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In battle of defenses, Ohio State emerges victorious over Michigan State, 26-6

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Drue Chrisman pinned the Spartans within their own six-yard line on five consecutive punts.

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

It wasn’t the prettiest of games, or the nicest, but the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1, 6-1) got the job done in East Lansing, Mich., avoiding the upset against No. 18 Michigan State (6-4, 4-3) with a 26-6 win.

Both defenses shined, as yards were hard to come by for either offense. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins was held in check for the first three quarters, while MSU had to sub in their backup QB to get the offense even close to becoming functional. Both defenses stopped the run game, as J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber had trouble getting any sustained running for the Buckeyes early; for the Spartans, running back Connor Heyward was held in check.

A big reason for the OSU defense’s success came because MSU was pinned deep in their own territory. After a four-yard punt on his first attempt, Drue Chrisman turned it on against the Spartans. On five consecutive punts in the second half, Chrisman pinned the home team within their own six-yard line. Two of those drives led to points via Spartan miscues; a safety on one occasion, and a touchdown by Dre’Mont Jones via bad snap.

While Haskins didn’t break the single-season OSU record, he did have a decent day in windy conditions. He tallied a first-half touchdown via jet sweep to Parris Campbell, and had 185 passing yards entering the fourth quarter. When all was said and done, Haskins was 23-of-38 for 218 yards inside Spartan Stadium.

Weber’s longest rush of the day was an 18-yarder in the third quarter. He eclipseed 100 yards rushing, and led the ground game efforts for the Buckeyes. Weber had 22 carries for 104 yards.

Dobbins had, unsurprisingly, the second-most carries in the OSU backfield with 14, but was only able to collect 28 yards on the afternoon. In total, the rushing attack had 123 yards on a collective 44 chances.

Ohio State’s defense was stout all afternoon, giving up a total of 274 yards. Michigan State went 2-of-16 on third downs, and committed three turnovers that led to 17 OSU points. Outside of a 47-yard rush by backup Spartan QB Rocky Lombardi, the Buckeyes only gave up a total of 54 yards on the ground. Heyward, the starting rusher for the game, was held to four rushes for one total yard. Starting QB Brian Lewerke couldn’t get anything going for the first half, and was benched shortly before halftime in favor of Lombardi. However, he would appear at the end of the game—throwing an interception. Lewerke ended the game with 128 yards on 11-of-28 passing; Lombardi ended the game with 92 yards on 7-of-19 passing.

Linebacker Pete Werner led the Bucks in total tackles with seven, and led the team in solo tackles with four. Malik Harrison and Jeffrey Okudah tied for the lead in pass breakups with two apiece.

Prior to the game, it was learned that Brady Taylor and Branden Bowen made the trip to East Lansing, while Isaiah Pryor did not.

Already on the first drive, Mark Dantonio was going wild. On a fourth-and-1 from their own 34, the Spartans went for it. After it appeared that Lewerke was stopped short on a sneak, a second effort barely got him over the line. However, a false start and a pair of incompletions stalled out the opening drive at their own 34.

Ohio State’s first turn on offense didn’t go as planned — and didn’t even yield a first down. A rush up the middle by Weber was stopped for a yard; and a screen pass to the near sideline, again to Weber, lost a few yards. A Haskins completion to Parris Campbell picked up 10 yards, but brought up fourth-and-3. OSU elected to punt the ball, but Drue Chrisman shanked it, sending it only four yards to the OSU35. However, the punter would more than redeem himself from there on out.

The bad offense continued, as the Spartans squandered a primo opportunity. A fumbled snap, followed by a disastrous reverse sweep, and an incompletion netted MSU one total yard. They were too far for a field goal, especially considering that the wind was varying between 15-30 mph. They would punt away to K.J. Hill, who fair caught the ball at the 11. A five-play drive for 12 yards was all OSU could muster, as the run game was stuffed, and Haskins faced pressure on throws from Kenny Willekes.

For the remainder of the quarter, both offenses kept up their struggles. The Spartans had a three-and-out, and the Buckeyes gave up a big sack on third down — forcing them to punt. As the quarter ended though, Michigan State found themselves in a fourth down situation on the OSU34. It should be noted that throughout that drive, Lewerke struggled with accuracy, mostly due to him compensating for a bad throwing shoulder with full body throws. On the bright side: OSU committed zero penalties in the scoreless first frame.

MSU decided to try a 51-yard field goal with Tyler Conklin. The wind appeared to pick up, which worked well for the Buckeyes as Conklin’s attempt sailed wide right.

After the teams traded drives that went a combined eight plays for 25 yards, the Buckeyes finally assembled a decent drive. Haskins found wide receiver Chris Olave for two big completions, setting up the Scarlet and Gray inside the red zone.

But, this wouldn’t last long, as a devastating hands to the face infraction on Malcolm Pridgeon put the Buckeyes in a third-and-22 bind. They would recover some of the yardage on a screen, but forced a 44-yard field goal attempt by Blake Haubeil. With the wind causing issues earlier for MSU, it was OSU’s turn to face the wrath of Mother Nature. Haubeil’s kick sailed wide right, keeping the score gridlocked at 0-0 with 6:55 left in the half.

