Sept. 29, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Urban Meyer’s first Big Ten game as Ohio State coach turned out to be a classic welcome to the conference.
His quarterback got shaken up twice, but Braxton Miller kept coming back on the field, and in the end the Buckeyes played just well enough defensively to come away with a bruising victory.
“This was a war. This was two sledgehammers going at each other,” Meyer said. “I know the Big Ten has taken some heat. That was a great game. Great atmosphere, a bunch of great players on the field that are going to be playing at the next level, and that was good for college football and good for the Big Ten.”
Miller threw for 179 yards and ran for 136, and No. 14 Ohio State held off No. 20 Michigan State 17-16 on Saturday. Miller put Ohio State ahead 17-13 with a 63-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith in the third quarter, and the Buckeyes’ maligned defense held Le’Veon Bell and the Michigan State running game in check.
Meyer becomes the third coach to start 5-0 in his first season at Ohio State. Carol Widdoes and Earle Bruce also did it in 1944 and 1979, respectively.
Michigan State (3-2, 0-1) has lost four home games in a row against Ohio State.
The Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0) aren’t eligible to win the Big Ten title because of sanctions, but they handed the Spartans an early loss.
Michigan State took a 13-10 advantage in the third on a terrific individual effort by Keith Mumphery. With the ball on the Ohio State 29 after a personal foul call on the Buckeyes, Mumphery took Andrew Maxwell’s short pass and eluded four tacklers before dragging a couple more Buckeyes into the end zone.
The lead didn’t last long. Miller managed to pick up a first down, just barely, with a run on third-and-1, then lofted a deep pass on the next play to Smith, who beat Johnny Adams along the right sideline to put Ohio State ahead to stay.
“We hook up all the time,” Miller said. “That’s one of my favorite receivers, so I’m always going to look for him.”
Miller turned the ball over three times in Michigan State territory, including a fumble early in the fourth — but the Buckeyes actually caught a break on that play. The ball bounced right to Kurtis Drummond of the Spartans, who began running down the right sideline before the play was blown dead and Miller was ruled down.
The call was reversed after a review, giving Michigan State the ball at its own 32 — but the Buckeyes were saved from a big return that almost would surely have followed if the call had been correct to begin with.
The Buckeyes then appeared to have stopped the Spartans when Maxwell underthrew a pass on fourth-and-1 from the Ohio State 44, but Travis Howard was called for defensive holding on the opposite side of the field, keeping the drive alive.
Dan Conroy’s 48-yard field goal pulled Michigan State within a point with 7:07 remaining.
Miller remained down holding his left knee after his fumble but was able to come back the next time Ohio State had the ball. The Spartans forced a three-and-out anyway and took over at their own 20 with 5:39 left, down 17-16.
They could manage only one first down before having to punt, and they never got the ball back.
Miller was 16 of 23 with an interception. Maxwell went 22 of 42 for 269 yards.
“Braxton Miller is a very exciting player,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “We knew that coming into the game. He took a lot of bad plays and made them good ones. … I thought Maxwell played well enough to win. He threw the ball very effectively.”
Bell came in with 610 yards on 117 carries, but he ran for only 45 yards against Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ defense was ranked last in the Big Ten before the game.
“A great team win,” Meyer said. “We found out something about our team today, to go on the road in a hostile environment against a quality, quality football team and find a way to win.”
Ohio State drove 75 yards in eight plays to open the game, taking a 7-0 lead on Jordan Hall’s 1-yard scoring run. Miller had runs of 20 and 13 yards on the drive, but he was hit along the sideline at the end of the latter one and was shaken up.
He had to leave the game but was back for his team’s next possession.
The Spartans answered immediately with a 34-yard field goal by Conroy, and that was all the scoring for the half. Miller threw an interception and lost a fumble in second quarter, but Conroy missed a 42-yard attempt in the final minute.