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Looking back at the first time Urban Meyer rained on Michigan State’s parade

A one point win in East Lansing, Mich. got Meyer his first win in Big Ten conference play.

Ohio State v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After four years in charge as head coach at Ohio State, Urban Meyer has had his share of memorable wins. We already discussed about Meyer’s first win as Buckeye head coach, now let’s look at his first win in Big Ten conference play against Michigan State on Sept. 29, 2012.

Geoff Hammersley

How’d we get here?

Fast forward out of the non-conference schedule in 2012. Meyer got the Buckeyes off to an unsurprising 4-0 start. From laying waste to in-state institution Miami (OH) to shutting down future NFL first rounder quarterback Blake Bortles (and UCF) to upending Cal on the road and UAB at home, this Ohio State team was showing signs that they were leaps and bounds ahead from where they were a year prior.

Standing firmly as the team to beat, the first team in the Big Ten conference to test Meyer and the Buckeyes would be a program (and coach) that Buckeye Nation would come to learn very well over the next four seasons: Mark Dantonio and Michigan State.

Through their first four games, Michigan State played against two top 25 foes. First, they upended then-No. 24 Boise State, 17-13, in East Lansing, Mich. in primetime on opening weekend. However, Sparty was taken to the cleaners by rival Notre Dame, 20-3, a couple weeks later.

A former Buckeye assistant, Dantonio cultivated the Spartans into a program that was well on its way to becoming a contender. In this matchup, No. 20 Michigan State (3-1) met No. 14 Ohio State (4-0) at 3:30 p.m. in Spartan Stadium. This game marked the beginning of a four year – and currently active trend – of watching national championship dreams implode for the loser.

The Spartans were battled tested already

The Fighting Irish were ranked No. 20 at the time of their win against Dantonio’s squad. Remember that Notre Dame team? Manti T’eo was the star on defense, and the Irish wound up in the national championship game at season’s end – before getting obliterated by Alabama.

But that’s not the point.

Michigan State played quality opponents in the non-conference portion of their schedule. In comparison: None of the teams Ohio State faced were in the top 25.

It was the test of the season for the Buckeyes – and an early one at that.

An oddity from the Michigan State game was that, up to that point in the season, Ohio State didn’t play on a true grass field. According to the Ohio State press release leading up to their date with Michigan State, the Buckeyes faired 0-3 in 2011 on grass fields. Granted, the Buckeyes had an interim coach in Luke Fickell, but the playing environment could’ve impacted the game, especially if players weren’t use to what they were running on.

With all of these “statistics”, it seemed as if Michigan State was going to spoil the early success Meyer had at Ohio State . With the scarlet and gray serving time for TattooGate – by being on a one year bowl ban – the undefeated season was all they could have. Michigan State still had a chance to dream about being in the national title picture with only one early season loss.

Remember in the last section where I said that the Spartan-Buckeye matchups over the past four years have ended ambitions for titles? Well, in this case, it was Sparty’s dream of winning a championship that went by the wayside in the 17-16 loss to the Buckeyes.

The one-point win in the state up North was a defining moment for Meyer at Ohio State. This win brought the team together and put them in the mindset that an undefeated season was possible – and was a complete 180-degree turnaround from the abysmal 10-7 loss a year prior in Columbus, Ohio.

Keeping with tradition

Ohio State, since I can remember, has always been considered “Running Back U”. If it wasn’t Eddie George, it was Maurice Clarett. If it wasn’t Clarett, it was Chris “Beanie” Wells.

With Carlos Hyde on this team, Meyer kept the tradition of having a bruising running back at the ready. Against Michigan State, the running attack was the ‘X-factor’, but it wasn’t the strength of rushing that won for the Buckeyes; it was speed.

Ohio State v Michigan State
Momma, there goes that man: Braxton Miller tallied over half the Buckeyes rushing yards against MSU
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In the win, Ohio State collected 21 first downs. Fourteen of those came from running the ball. In comparison: Sparty had a whopping zero first downs from the run game.

As a matter of fact, the running game doomed Michigan State. The Spartans had 22 ground attempts and could only muster a total of 34 yards. That’s an average of 1.5 yards per pop. Meyer’s ground game gobbled up 204 yards on 44 attempts – an average of roughly 4.6 yards per carry.

Braxton Miller led the Buckeyes charge in East Lansing. He was responsible for 136 of the rushing yards and over half (23) of the rushing attempts. On the first play from scrimmage, a 20 yard pick up, you knew that Miller was going to be the crux of the Spartans’ defense.

From this game on, Miller showed that he was the dual-threat quarterback that could wreak havoc on defenses. Like Chris Leak at Florida, Meyer inherited another top-flight QB that could do it all. Also, like with the Gators, Meyer was setting his sights for another championship run.

Fun facts from the game

  • Both Meyer and Dantonio were the 24th coach at their respective schools. However, it didn’t really matter who was coaching the Spartans at home when they faced the Buckeyes. From 1992-2012, Ohio State grabbed 6-of-7 in East Lansing. Nick Saban, John L. Smith and Dantonio didn’t have a great answer on how to stop the Buckeyes on home turf (or in this case, grass).
  • ESPN College Gameday was at this game! Lee Corso picked the Buckeyes and on top of that, Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit were the ones looking live from Spartan Stadium.

What was happening in college football?

  • Johnny Manziel was doing Johnny Manziel things on the football field. Texas A&M coasted past Arkansas, 58-10. The SEC player of the week went 29-of-38, throwing for a videogame-esque 453 yards and three touchdowns. Additionally, the boy wonder ran for 105 yards and another TD. Oh, I forgot to mention: this was pre-Bert times in Little Rock, Ark. This was the era of John L. Smith.
  • Michigan had a bye-week after taking an ‘L’ against Notre Dame. Just four weeks into the season, the Wolverines were 2-2. *clapping intensifies *
  • No. 2 Oregon was being led by a redshirt freshman named Marcus Mariota. Once again, the Ducks continued to win the day by silencing the Washington State Cougars, 51-26.
  • Alabama was continuing to clean up the streets as the No. 1 team in the country. This week, Ole Miss felt the wrath of Saban and the Crimson Tide by getting stampeded 33-14.

Current events around Urban’s first B1G win

Singer Andy Williams passed away. On top of his The Andy Williams Variety Show in the mid-1960s, Williams also had a career as a singer. If you’ve ever walked into a store during Christmas time, you’ve probably heard Williams’ rendition of ‘Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season’ or ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’. Williams was 84.

  • It might’ve seemed like an eternity ago, but the first presidential debate took place between Mitt Romney and incumbent President Barack Obama. Held in Denver, the debate happened four days (Oct. 3) after Meyer got the Buckeyes to a 5-0 start.