Then-No. 4 Ohio State took on then-No. 25 Michigan State Saturday for the Buckeyes’ first ranked matchup of the season. For 15 minutes, it appeared Ohio State might have a four-quarter war on its hands, but a powder-keg second quarter lifted the Buckeyes past the Spartans for a 34-10 finish. Here are five things The Lantern took away from the game:
Stat-stuffed second quarter
Ohio State entered Saturday outscoring opponents 110-10 in the second quarter of its first five games.
In case that didn’t convince you that the second 15 minutes is the Buckeyes’ favorite quarter, they hammered the point home against Michigan State.
Ohio State exploded for 296 yards and 23 points in the second quarter, scoring on all four drives and flipping a slim 3-0 lead with 16 total yards in the first to a sixth-straight 24-plus points blowout.
Senior wide receiver Binjimen Victor kicked off the scoring barrage with a 60-yard catch-and-run after the threat of Fields’ legs drew the attention of two Spartan defenders to leave Victor uncovered downfield.
Junior running back J.K. Dobbins had been mostly bottled up by the vaunted Spartan rush defense into the second quarter, going for just 42 yards on 12 carries before breaking off a 67-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 24-10.
“That was a home run hit right there that I think really changed the game,” head coach Ryan Day said. “But up to that point we started to get it going a little bit but that kind of shifted and turned it into I think almost a 300-yard quarter.”
A 21-yard score from Fields to redshirt junior tight end Luke Farrell and a field goal capped the first half onslaught for the Buckeyes, and Ohio State once again appeared like a top-four dynamo.
Miscues mark down point total
The 34-10 score may not indicate it, but Ohio State’s performance was less than Teflon Saturday –– particularly early.
The first quarter saw the Buckeyes up just 3-0, netting zero yards on the Spartans No. 4 ranked rush defense and 16 yards total.
“We just started out rough,” Fields said. “The offense, we were kind of killing ourselves.”
Fields, widely lauded for having not thrown a pick entering the game, broke that streak Saturday and added another turnover on a strip-sack fumble.
Fields had more than one errant throw, missing a wide-open Farrell on the Buckeyes’ first possession, and took an 18-yard sack the very next play.
Even after two turnovers caused by the Buckeye defense in the opening quarter, Fields and the Ohio State offense mustered just three points despite receiving the ball on the Michigan State 27- and 23-yard lines on back-to-back possessions.
Throwing 17-for-25, those eight incompletions are the second most of his season. Without the prolific second quarter, Fields threw for just 73 yards in the other three combined.
Turnovers torch Spartans’ sails
The Ohio State defense set a blistering pace for itself two games ago when it turned Nebraska sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez over three times in the first half.
The Buckeyes made even quicker work of Michigan State Saturday.
On two of their first four offensive plays, the Spartans fell victim to forced fumbles, both of which were recovered by Ohio State inside the Michigan State 30-yard-line.
Redshirt senior cornerback Damon Arnette continued a season of stellar play by stripping the ball from the hands of Michigan State junior wide receiver Cody White on the second snap of the game. Senior linebacker Malik Harrison scooped it up for his second fumble recovery of the past three games.
Lightning struck again on the next possession as redshirt freshman running back Elijah Collins mishandled a backward pitch for a fumble that was picked up by redshirt senior defensive tackle Davon Hamilton.
The Buckeye offense scored just three points off the initial two turnovers, but the defense wasn’t done. Senior safety Jordan Fuller picked off Michigan State senior quarterback Brian Lewerke in the fourth quarter for his second interception of the past two games.
Creating six turnovers in the past two games, Ohio State’s 13 on the season are now No. 7 in the country.
Running with rage
Michigan State gave up 56.4 rushing yards per game to its first five opponents entering the matchup with Ohio State –– good for No. 4 in the country.
After allowing none in the first quarter, the Spartans were more than maintaining that pace.
The Buckeyes would finish with 323 by the end of the game, more than all of Michigan State’s previous opponents combined.
Now rushing for 289 per game, Ohio State has the No. 2 ground attack in the nation, most of which is provided by Dobbins, who leads the Big Ten and is second in the country with 826 yards.
He ran for 172 of those on 24 carries against Michigan State, including a 67-yarder that began to blow the game open for the Buckeyes.
Redshirt freshman running back Master Teague continued to impress in the backup position, rushing for 90 yards on 6.4 per carry, bringing his season total to 416.
Fields rushed for his eighth touchdown of the season, and he’s run for at least one score in each game this year.
Penalties pose concern
Ohio State more than doubled its 4.4-penalties-per-game average Saturday, with 10 for 85 yards.
Flags led to missed opportunities early for the Buckeyes.
Following Arnette’s forced fumble on the opening Michigan State drive gave the Buckeye offense the ball back deep in Spartan territory, redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Wyatt Davis was called for a false start that helped to sputter the potential drive.
“I feel like with all the pressure, you got people jumping because they’re anxious,” redshirt senior wide receiver K.J. Hill said. “They’re coming off the ball hard.”
Rather than punching in a score, a missed field goal left the Buckeyes with no points.
In the fourth quarter, Fuller returned an interception 86 yards to the end zone in what would’ve been his first career touchdown. However, the score was negated by an illegal block on junior linebacker Baron Browning.
The Buckeyes persisted to score 34 despite the self-inflicted wounds, but the frequency of their flags held them back from approaching their nation’s fourth-best 49.3 points per game.