Ohio State entered Saturday against No. 7 Michigan State as the favorites, but few foresaw the absolute beatdown the Buckeyes applied in a 56-7 victory over the Spartans. This was a match-up that always favored Ohio State’s offense against a Spartan defense that entered allowing the most yards per game passing in the country, but there was still the matter of keeping CJ Stroud upright and being able to run the ball enough to keep the defense honest. On the other side, the Buckeye defense was coming off a much-criticized performance against Purdue and had to contend with Heisman Trophy favorite Kenneth Walker III and the MSU running game.
Here are the parts of Saturday’s game that had me scolding an uncaring television set:
Not the Strongest Start
Ohio State started the game by nearly failing to field the opening kickoff, setting up difficult field position. That field position got even worse when Chris Olave committed a false start before the first snap of the game. That wasn’t great, but the Buckeyes recovered and hardly had a nervy play in the first half. Olave capped the drive by tying the school record for career touchdowns — a mark he later broke.
The Buckeye defense had some issues on the second MSU drive, allowing a couple of conversions on third-and-long. Ultimately, the Buckeyes got their stop — due only to a missed field goal, because officiating games is hard (more on that below) — but for a few minutes, on one drive at least, Ohio State’s early season defensive issues returned.
The end of that Michigan State drive should have resulted in an OSU takeaway. Payton Thorne threw short of the line to make to Payton Reed, who caught it, then fought to get to the first down marker. While lying on top of a defender, the ball came loose and there was a clear, immediate recovery by Ohio State. The initial ruling on the field was a completed pass. The play was reviewed and seemed likely to be overturned, giving Ohio State the ball where it was when the whistle blew (which, if the play had been allowed to continue, may have been an Ohio State scoop-and-score). Instead, we got to relive the loss to Clemson a few years back when the referee announced the call had changed to an incomplete pass, meaning the least likely and least plausible outcome took place.
Ohio State’s final drive of the first half was awful. The Buckeyes lost yardage when Stroud took a knee on first time to run out the clock. The team finished with negative yards on the drive and failed to score a touchdown. Ohio State went on to not score for several more drives as the kneel-down wrecked Ohio State’s momentum. I’m not saying #FireDay but come on.*
(*Caution: Contents may contain unsafe levels of sarcasm)
First Struggles for Ruggles
ABC/ESPN play-by-play announcer Chris Fowler executed a perfect announcer’s jinx on the first OSU drive of the second half, pointing out Noah Ruggles’ perfect record just before the snap. I didn’t even have time to knock on wood before the kick. The snap was poor but the hold was good. Still, Ruggles pushed the kick wide right, snapping a streak of 25 straight successful attempts from inside 50 yards. The resulting smirk on Fowler’s face was audible through the broadcast. If you think that smirks don’t make a sound, go back and watch the game again. You’ll hear it.
Come On, Kyle!
Ryan Day turned the offense over to Kyle McCord on the second drive of the second half and the Buckeyes looked to run clock (and the ball). But on second-and-12, McCord dropped back to pass and looked for Sam Wiglusz down the right side. Wiglusz had gotten behind his defender, but McCord threw it short, and the pass was intercepted. A pass over top of the defender would have likely resulted in a first down, but instead it was the first Buckeye turnover of the day and it extended the OSU non-scoring streak to three consecutive drives, dating back to the kneel-down to end the first half.
Come On, Kyle: Epilogue
That turnover also led to the first, and only, points for Michigan State as Ryan Watts had good positioning but didn’t bother to find the football in the end zone at the end of the Spartans’ drive. Had he turned, he could have had an interception and preserved the shutout.
Look, it was difficult to find things to be upset about this week, but I should be handsomely rewarded for being able to write an entire column about how upset this game made me — even if I wasn’t really upset. I mean, what am I going to do, complain about the three Stroud incompletions? The lack of a seventh touchdown pass? TreVeyon Henderson averaging seven yards per carry but not scoring? Who has that kind of energy?
Next week: I get to grumble about all the things that annoy me in THE Game.