The No. 9 Michigan State Spartans learned at kickoff that star quarterback Connor Cook wouldn’t be able to go against the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes due to a shoulder injury suffered last weekend, but that wasn’t a problem as the team ran and grinded its way to a cold and rainy 17-14 victory that was clinched on kicker Michael Geiger’s 41-yard field goal as time expired.
Since Cook was unable to go, backup Tyler O’Connor got the start and went straight into game manager mode. Michigan State racked up 203 rush yards, with sophomore Gerald Holmes leading the way with 65 yards on 14 carries. Long story short, Michigan State played kill the clock from the very beginning and Ohio State’s usually strong defense was thus exhausted as the rain fell and wind blew.
Michigan State’s defense did just what it had to do: contain Ezekiel Elliott. The Buckeyes’ star running back was limited to 33 yards and a touchdown on a dozen carries, and the bad weather clearly made coach Urban Meyer hesitant to throw the ball too. J.T. Barrett made just 8 of 15 throws for 43 yards and a touchdown. On top of that, he did not use his timeouts down the stretch to try and give his defense a rest.
That let Geiger get set up for a 41-yard field goal attempt, having missed a 43-yarder earlier in the game. He made the kick, and Spartans Nation roared.
Ohio State has nobody to blame but itself for this loss. The team was nowhere near aggressive enough on offense and also had no answer for Michigan State’s blue-collar offense. The team managed just five first downs to the Spartans’ 17 and just could not get their offense rolling as their 22-game winning streak came to an end.
This loss puts both teams in a tie for top spot in the Big Ten East, and Ohio State’s playoff hopes are dead in the water unless Michigan State loses to Penn State in East Lansing next weekend. On top of that, Ohio State would need to beat Michigan in order to win a date with Iowa in the conference championship game.
Either way, one thing is certain. The defending champions have been exposed now that they finally had to play a ranked opponent, while Michigan State has proven that losing to Nebraska two weeks ago was a fluke.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports