That was ugly.
Thank goodness for punter Drue Chrisman and the Silver Bullets. In what was yet another lousy game for the Ohio State Buckeyes offensively, the special teams and the defense saved the scarlet and gray in East Lansing, coming away with a 26-6 win over No. 18 Michigan State. Somehow, even after leading just 9-6 heading into the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes still beat the Spartans by 20.
Chrisman’s first punt of the game was for four yards. Who would have ever thought that following that dismal punt, he would essentially be the MVP of the game? He more than made up for that four-yard, horrible punt. With an offense that was struggling to move the ball consistently, the sophomore continued to change the field position for the Buckeyes, allowing Ohio State’s defense to do their thing and force the Spartans’ offense into a number of mistakes. In fact, Chrisman had a string of five-straight punts in the second half that were all downed inside the six-yard line.1 The latter two led to nine points: One was a safety where Michigan State’s long snapper seemed to purposely snap the ball over the punter’s head and the last one led to a strip sack recovered by Dre’Mont Jones for a touchdown.
The special teams, specifically Chrisman and the gunners on the punt team, dominated, but so did Ohio State’s defense. Whether it was the defensive line, linebackers, or defensive backs, all three groups played quite well and bent at times but never broke. They forced the Spartans’ running backs to run for just nine yards on 12 carries. Combine that with Michigan State’s quarterbacks completing just 18-of-44 passes and that’s a recipe for success, no matter how average the Buckeyes’ offense may have played.
While the cold weather likely played into it a bit, the Buckeyes’ offense struggled once again, much as they have over the last few weeks. Dwayne Haskins completed 24-of-39 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown. Surprisingly, although much of the yardage came in the fourth quarter, Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins combined to run for 132 yards against a Michigan State team had the best run defense in the country going into Saturday afternoon.
Ohio State may not have done enough to impress the Playoff committee and improve their No. 10 ranking, but a win at No. 18 Michigan State is impressive, even if it is quite ugly. The offense struggled, but the special teams and defense dominated enough for the Buckeyes to come away with a game that was much closer than the 20-point margin may induct.
The Buckeyes are now 9-1, but you would never expect that they are just a one-loss team given all of the negative talk about the scarlet and gray lately. Now, the offense just has to get back to normal, be able to both run and pass and move the ball downfield. If the offense gets going, combined with the defense and special teams stepping up, things will be looking up for the Buckeyes heading into their final two games of the regular season, including against No. 4 Michigan in Columbus in the regular-season finale.