The stalemate would finally be broken with 1:29 left in the second quarter, thanks to a one-yard end-around from Haskins to Campbell. It took the Buckeyes 11 plays to march 55 yards, and wouldn’t have been possible if Haskins didn’t zip a pass over the middle to Hill on third down early in the drive.

On the next drive, Lewerke was pulled in favor of Rocky Lombardi, who had a monster performance earlier this season in a win against Purdue. He moved the home team down the field on his first opportunity against the Buckeyes. On the first play of the drive, Lombardi connected with Cody White down the near sideline for 27 yards. A couple of plays later, he went back to White for 13 more. MSU got all the way down to the OSU26, and nearly went for it on a fourth-and-1. However, after both teams burned through their final timeouts (two apiece), Dantonio changed the plan and went for the FG. Coughlin’s attempt was from 44, and he barely snuck it past the near post.

Sparty got on the board, closing the deficit to 7-3 at the break.

Below are some of the stats from the first half.

To start the third quarter, Ohio State got the ball. Things looked promising early, as the first three plays of the drive picked up positive yardage. Weber opened it up for a six-yard rush, then Haskins went to Hill for a seven, and then Weber took off for 18, his longest of the game at this point. Unfortunately, Dobbins was then stopped for a couple yards, and quickly after that the punting unit was back on. Terry McLaurin made a spectacular play on the punt, swatting the ball at the one-yard line back to the MSU5.

Lombardi was back on the field, and pressed near his own endzone. A five-yard completion and a pair of misses forced the Spartans to punt the ball away. Freshman William Przystup kicked the ball to Hill, who attempted to run after the catch. That did not work out, as he was pulled down at the OSU41.

After Haskins connected with McLaurin for 16, the drive became extremely run-centric. Dobbins and Campbell helped carry the Buckeyes down to the MSU33, but like drives before, the Spartan defense clamped down. Instead of kicking the field, Chrisman was summoned for another punt. Once again, he pinned the home team to their own six-yard line.

Ohio State’s defense played well up until this drive. Lombardi, on a third-and-2, rushed down the sideline for a gain of 47. After that play, he rushed again for 12 more. Then, Dantonio dialed up trick play. Lombardi threw the ball backwards to White who initially wanted to throw back to his QB, however, he was covered. After weaving around in the backfield a bit, White uncorked the ball into the end zone where a waiting Matt Sokol was wide open. However, the Spartans had an illegal man downfield. The Bucks got bailed out, and the Spartans had to eventually settle for a field goal.

A series of three four-play drives proved that yardage was hard to come by. On the last of those drives, OSU and Chrisman pinned MSU to their own one-yard line. Lombardi aired out three incompletions, forcing a very tight punt for the Spartans special team. To avoid the chance of a blocked punt, the MSU center airmailed the snap into the stands — leading to a safety.

The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, and since it was a safety free-kick, the ball was spotted for the Buckeyes at midfield. After a seven-yard rush from Weber, the third quarter came to an end with OSU leading 9-6.

Ohio State’s offense failed to do anything on the ensuing drive. Again, Chrisman pinned the punt inside the Spartans’ two-yard line. And again, the Spartans had a miscue deep in their own territory. On the first play, a mistimed snap in shotgun formation — one that led to the man in motion running into the ball — led to Dre’Mont Jones recovering the pigskin in the end zone. It was a huge momentum boost for the Bucks, who now had 16-6 lead with 14 minutes left in regulation.

And then on the first play of the next drive, Lombardi pitched the ball too high to the running back, who stumbled backwards before regaining his position to chase down the ball that was now on the ground. But, he was too slow and Lombardi had the wrong angle to the pigskin; Jonathon Cooper, who forced the pitch in the first place, saw the ball on the cold turf, and sprinted toward it. Cooper made the recovery, and set the Buckeyes up at the MSU15. They’d have to settle for a field goal, but the lead increased to 19-6 in favor of the visitors.

With shaken confidence, Lombardi was put back onto the bench in favor for Lewerke. Now with a shoulder that hadn’t been used for roughly a half, the Spartan offense became even more stagnant. Lewerke quickly led a three-and-out charge for MSU.

Ohio State would finally commit an error of its own as they drove toward the end zone on the next drive. A fumble on the Spartan 13-yard line was recovered by the home team, and gave Dantonio’s squad a chance for a comeback. That comeback was short lived, as Lewerke telegraphed a throw to OSU defensive back Shaun Wade.

The Wade pick led to a grind-it-out drive from the Bucks, culminating with Weber taking it in for a two-yard score to push Ohio State up 26-6. That’d be the last score of the game.

Up next for the Buckeyes will be another road contest, this time to College Park, Md., to face the Maryland Terrapins. The game time will be announced late on Saturday or early on Sunday.