Sixteen total yards, zero rushing, a missed field goal and a key drop –– nothing went right for the Buckeye offense in the first quarter.
They must have been saving it for the second.
No. 4 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) scored on all four of its drives, putting up 24 points and 296 yards to extend a streak of dominant second quarters in which the Buckeyes have outscored opponents 134-20, en route to a 34-10 win over No. 25 Michigan State (4-2, 2-1).
“We did face adversity,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “It was not a good quarter of football on offense. And, again, when you’re playing against a team like Michigan State, things like that are going to happen. You have to respond, and I thought we did.”
Up just 3-0 after an out-of-sync opening quarter, Ohio State found its rhythm on its first drive of the second.
A rollout from sophomore quarterback Justin Fields drew the attention of a Michigan State safety and linebacker, leaving senior wide receiver Binjimen Victor uncovered to atone for an early drop with a 60-yard catch-and-run to the end zone, diving over the pylon for an emphatic score.
Fields kept it rolling on the next Buckeye drive, hitting redshirt junior tight end Luke Farrell on a 21-yard touchdown that saw him slip two tackles before breaking the plane. It was Farrell’s second catch of the season, and gave Ohio State back-to-back scores to go up 17-7.
Junior running back J.K. Dobbins was held to 42 yards on 12 carries in the first half before busting out of the backfield for a 67-yard dash to the end zone with 2:24 remaining in the half, to make it 24-10. Dobbins finished with 172 yards on 24 carries.
“That was a home run hit right there that I think really changed the game,” 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.”
The Spartans stayed within striking distance in the first half, however.
Ohio State gave up just its second first half touchdown with a 20-yard connection from redshirt senior quarterback Brian Lewerke to senior wide receiver Darrell Stewart to get on the board immediately following the Buckeyes’ first touchdown.
Lewerke overthrew wide-open junior wide receiver Cody White on the following Spartan possession for what would have been a walk-in touchdown, but Michigan State would have to settle for a field goal from redshirt junior kicker Matt Coghlin to make it 17-10.
To end the first half, Ohio State junior kicker Blake Haubeil hit his second field goal of the game from 43 yards out with five seconds remaining for a 27-10 halftime advantage. It was the Buckeyes’ lowest first half point toal of the season, as they had been averaging 34.6 points in the opening two quarters entering Saturday.
The Ohio State defense forced three turnovers in the first half a week ago in Nebraska. On Saturday, they’d have two on the Spartans first four plays.
Redshirt senior cornerback Damon Arnette stripped the ball from White on the opening Spartan drive, forcing a fumble recovered by senior linebacker Malik Harrsion at the Michigan State 27-yard-line.
Despite the favorable field position, a false start on redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Wyatt Davis stalled the ensuing drive, setting up a 37-yard field goal attempt by Haubeil, but he pushed it wide right. It was Haubeil’s second miss on his first five attempts of the season.
It didn’t take long for Haubeil to redeem himself.
Two plays later, a backwards pitch by Lewerke was bobbled by redshirt freshman running back Elijah Collins, and the ball wound up in the hands of Ohio State redshirt senior defensive tackle Davon Hamilton.
A third consecutive three-and-out by the Buckeye offense set up a 39-yarder from Haubeil to put Ohio State on the board 3-0 with eight minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Fields threw his first career interception in the third quarter when a pass to redshirt senior K.J. Hill sailed into waiting arms of junior cornerback Josiah Scott, who returned it for 32 yards to the Michigan State 46. The Spartans were unable to convert the turnover into points.
“I have mixed emotions about it because it was my first pick, but it was also like, it’s football. So it happens,” Fields said. “I wasn’t really frustrated from it.”
A 1-yard run from Fields in the fourth quarter gave the Buckeyes a 34-10 lead. He finished 17-for-25 with 206 yards through the air, three total touchdowns and an interception.
Ohio State has a bye next week, but returns to action against Northwestern on Friday, Oct. 18 for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.