Again, I’ve had a couple days to think about this game, then it occurred to me. A November road win in November is a big deal,  regardless of what it looked like. And it looked pretty grim. However, it was less grim for Buckeye fans than it was for Spartan fans. Even a one point (17-16) win counts the same as any other. Hopefully.

Before I get started, I want to tip my hat to Mark Dantonio and his team. This was a well planned game-plan by Coach D and his staff. In addition, the Spartan players played with passion and purpose.

Offense

Let’s just set the tone by saying that a Jim Bollman led MSU offense was more creative than whatever the hell Beck/Warinner were trying to accomplish for Ohio State.

Let’s also establish that in trying weather conditions, I didn’t really have an issue with player performance / execution. Bobbled snaps and dropped passes are to be expected, or at least tolerated in cold, damp blustery conditions. Unlike in politics, truly, both sides do suffer from it.

Contrary to the desire of a “balanced” offense, the MSU game was definitely “unbalanced” towards the running game. The Buckeyes ran twice as many times as they passed (45 vs 22) and gained three times the yardage (224 vs 86) running than passing. Considering the weather conditions, it was very understandable.

After screwing around for their first two plays on their initial possession, Beck/Warinner came to their senses and involved Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber (5 of 7 plays leading to OSU initial touchdown) to set the tone for the game.

I’m going to make a similar observation / complaint that I did in the Maryland game recap.  Ohio State was credited with 45 rushing plays. Quarterback  J.T. Barrett had 24 of those for 105 yards (4.4 YPC). The OZone’s Tony Gerdeman tweeted an observation that J.T. had a “success rate (positive yardage) on 81% of his carrier. That’s pretty good considering some of these runs were not called running plays, they just turned out that way.  Similarly, backfield mate Mike Weber had 14 carries, 111 yards (7.9 YPC)  had a success rate of 85%. Somewhat related, Curtis Samuel had 4 carries for 13 yards.

I’ll be blunt; a quarterback, regardless how talented he is, should not be carrying the ball on over half the running plays. Especially when the Buckeyes have talented play-makers in Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel.

Yes, Weber committed the cardinal sin of fumbling in the red zone, but he did score a touchdown. A fumble may or may not prevent a touchdown or lead to an opponent touchdown, but a touchdown scored is definitely is definitely… a sure score. To me, most appallingly, is that Curtis Samuel had only 8 touches for the game; 4 rushing (13 yds) and 4 receiving (40 yds, 1 TD).

I’m not sure what Beck/Warinner were thinking, if anything, at this point. Not quite sure if they’re saving anything for The Game. Personally, I’m getting weary of seeing the recruited talent having their performance “sub-optimized” by passive play calling.

 

Defense

Aside from two early “chunk” plays given up to MSU running back LJ Scott which accounted for 125 of MSU’s 334 yards the defense looked sharp, especially when it was needed.

The run defense got blistered for +200 yards (net) due to some good MSU line play and really good running by LJ Scott.

Granted the pass defense had some help via the weather, but Chris Worley had a nice interception* in the 2nd quarter. He cut under the route (great anticipation) and made a very athletic play on the ball. Gareon Conley made a leaping interception as the game wound down to give OSU the possession for “team kneel-downs” to secure the win.

*No credit given to Worley on the PAT interception, but I think we’d all agree it likely had a bigger impact than his ‘play from scrimmage; INT.

Scott scored both MSU touchdowns. Other than that the Buckeyes played well enough, especially at the end of the game to secure the win.

Special Teams

The special teams efforts were actually pretty good again this week. The Buckeyes kicked off four times and had two touch backs and one 17 yards return to show for it. Durbin did yank a KO out of bounds in the 3rd quarter after OSU took a 17-10 lead. Fortunately, no ill came of it.

Young Mr. Durbin and his mates had an efficient, if not busy afternoon.His placement kicking was perfect; 2-2 with extra points and 1-1 with field goals.

Cam Johnston earned his keep this week; punting 7 times for a net of 39 yards. Considering that he punted a combined 3 times in the previous two games, this was quite the workout for Cam & Coverage.

The only other thing of note is that in coverage of two punt returns, the OSU punt team allowed an average of -1.5 (minus one point five) yards. That’s pretty  damn impressive.

 

And??

This edition of  The Game  (mid-western version) really has a lot riding on it. In addition to The Rivalry, there are conference championship implications (Go Sparty!) as well as CFB Final Four© implications. The winner gets an opportunity to win the national championship, the loser gets a nice January (probably) bowl game.