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The defense came through when needed and No. 2 Ohio State held off Michigan State 17-16 at Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
MSU (3-8, 1-7 Big Ten) eschewed a tying extra point with 4:53 to play and sophomore safety Malik Hooker intercepted the two-point conversion to preserve the one-point lead.
The Spartans got the ball one more time but junior corner Gareon Conley’s pick with 1:30 to play at the MSU 33 sealed the win for the Buckeyes (10-1, 7-1).
Freshman Mike Weber’s 4-yard TD run with 5:33 left in the third quarter gave the Buckeyes a 17-10 lead after the 10-10 halftime score.
Weber had 111 yards on 14 carries to become the third OSU freshman to surpass 1,000 rushing yards. Junior quarterback J.T Barrett had 24 rushes for 105 yards but was 10 for 22 passing for 86 yards and a TD pass to junior Curtis Samuel.
LJ Scott had 160 yards on 19 runs for the Spartans and scored the touchdown that made it 17-16. Quarterback Tyler O’Connor was 6 for 16 for 105 yards, a score and an interception and QB Damion Terry was 2 for 5 for 22 yards on a day when the temperature was 37 degrees with blustery winds.
How It Happened
The Spartans took the opening kick for a touchback then proceeded to stun the Buckeyes for a two-play, 75-yard drive that took 48 seconds to assume a 7-0 lead.
Shelton ran for 11 yards on the first play from scrimmage to the 36 before O’Connor threw a screen to the left to Scott, who used multiple blockers to break free at the line and raced down the sideline 64 yards to score the first touchdown against the Buckeyes in 10 quarters.
After the Spartans went three-and-out, a Jake Hartbarger punt was downed at the 50. Barrett took over and rushed for 10 to the MSU 40.After and incompletion, Barrett ran for 7 and 9 on consecutive plays to put the ball at the 26.
He then used a play-action fake to freeze the secondary and spotted Samuel for a 24-yard TD to tie the score at 7 with 7:56 left in the first quarter.
MSU took a 10-7 lead 13:42 into the second quarter on a 28-yard field goal by Michael Geiger to finish a 10-play, 76-yard series that was highlighted by a 61-yard run by Scott to the OSU 26 on the first play.
Sophomore Parris Campbell returned the kickoff 24 yards to the OSU 28 to start the possession that resulted in the tying field goal. A personal foul on MSU after a Weber 4-yard run moved the ball to the OSU 48. Barrett found Campbell for 6 yards and Weber ran 9 to the Michigan State on a play in which there were offsetting personal fouls that kept the ball at the MSU 37.
Runs by Samuel and Barrett netted a first down at the 26 but two incomplete passes and Barrett run of 4 put the ball at the 22 where senior Tyler Durbin kicked a 39-yard field goal with 10:03 left in the second quarter.
Each team punted on their first two possessions of the second half as the sun broke through the clouds.
OSU started its third drive at its 31 after a fair catch by Samuel. That’s when Weber, the Detroit native, made his impact, streaking down the right side for 52 yards before being run out at the Michigan State 17.
Barrett ran for 5, then 8 to set up first-and-goal at the 4. Weber capped the quick (1:46) series with a TD run from the 4 for a 17-10 lead with 5:33 left in the third quarter.
The defenses were unyielding and Michigan State, as it us apt to do under head coach Mark Dantonio, used some trickery to get into OSU territory early in the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth-and-6 from the Spartan 38, Chris Frey, a native of the Columbus of Upper Arlington not far from Ohio Stadium, took the direct snap on the fake punt and rambled 25 yards to the OSU 37.
Michigan State had life. The chilled crowd was energized and the Spartans seemed poised to rattle the Buckeyes. It didn’t happen. A holding penalty set MSU back 10 yards and two rushes gained only 7 yards to the 40. On third down, ends sophomore end Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis sacked Terry for a loss of 5 yards back to the 45.
While the fake punt didn’t produce points it did help the Spartans. OSU took over at its 9 after a punt but produced just 5 yards and the Buckeyes punted to the MSU 44.
From there, Scott rushed 26 yards to the OSU 30 and then added 6 more on another first-down carry. Scott then went around left end for 12 to the 12 for a first down. Scott kept it going for 4, 3 and 4 yards for a first-and-goal at the 1.
Scott was stopped for no gain but on his eight straight carry he bulled his way in from the 1 to make it 17-16 with 4:41 left in the fourth quarter.
Dantonio, with no national rankings or conference title at stake, gambled and went for the two-point conversion but Hooker intercepted O’Connor in the end zone.
A squib kick was recovered by freshman tight end A.J. Alexander at the OSU 37 with 4:40 to play. Barrett threw incomplete to sophomore Terry McLaurin on first down. Barrett ran for 8 then 6 to get the first down at the MSU 49 but Weber was tackled for a 6-yard loss before a holding call on a Barrett scramble left the Buckeyes with 2nd and-26 from it 35.
Weber got 11 of it back and Barrett added 7 more but that wasn’t enough and the Buckeyes faced fourth-and-7 from the MU 47. Johnston hoped to pin the Spartans deep and but his punt went into the end zone and the Spartans had one more chance to replicate the 17-14 win from last season when Geiger kicked a field goal on the final play.
On first down from the MSU 20 with 2:04 to play, Lewis rushed O’Connor and forced a fumble that the QB recovered for an 8-yard loss.
That set up the Conley interception that iced the game with 1:30 left. The Buckeyes took three knees for a loss of 5 yards and ran out the clock.