Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Payback is, well, let’s just say Ohio State and its sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller got some against Michigan State.
Miller led the No. 14 Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) to a 17-16 win against the No. 20 Spartans (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) Saturday at Spartan Stadium.
Nearly a year after Miller was pulled from his first-ever start conference game during an Oct. 1 contest against MSU, the quarterback threw for 179 yards on 16-of-23 passing and added 136 rushing yards on 23 carries. Miller also turned the ball over three times and was removed from the team’s first drive temporarily due to injury but hung in to help first-year OSU coach Urban Meyer to his first Big Ten win as coach of the team.
OSU fell behind, 13-10, late in the third quarter but Miller found sophomore receiver Devin Smith on a 63-yard touchdown reception on the next series to retake a 17-13 lead. The Buckeyes defense made the points stand up as Miller was able to run down the final 4:10 off the game clock.
“This was a war,” Meyer said after the game, “and this was two sledgehammers going at each other. I know the Big Ten has taken some heat. I thought that was a great game, great atmosphere, bunch of great players on the field… We played at the next level and that was good for college football and for the Big Ten.”
OSU senior running back Jordan Hall provided OSU’s first score, a 1-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the game. Hall, who missed the first three games of the season, had his day end early on Saturday due to injury. He finished the game with 26 yards on 14 carries.
MSU collected nine additional points on 3-of-4 successful field goal tries, but that was the only other offense it could earn against the Buckeyes defense, which allowed 303 yards of total offense in the game.
“I thought our defense was good enough to play better the first four games – that’s how much confidence I’ve got a lot of confidence,” Meyer said. “I think we’ve got really, really good players.”
The Buckeyes shot out of the gate on the first possession of the game, but also had a scare when Miller went down after being hit late after running out of bounds. It wouldn’t be the first of the afternoon.
The end result of the drive – a 1-yard touchdown run – occurred with Miller on the bench. OSU junior quarterback Kenny Guiton took command of the offense, directing OSU on three running plays out of a “hurry-up” formation. On Guiton’s third play under center, he handed-off to Hall, who crossed into the end zone to make the score, 7-0.
The drive went for 75 yards and gave OSU a lead just 2:51 into the game. However, MSU responded with a 30-yard field goal from redshirt senior kicker Dan Conroy on its first possession.
Miller and junior running back Carlos Hyde returned to action on the Buckeyes’ second drive of the game. OSU eventually had to punt the ball away, but Miller returned to the quarterback position while Hyde took his first carry since the team’s Sept. 8 win against Central Florida. Hyde missed two games due to an injury sustained against UCF.
The 7-3 score held into the second quarter and the Buckeyes threatened to make it a two-possession game with Miller back under center but his first error of the day ended the threat.
Miller threw into coverage as the Buckeyes moved toward the red zone and was intercepted for the third time this season and the seventh time in his OSU career. MSU sophomore safety Kurtis Drummond came up with the ball to stunt the Buckeyes’ momentum.
After swapping scoring drives on the first two drives of the game, the pace of the game slowed until the final minutes of the first half.
The Buckeyes forced a Spartans punt with less than three minutes to play and stormed through the MSU line to block the punt and recover the ball on the host’s side of midfield. Sophomore defensive back Bradley Roby arrived in plenty of time to slap the kick into the ground.
Two plays after the block, Miller turned the ball over for the second time when his fumble was recovered by MSU. The end result of the ensuing Spartans’ drive was a failed 42-yard field goal attempt by Conroy. The stop allowed OSU to take its 7-3 lead into half.
OSU outgained MSU in the half, 163-155 – Miller accounted for the majority of that yardage with 65 yards on the ground and 62 in the air.
The advantage in total yardage didn’t last long after half as MSU junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell led the Spartans on a nine-play, 49-yard drive into scoring position. Conroy then made good on his third field goal attempt, converting from 51 yards at the 11:04 mark in the third quarter to cut OSU’s lead to a single point at 7-6.
Maxwell would eventually finish the game with 269 passing yards on 22-of-42 attempts.
Miller helped take the three points back for OSU on his next drive, which ended with a 26-yard field goal by junior kicker Drew Basil. OSU junior receiver Corey Brown tallied his 10th catch on the game on the scoring drive and became the first OSU receiver to accomplish the feat since Ted Ginn Jr., during the 2006 season.
Brown finished the game with 12 catches for 84 receiving yards and said his performance was “a blessing.”
“I am glad that (co-offensive coordinator Tom Herman has developed so much trust in me that he can call that many plays for me,” Brown said.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, both offensive units caught fire.
MSU sophomore receiver Keith Mumphery collected Maxwell’s pass, broke several OSU tackle attempts and crashed through the Buckeyes’ defense before landing in the end zone. The score gave the Spartans a 13-10 lead at 4:49 of the third quarter.
The Buckeyes had a response – a 63-yard touchdown reception from Miller to Smith. The touchdown, Smith’s fourth of the year, erased a Spartans lead that lasted just 1:46.
“I think (the touchdown) gave a little light to the team,” Smith said. “Once I made that play everyone on the sideline knew the game wasn’t over. It helped us push through the game and get the win.”
Leading, 17-13, OSU went driving again on its next possession after a defensive stop, but Miller coughed the ball up on a fumble for his third turnover of the game at 12:41 in the fourth quarter. Drummond captured the loose ball, but it took the referees’ review to overturn the decision and Miller’s knee was down before the ball came loose.
Miller also appeared to sustain a knee injury on the play, but stayed in the game.
MSU used the turnover to tack a 49-yard Conroy field goal on to cut OSU’s lead to 17-16.
That was as close as MSU would come to taking the lead again, though.
dove for first down yardage on 3rd-and-4 with just more than two minutes to play. On the next play, OSU took to a victory formation and ran out the clock to win the game.
OSU will continue conference play next Saturday with a home game against Nebraska. Kickoff at Ohio Stadium is scheduled for 8 p.m.