COLUMBUS – Almost from the start, Ohio State was just trying to survive.
But in the end, Michigan State survived and dominated when it ended Ohio State’s 23-game winning streak by shocking the Buckeyes 17-14 on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
It ended with the Spartans sprinting around the turf, looking for friends, family and anyone to celebrate with after Michael Geiger’s 41-yard field goal as time ran out gave Michigan State the win.
Ohio State’s chances of repeating as national champion almost certainly disappeared when Geiger’s kick sailed through the uprights at the north end of Ohio Stadium with a strong wind at its back.
Even getting back to the Big Ten championship game would require OSU beating Michigan next Saturday and Michigan State losing to Penn State.
Ohio State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) came into the game as a double-digits favorite and the expectations of an OSU victory grew even stronger when Michigan State starting quarterback Connor Cook was unable to play because of a shoulder injury he suffered last week against Maryland.
But Michigan State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) responded to that challenge. And Ohio State never did much to challenge the Spartans.
Ohio State managed only 132 yards total offense, 86 of it on the ground and 46 yards passing in its worst offensive performance in the Urban Meyer era. Its only two touchdowns came after turnovers that set them up at Michigan State’s 32-yard line and its 6-yard line.
And both times OSU scored, Michigan State put together long drives for touchdowns of its own on its next possession.
Junior quarterback Tyler O’Connor, a Lima Central Catholic graduate, got the start when Cook was unable to go and completed 7 of 12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. No. 3 quarterback Damion Terry also took some snaps.
Gerald Holmes (65 yards on 14 carries) and L.J. Scott (58 yards) led a Michigan State running attack that rolled up 203 yards against an OSU defense that claimed it had solved its problems in stopping opposing running attacks.
Ezekiel Elliott’s streak of consecutive games of more than 100 yards rushing ended at 15 when he was held to 33 yards on 12 carries. Quarterback J.T. Barrett was 9 of 16 for 46 yards passing and rushed for 44 yards on 15 carries.
“We lost the line of scrimmage. The passing game was just not there. They beat us at the line of scrimmage. That was a very poor performance,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said.
O’Connor, who made his first college start, said, ““That is what you call 100 percent team effort. The defense played lights out, by far their best game. I think they showed the nation what they’re all about.
“Our offensive line dominated. They played their best game. In stretches of the game we played well and made that big kick at the end of the game,” he said.
Ohio State took an early 7-0 lead when Sam Hubbard sacked Terry, who fumbled at Michigan State’s 32-yard line with 1:49 left in the first quarter. Three plays after that, OSU got its first first down of the game and it took seven more plays after that before Elliott scored on a 1-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
MSU responded with a 9-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game 7-7 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from O’Connor to Trevon Pendleton. The other big play in the drive was a 36-yard pass to Aaron Burbridge.
Ohio State’s offense continued to struggle until Macgarrett Kings’ fumble on a punt set up the Buckeyes six yards from the end zone, which they covered in one play, a pass from J.T. Barrett for a 14-7 lead with 3:33 left in the third quarter.
Michigan State answered with a 13-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game 14-14 and began its final scoring drive with 4:07 left to play after two more series of offensive futility by Ohio State.
“When we got the ball with 4 ½ minutes to go, we knew we were going to have it the rest of the game,” O’Connor said. “Our offensive line dominated. Our seven guys up front were dominating, pushing people around the whole game.”
And, like it did in the 2013 Big Ten championship game, Michigan State pushed an unbeaten Ohio State team off the top step of the Big Ten standings.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.