COLUMBUS, Ohio - The final margin of victory may have been only three points but it felt more like 300 as the Buckeyes had nothing going for 59 minutes of the game and saw the Spartans make just enough big plays to salt away an ugly 10-7 win on a dreary day at the Horseshoe.
Neither starting quarterback Braxton Miller nor backup Joe Bauserman had good days and the tandem were sacked a combined nine times by the Michigan State defense. But the bigger issue was the lack of the running game as the Spartans decided early that Ohio State was unable to pass the ball and the green and white decided to sell out and load the box. The Buckeyes had a pedestrian 35 yards of net rushing on the ground and the team was led by Jordan Hall's 45 yards on 18 carries (sack yardage cost the Buckeyes 43 yards in the final tally).
"We just gotta do a better job," Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell said. "That's ultimately what it comes down to. You don't give your quarterback much of a chance if he's getting sacked nine times. Gotta give (Michigan State) credit. They did a really good job at it."
Frustration was evident during and after the game with the Ohio State team. The Buckeyes were forced to punt ten times on the afternoon and while the defense only yielded ten points on the day it wasn't enough to get the win.
"I thought we played pretty well out there," Ohio State defensive back Tyler Moeller said. "We had some decent turnovers when we needed them. We did give up ten points which was ten points too many."
Ohio State turned Michigan State over three times with two interceptions of Kirk Cousins (including one in the end zone) and a fumble recovery. But the Buckeyes were unable to capitalize and while Ohio State was only down one score for most of the game, it just never felt that the Buckeyes had much traction at any point this season.
"We played hard," Bauserman said. "They didn't do anything we weren't ready for. They are big and fast. But we just seemed to miss the big play that we needed."
The Buckeyes broke onto the scoreboard with ten seconds left when Bauserman hit Evan Spencer over the middle for a 33 yard touchdown strike. That gave the Buckeyes just a glimpse of life but the onsides kick from Drew Basil just couldn't find its way into Nate Ebner's hands, despite a properly executed kick.
Things don't get any easier for Ohio State in the month of October with a trip to Lincoln (Neb.) next week and then a road trip to Illinois before welcoming Wisconsin to the 'Shoe on the final weekend of the month.
Ohio State will get the suspended four players (off of their five game suspensions) back for this next week and while nobody is pinning all of their hopes on the returning players, there is plenty of excitement in the locker room to get them back.