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‘Drum majors’ up front help pave the way for an Ohio State upset

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Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) calls out a play audible before a snap against Michigan State on Nov. 8 in East Lansing, Mich. OSU won, 49-37.  Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) calls out a play audible before a snap against Michigan State on Nov. 8 in East Lansing, Mich. OSU won, 49-37.
Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Prior to taking on the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the game would be like two sledgehammers going head-to-head.

On Saturday night, the Buckeye sledgehammer put a dent in the Spartans’ season, as No. 13 OSU defeated Michigan State, 49-37.

OSU rushed for 268 yards against Michigan State on Saturday night, led by sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott who was not shy in giving praise to the offensive line.

“Man, they’re amazing. It’s really easy to do anything when those holes are that big, that you can drive truck through them,” Elliott said after the game. “I love my big fellas and they better keep playing well. They’re the drum majors of our offense.”

Elliott led all players with 154 rushing yards on 23 carries to go along with two scores.

Meyer characterized the play of the big men up front with one word.

“Terrific,” he said after the game. “When you get that kind of yardage against a defense like that, it all starts with an offensive line driven team. (Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach) Tom Herman did a nice job in that locker room, crediting the offensive linemen with all those yards.”

The other co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for OSU Ed Warinner said following the game that there was a multitude of things that led to the Buckeye offensive line having success.

“I just think experience and maturity and confidence and excellent play-calling by Tom (Herman) and coach Meyer, and playing to our strengths,” Warinner said. “There’s a combination of things that brings along a unit. I think all those things combined have helped.”

Balance also helped the Buckeyes, as they accumulated 568 total yards of offense. 386 of those yards came by the arm and legs of redshirt-sophomore J.T. Barrett who was given plenty of time to throw most of the night, only being sacked twice.

The lack of pressure on Barrett played a key factor in the Buckeye win, Warinner said.

“We had really good balance, obviously. We were trying to probe the defense and keep them off balance. I thought we did an excellent job of executing that,” Warinner said. “We hit some big pass plays in the first half where we found some individual coverage and held up in the protection and gave J.T. a chance to throw it to our wideouts down the field. In the second half we ran the ball pretty well and were able to grind some clock and have some good drives.”

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said after the game that the lack of pressure on Barrett was due to the Buckeyes’ game plan.

“They got the ball out quick when we did pressure. It was almost like they knew it was coming and got the ball out quickly,” Narduzzi said. “We did pressure them; we just didn’t make plays and they got the ball out quick. The quarterback did a good job of recognizing it.”

Junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker said following the win that he was not at all surprised at how well the offensive line performed, despite the pressure that Michigan State brought.

“I thought coming in after that Penn State game and that environment that, I thought we were going to perform well,” he said. “I thought the offensive line as a whole unit, I thought we executed well. I thought we were able to run the ball and kind of assert our will on them.”

Meyer, who is not known to sensationalize a win, said the win over the Spartans was “one for the ages.”

“That’s how much respect we had for our opponent going into it. We played a top-10 team and we really played our best and on the road,” Meyer said. “Once again, I look at our players and I see how many young guys are playing for us that are going to be around here for awhile. So, the future’s pretty bright.”

That future turns to Minneapolis on Nov. 15 as the Buckeyes are scheduled to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Kickoff is set for noon.

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