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Football: Ohio State vs. Michigan State – By the Numbers

Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (2) runs the ball in the second half of the Ohio State-Michigan State game on Nov. 11. Ohio State won 48-3. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

No. 13 Ohio State (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) rolled past Michigan State (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten) Saturday 48-3. The Buckeyes outgained the Spartans 524-195, making the Spartans’ the second-lowest total offensive output Ohio State has allowed this season with Maryland’s 66 yards marking the fewest yards allowed. Here are some important statistics from Ohio State’s win over Michigan State.

3 – turnovers forced by Ohio State. Coming into this game, Ohio State hadn’t forced a turnover in its past two games. The last turnover came on an Amir Riep interception in Ohio State’s 56-14 victory against Nebraska. It hadn’t forced multiple turnovers since Oct. 7 against Maryland. Until Saturday. Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball once.

Ohio State forced 27 turnovers and intercepted 21 passes over its 13 games played and had just one game without a turnover. So far, Ohio State has only 13 turnovers over nine games and already has two games without a turnover. The inability to force turnovers has been an issue for a team that relied on that turnover ability as a key part of its success last season.

2 – Michigan State tackles for loss. Ohio State imposed its will on Michigan State all night, and a big part of that came down to the dominating effort the Buckeyes’ offensive line put in against the Spartans. Michigan State was only able to break out and tackle a Buckeye ball-carrier beyond Ohio State’s line of scrimmage twice all game, and came away with zero sacks on quarterback J.T. Barrett. Ohio State lost only four yards combined on the two tackles for loss.

The Spartans were only averaging 5.67 tackles for loss per game, 73rd in the nation, so they did not come into the game expecting to take the Buckeyes down frequently. But Ohio State’s offensive line was opening up holes for Ohio State’s running backs all game and provided Barrett with plenty of time to complete passes when he stood in the pocket. The offensive line for the Buckeyes has been a strong unit all season for the Buckeyes, and matched up against one of the tougher defenses of the season, it stood strong against a potent defensive line.

27 – carries between Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins. For the first time in weeks, Ohio State had trust in its running backs. Weber and Dobbins combined for 27 carries against Michigan State Saturday and totalled 286 rushing yards for an average of 10.6 yards per carry. Weber was the only one of the two who punched a run into the end zone as he carried 47- and 82-yard rushes for scores.

Before this game, Weber and Dobbins had combined for just 31 carries over the past two games. Despite finding continued success throughout the season, the dynamic running back pairing has been used sparingly since the season-opener against Indiana when Dobbins had 29 carries. Though head coach Urban Meyer said after the game it was largely the result of trying to control the flow of the game, the decision to run the ball as frequently as Ohio State did led to its most convincing offensive showing all season. If Ohio State continues to trust in Weber and Dobbins moving forward, it could continue to see dominant rush outings like it did Saturday.

2 – penalties taken by Ohio State. A recurring problem for the Buckeyes throughout the season has been penalties. The Buckeyes entered the game with the fifth most penalty yards taken per game in the nation, averaging 77.2 penalty yards per game. Against the Spartans, the Buckeyes were a far more disciplined team, committing only two penalties for a combined 27 yards. One was a targeting penalty that ejected redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones from the game.

For once, Ohio State did not shoot itself in its own foot with penalties. The Buckeyes remained disciplined throughout the game outside of the aforementioned Jones’ targeting call and a pass interference call on freshman cornerback Jeffrey Okudah on Michigan State’s last drive of the game. The improved discipline out of the team helped keep the Buckeyes in the game and not give up unnecessary yardage.

121 – Michigan State yards before the fourth quarter. It felt like Ohio State kept Michigan State from producing a first down all game. The Spartans had two first downs on their first drive of the game, and did not have another until about halfway through the second quarter. Michigan State’s offense produced 75 yards in the second quarter, but just 46 between the third and fourth quarters. By the time the Spartans started to rack up the offensive yardage, it was the fourth quarter, and the backups for Ohio State were all playing.

The pressure consistently maintained on Lewerke throughout the game kept the Michigan State quarterback from settling in all night. The Spartans running attack was unable to get past a formidable Ohio State front-seven. Cornerback Denzel Ward made several strong plays in the secondary as did cornerback Damon Arnette, and the linebacking corps — which came with several new faces — did its job filling in for a pair of injuries. Ohio State’s defense has been what has cost Ohio State the most this season, but a strong performance Saturday to limit the Spartans should put them back in the good graces of Ohio State fans.

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