Sunday, 22 November 2015

Michigan State snaps Ohio State's 23-game win streak




Breaking down No. 9 Michigan State's 17-14 win Saturday at No. 2 Ohio State:

THE BIG PICTURE: Even though they had been unimpressive and lacked significant victories,College Football Playoff committee chairman Jeff Long was adamant in recent weeks that the Ohio State Buckeyes' best football was ahead of them.

Well, so much for that.

The reigning national champions likely will not be back to defend their title, and it occurred in shocking fashion at home. Michigan State was the more physical team, the more poised team and the team with a better game plan.

The Spartans, left for dead after a stunning loss at Nebraska on Nov. 7, own Big Ten tiebreakers against East Division foes Ohio State and Michigan and are very much alive for the national title after junior Michael Geiger kicked a 41-yard field goal through the wind and rain with no time on the clock to break a 14-14 tie and silence Ohio Stadium.

And they did it without their All-American candidate quarterback Connor Cook, who was unavailable because of a shoulder injury. It took an unreal effort from Michigan State's defense, which limited the Buckeyes to 132 yards on 45 plays and the ability to overcome two major mistakes that basically gifted Ohio State (10-1) two touchdowns.

But the Spartans (10-1) got it done and can win the Big Ten East with a home victory against Penn State next weekend. Meanwhile, this was supposed to be the stage for Ohio State — after beating (and at times sleepwalking) through 10 overmatched opponents — to finally show its championship stuff. It simply never happened.

WHAT WE'LL BE TALKING ABOUT: Call this game Example No. 1,592 why Mark Dantonio is one of the best coaches in college football.

In a must-win situation on the road without his all-everything quarterback, Dantonio threw Ohio State off-balance with a constant and confusing rotation between junior Tyler O'Connor and sophomore Damion Terry, neither of whom had very much experience. They both ran the ball effectively, combining for 50 yards on 16 carries. O'Connor made some timely and impressive throws, though he was only 7-for-12 for 89 yards. Ohio State didn't seem to ever really know what was coming, particularly since the Buckeyes likely spent the bulk of their time preparing for a pass-heavy offense led by Cook.

WHAT WE'LL BE TALKING ABOUT, PART II: On the other end of it, Ohio State's offensive game plan was absolutely baffling. Maybe it was the weather, the opponent, the stakes or a combination of everything but the Ohio State game plan was extremely conservative.

At times, it seemed Meyer had no intention of throwing the ball unless he absolutely had to. Quarterback J.T. Barrett threw 16 passes for 46 yards. And yet Ezekiel Elliott, the possible Heisman Trophy favorite, had just 12 carries totaling 33 yards. He had just two carries in the second half. It's arguably the worst offensive game plan in a significant moment since LSU against Alabama in the 2011 national championship game.

KEY PLAY: Tied 14-14, Ohio State needed to put together one drive to win the game. But on third-and-nine, a touch for receiver Braxton Miller on a jet sweep seemed potentially headed for a first down. Two Michigan State defenders adjusted, pursued and knocked him down well short of the first down. The Spartans partially blocked the punt and took over possession at Ohio State's 48-yard line with 4:07 remaining. That was just what the offensively limited Spartans needed to get into field goal range, putting together a nine-play, 25-yard drive to set up the winning kick.

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