Five Answers: OSU-Michigan State

The Buckeyes not only passed a test against a good running team, they deserve bonus points after holding the Spartans to less than one-fourth their season average on the ground. We look at that, how the other MSU weapons faired, Todd Boeckman's day, field position and trick plays in this week's Five Answers.

1. How well will the Buckeyes stop the run?

The immovable object won out, and in emphatic fashion.

With the Spartans averaging 242.7 yards on the ground in their first seven games, one could forgive the Buckeye defense for permitting a few more than its average allowance of 62.9.

Safety Kurt Coleman said the Buckeyes were in no mood for moral victories. Bend-but-don't-break was not an acceptable alternative.

"We wanted to take the run away completely," Coleman said. "The whole week we knew that they were going to run the ball and a lot of people were thinking that they could run on us. As a defense, we knew we weren't going to allow that to happen."

The sophomore said the defense's goal was to hold Spartan running backs Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick to half their season per-game averages, and that is just what happened.

Ringer entered the week averaging 133.1 yards per contest and an eye-popping 7.1 yards per carry, while the bullish Caulcrick pitched in 71.3 yards per game in a supporting role. "Javon Ringer's a great running back and we knew that he was going to try to get the ball outside and try to make something happen and we weren't going to allow that," Coleman said.

He was right. Ringer picked up just 49 yards on 18 carries, a 2.7-yard average, while Caulcrick was essentially a nonfactor with two carries for 10 yards.

As a team, the Buckeyes actually improved on their season average by holding the Spartans to 59 rushig yards.

2. What about the Spartans' other weapons?

For most of the game, wide receiver/return man Devin Thomas and tight end Kellen Davis were essentially nonfactors.

Thomas entered the contest second in the nation with 212.4 all-purpose yards per game but managed just 147 against Ohio State, and he needed two long catches on the Spartans' final drive to make his numbers even respectable.

He gave Donald Washington the slip for a 40-yard gain to start that drive then eluded most of the secondary for a 21-yard pickup, but for the most part Washington and Chimdi Chekwa won their battles with the talented Spartan.

Davis was even less effective. He caught one pass for 19 yards.

3. Can Ohio State exploit the MSU secondary?

Todd Boeckman came out hot. He completed his first eight passes, including a touchdown to Jake Ballard.

But that toss to Ballard, who was so wide open in the flats to Boeckman's right that the burly sophomore tight end could jump to gather the high throw into his arms and stumble into the end zone before a defender got to him, was not quite on target and Boeckman finished with just a so-so day.

Brian Robiskie caught just two passes, but he made them count. First he gave T.J. Williams the slip on an out-and-up that gained 42 yards, got the Buckeyes out of the shadow of their own goalpost and led to a field goal. Then in the third quarter he ran behind a three-deep zone for a 50-yard touchdown that put the Buckeyes ahead 24-0.

Boeckman's troubles in the second half can be attributed to a strong Spartan pass rush.

"The pick isn't on Todd," right tackle Kirk Barton said. "That's on the protection because he was getting drilled all day. That can't happen from this point on.

"We just didn't execute. There isn't a look on Earth that any defense could show us that our defense hasn't shown us. Our defense runs the most exotic blitz package in America. That's why they get so many pressures and sacks because teams don't know where they're coming from and then all of a sudden they get popped. Coach Dantonio runs a very impressive blitz package as well but we've seen that stuff before."

4. Who will benefit more from hidden yardage?

Despite having to start inside their own 10-yard line on three separate occasions, the Buckeyes finished with an 8-yard advantage in average starting position.

A.J. Trapasso bettered Spartan freshman punter Aaron Bates in net punting average and put three of his five kicks inside the 20. Bates had just two punts inside the 20 despite eight tries. Jim Tressel's man came up with one of his best late in the game when the Buckeyes were suffering a wane in momentum following back-to-back touchdowns by the MSU defense. The same drive that narrowly avoided a third consecutive disaster when Chris Wells fell on his own fumble ended with Trapasso booming a 58-yarder to give MSU 70 yards to go for a touchdown.

Neither team got much of a boost from its return game. Buckeye Ray Small brought a punt back 21 yards to his own 46 in the second quarter, but his teammates did nothing with the good starting spot.

5. Could either coach turn the game with a trick?

The Spartans came oh-so-close to hitting a big one in the fourth quarter. With his team trailing by 10, Thomas took a handoff and looked deep for Davis. The tight end was open, but Thomas rushed his throw and it was off the mark.

Two plays later the Spartans flipped the script, but Davis' thoughts of passing were ruined by Ohio State's Marcus Freeman.

"We knew they were going to do something tricky," linebacker Larry Grant said. "They caught us in a good one but luckily he didn't throw it as far as he should have."

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