Ohio State’s 23-game winning streak has come to an end.
On a rainy, miserable day in Columbus, No. 9 Michigan State knocked No. 3 Ohio State from the ranks of the unbeaten when Michael Geiger hit a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give the Spartans a 17-14 win.
The Spartans, playing without star quarterback Connor Cook, used a combination of two inexperienced quarterbacks – Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry – to rack up 203 yards on the ground. On the other side, the stout Spartans defense limited the defending national champions to only 132 total yards.
The win does two things for the Spartans: it gives them control of the Big Ten East and also vaults them back into College Football Playoff contention. And for the Buckeyes, the loss could be the one that knocks them from the four-team playoff.
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it sure was effective.
With Cook sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Spartans had trouble moving the ball early on. Fortunately, their defense swarmed J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott and the OSU offense, and the game was still scoreless after one quarter.
Ohio State finally broke the scoring drought after a play from its defense. Sam Hubbard came off the edge and strip-sacked Terry, giving the Buckeyes great field position at the MSU 32. Soon after, Elliott was able to score from a yard out on fourth-and-goal to open the scoring.
But the pesky Spartans responded quickly. O’Connor found Aaron Burbridge for gains of 14 and 36 yards and later hit fullback Trevon Pendleton out of the backfield to tie the game 7-7. Pendleton caught the ball near the left sideline at the three and was able to reach for the pylon as he fell out of bounds for an impressive 12-yard score.
After the Spartans tied it, neither offense could get anything going for the rest of the second quarter and much of the third. It wasn't until Michigan State’s Macgarrett Kings Jr. muffed a punt late in the third to set up OSU’s second score – a six-yard TD pass from Barrett to Jalin Marshall.
Again trailing by a touchdown, the Spartans found a way to respond. This time, MSU’s offensive line went to work, paving the way for a 13-play, 75-yard drive that featured 12 – yes, 12 – running plays. Gerald Holmes did most of the work, but O’Connor also picked up two crucial first downs on option keepers. Holmes then finished it off from two yards out to tie the score at 14 with 12:03 to go.
From then on out, the two offense ate up big chunks off the clock, but traded punts – including a beauty from MSU’s Jake Hartbarger to pin the Buckeyes inside their own 10. OSU started at its own seven, but quickly went three-and-out, setting up Michigan State’s game-winning drive.
The Spartans didn’t have far to go to get into Geiger’s range as they started at the OSU 48. An O’Connor completion to Burbridge and five L.J. Scott rushes moved MSU to the 23, and Geiger, from his more comfortable right hashmark, drilled the game-winner.
Not to overlook Geiger’s clutch kick, but this win falls completely on the back of Michigan State’s defense. Elliott, OSU's Heisman Trophy candidate, was rendered completely ineffective, gaining only 33 yards on 12 carries. Meanwhile, the dangerous Barrett looked overmatched from the start. He threw for only 46 yards and rushed for fewer – just 44 on 15 carries.
Now the Spartans have only a home game against an average Penn State between it and a berth in the Big Ten title game against unbeaten Iowa. A win over the defending national champions also puts the Spartans back into the conversation for playoff contention, though their loss to Nebraska earlier in the month will undoubtedly have them on the outside looking in for now.
Ohio State really hasn’t looked like a national title contender for much of the season (narrow wins over teams like Northern Illinois and Indiana come to mind). With a loss finally under its belt, a playoff spot looks like a long shot, even if OSU beats rival Michigan in Ann Arbor next Saturday.
For more Michigan State news, visit SpartanMag.com.
For more Ohio State news, visit BuckeyeGrove.com.
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