigan State topped Ohio State in Spartan Stadium was on Nov. 6, 1999, a span of six straight losses.
Now, Michigan Week beckons.
On to the rankings.
1. Mike Weber
The freshman running back’s career-best 52-yard scamper on Ohio State’s third possession post-intermission was not only the Buckeyes’ only meaningful offensive play of the second half, the sprint set up the visitors’ lone score of the second half. The run also pushed the Detroit native over 1,000 yards on the season, and Weber now joins Maurice Clarett (2002) and Robert Smith (1990) as the only Scarlet and Gray ball carriers to clear 1,000 yards as freshmen.
With the Buckeyes’ coaches (predictably) preferring to unnecessarily ride Barrett in a tight game, Weber finished with just 14 carries even though he registered nearly eight yards per tote. It’s worth noting that Curtis Samuel only had four carries on the day, too.
In any case, Weber’s performance against Michigan, the school he was originally committed to, will go a long way to determining whether Ohio State’s offense can achieve functionality opposite a stout Wolverine defense.
2. The audacity of Mark Dantonio
Hey, real’s gotta recognize real. Dantonio’s decision to snap the ball to upback Chris Frey when the Spartans were in punt formation and staring at 4th-and-6 from their own 38 trailing by seven late in the fourth quarter failed to result in a score, but the call did halt Michigan State’s streak of four straight drives ending in punts, with an interception pre-dating the onset of the streak.
The Spartans wound up punting five plays later, but they did flip field position. Ohio State went 3-and-out on its next drive, and the hosts traveled 56 yards in eight plays on the ensuing possession, seemingly ready to tie the game...until Dantonio decided to go Full Brady Hoke and go for two and the (potential) win. The two-point conversion came up short with Malik Hooker picking off O’Connor in the end zone.
Props to Dantonio, though. Ohio State is 4-0 in overtime under Urban Meyer and at 3-7 overall and 1-6 in conference play, the Spartans had nothing to lose. Dantonio also knew the Buckeyes were in full Conservative Offense Mode (more on that later) and that his squad would more than likely get the ball back.
3. You get a punt, and you get a punt, and you get a punt, and you get a punt
25 possessions. 14 punts.
4. LJ Scott
Meet LJ Scott, Michigan State’s offense on Saturday.
The sophomore back scored on a 64-yard catch-and-run on the game’s second play from scrimmage. On the first play of Michigan State’s fourth possession, Scott broke a 61-yard run that fueled a successful field goal attempt. During the Spartans’ fourth-quarter TD drive, Scott accounted for all 56 yards of the march on eight carries. He was a big-play machine.
Though he was bottled up for stretches, Scott finished with 160 yards on 19 carries, good for an average of 8.4 yards per rush. Scott added two catches for 76 yards; his total offensive output of 236 yards represented just over 70 percent of Michigan State’s total yardage on the day.
5. College GameDay at the break of dawn
The guys and gals of college football’s beloved pre-game show will unsurprisingly be in Columbus next weekend for Ohio State and Michigan’s titanic clash. The eye-opening part of GameDay’s announcement was that next Saturday’s show will begin at 7 a.m. local time in Columbus, meaning that if you’re standing in line for a Kegs ‘n’ Eggs event when the sun rises from its nightly slumber, you’ll be able to catch Rece and the Gang attempting to subvert frostbite on live television.
6. Ohio State’s offense
Final J.T. Barrett numbers:— Christopher Jason (@cjason112) November 19, 2016
Designed runs - 21
Dropbacks - 25 (10-22 passing)
Pressured - 8
Sacked - 3
Operating against a Michigan State defense that had struggled mightily in pressuring the quarterback, defending the pass, and was missing future first round pick Malik McDowell, the Buckeyes—who were held to 132 total yards in last year’s loss to the Spartans—finished with a season-low 310 yards of offense on Saturday, with just 86 of those yards coming through the air.
In the first half, Ohio State’s offense mostly stopped itself.
On their first drive, the Buckeyes primarily used their run game to advance to the Spartans’ 28. Then, the Buckeyes elected to pass three times in a row, and the drive ended with Meyer opting to punt from the MSU 34.
After the visitors tallied a touchdown on their second possession, Barrett scampered for 19 yards to open Ohio State’s third drive. Then, three straight pass calls preceded a punt, even though Weber had gained eight yards per carry on his three totes to that point. The Buckeyes’ final three possessions of the first half ended with a field goal, a fumble, and a successful attempt to run out the clock.
The Conservative Offense was fully engaged in the first half, with Barrett carrying 15 times (13 designed QB runs) for 63 yards while Weber and Samuel combined for 11 carries and 56 yards.
In the second half, the Buckeyes logged five punts in addition to the game-ending victory formation and the TD drive that Weber was single-handedly responsible for.
Barrett was only 10-of-22 on the day, his worst day in terms of pure completions and attempts since he went 9-of-21 vs. Indiana six weeks ago. He didn’t make things easy on Meyer, Ed Warinner, & Co. by consistently missing easy throws, wind be damned. Barrett was also pressured more than he’s been in any game since the loss to Penn State.
Quite frankly, the offense has to be better against Michigan. Saturday can’t come soon enough.