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Michigan State Debriefing: Ohio State Defense Shuts Down Michigan State While C.J. Stroud and Chris Olave Have Record Days

Dominant. Commanding. Authoritative. Transcendent.

Ohio State welcomed the No. 7 team in the country Saturday and delivered on senior defensive tackle Haskell Garrett’s pregame promise to “whoop their ass.” The Buckeyes delivered a 56-7 beating of Michigan State in a statement game on Senior Day.

Michigan State never had a prayer after an opening quarter in which C.J. Stroud threw a trio of touchdown passes and the Buckeye defense held Heisman contender Kenneth Walker III to just 24 yards of rushing while totally smothering the Spartan wide receivers.

On a day when Georgia beat up on an FCS team, Alabama had all it could handle from Arkansas and Oregon lost to Utah on the road, the game in Columbus proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ohio State is the No. 2 team in the country and that Stroud is a certified Heisman contender.

TL;DR: Just the Facts, Ma’am

C.J. Stroud and his wide receivers went off against the Spartans. Stroud completed – and this is not a typo – 91% of his 35 passing attempts for 432 yards and six touchdowns… in one half plus one drive. Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Garrett Wilson each crossed the 100-yard mark on a day when the Buckeyes tallied an astounding 655 yards of total offense.

Kenneth Walker III was a non-factor in the game for Michigan State, as the former Heisman  contender rushed for only 25 yards… 24 of which came in the first quarter. The Buckeye  defense blanketed the Spartan receivers, and Payton Thorne finished the day with an abysmal 39% completion rate on 36 attempts.

Michigan State was unable to score until the fourth quarter, capitalizing on a Kyle McCord interception to engineer their second sustained drive of the day. It was far too little, far too late on a day when Ohio State could do no wrong, and the visitors could do no right.

How It Went Down

Offense

Touchdown. Touchdown. Touchdown. Touchdown. Touchdown. Touchdown. Touchdown.

That was Ohio State’s drive chart in the first half. Seven touchdowns in seven drives as the home team took the ball on the opening kickoff and never looked back. Stroud was flawless, reeling off at one point a school record 17 consecutive completions.

Michigan State’s passing defense is the worst in the FBS (literally No. 130 out of 130 teams), and Ryan Day’s gameplan took advantage of that fact by passing on 31 of the team’s first 49 plays. The Buckeyes accumulated 500 yards of total offense in the first half, with Olave, Smith-Njiba, Wilson and Julian Fleming each reeling in a touchdown catch and Miyan Williams punching one in at the goalline for good measure.

Stroud averaged more than 12.3 yards per passing attempt and established himself as the Heisman frontrunner, tieing a school record with six touchdowns in a single game and throwing for the sixth-most passing yards (432) in a single game in Ohio State history.

Master Teague III got the bulk of the carries out of the backfield on senior day, toting the rock 21 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. TreVeyon Henderson got nine carries for 63 yards and Miyan Williams added 35 yards on four carries with a touchdown to his credit, as well.

The Buckeyes finished the day averaging just shy of five yards per carry and 12.5 yards per completion. With Stroud and the starters still orchestrating the offense, Ohio State averaged a point per play in the first half, a remarkably efficient performance against a team that was No. 3 in the country earlier this month.

Helmet Stickers
  • C.J. Stroud: Flawless. This man will be in New York next month without question.
  • Chris Olave: Olave did it all Saturday, from breaking David Boston’s career touchdown record to making eye-popping sideline catches.
  • The Offensive Line: Stroud had all day to throw the ball. The big men kept him clean and upright, and it paid off handsomely for the home team.

Defense

Punt. Missed field goal. Fumble. Punt. Punt. Punt. Punt.

That was Michigan State’s drive chart in the first half. Mel “The 95 Million Dollar Man” Tucker apparently knew he couldn’t rely on Kenneth Walker III to run all over Ohio State, because only eight of his team’s 22 first-quarter plays were running plays. Walker would record 24  of his 25 total yards on the day in the first quarter, and from there out he was a non-factor.

…not that the Spartan receivers were a factor, either. Michigan State threw the ball 38 times, completing just 42%. The Buckeye defense was smothering, holding their opponent scoreless through three quarters, and limiting them to an average of 3.8 yards per play for the game.

While the front seven only recorded two sacks, the team added nine tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble. The defense broke up 11 passes according to the stat book, one of their best performances of the season.

 Five of Michigan State’s 12 drives went three-and-out, and only three went for more than 20 yards. It was a complete performance from a defense that looks night-and-day different from where they started the season.

Helmet Stickers
  • Ronnie “The Rocket” Hickman: Forced a fumble in the second quarter, recovered by Ty Hamilton.
  • Kourt Williams: Leading tackler on the day, with five solo stops, including two for loss; broke up a pass, too.
  • Zach Harrison: Broke up two passes on the day.
  • Haskell Garrett: Called his shot before the game and the team delivered. Gotta love the confidence.

Jim Tressel’s Least Favorite Moment of the Game

President Tressel was a little nervous Saturday. Fresh off a night cheering for the Youngstown State Bowling Team at the Eastern Shore Hawk Classic (few know that the former quarterback throws a mean strike himself), he was concerned that with the Buckeyes kicking off at noon he was in a pickle as the Penguins basketball team hosted Southern Illinois from the Beeghly Center at 2 p.m.

“Thank goodness the game isn’t on Fox this week,” Tressel confided in his wife Ellen over Eggs Benedict that morning, “They wouldn’t even be at halftime before tipoff!”

Surreptitiously listening to Paul Keels calling the game via an earbud while he mingled with donors, the five-time national champion coach was impressed not only with how incredibly efficient Ohio State was on offense, but with how well the Buckeye defense bottled up the Spartans.

After Stroud threw for his fourth touchdown, Tressel thought to himself, “I’m a little surprised at how poor the Spartans are at defending the pass. Melvin’s a better coach than that.”

With the Buckeyes rolling at halftime, Tressel finally convinced one of the stewards to turn the Ohio State game on one of the televisions in his suite at the basketball game. He was excited at the idea that the backups were coming in, which would surely mean a chance to see Noah Ruggles and Jesse Mirco at work.

Just this week, in fact, he’d found one of those online shops that would print a custom “RUGGLES 4 HEISMAN” t-shirt and was expecting delivery Monday. So when Ohio State’s first drive of the half bogged down at Michigan State’s 21 yardline, he was practically giddy as Ruggles led the field goal unit onto the field.

“This is money in the bank,” he said to a YSU booster, “This kid doesn’t miss.”

But miss he did, pushing a 38-yard attempt wide to the right, snapping his streak of 18-consecutive field goals dating back to last season, including all 16 of his previous attempts since transferring to Ohio State.

“Well snickerdoodles,” Tressel muttered to himself. “I guess nothing lasts forever.”

It Was Over When…

…Stroud threw his fourth touchdown pass of the day less than a minute into the second quarter, a four-yard toss to Julian Fleming that put the Buckeyes up 28-0. Michigan State, with the worst passing defense in the FBS, simply isn’t built to come back from a four-score deficit against an offense as potent as Ohio State’s.

The game was a laugher by intermission and the second half was pretty much all garbage time.


Up Next: THE GAME. Ohio State travels to Ann Arbor for a high-noon showdown with That Team Up North, currently No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings and sure to move up with Oregon’s loss to the Utes. This would make the 12th time in history that The Game features a Top 5 matchup (spoiler alert: Ohio State is 7-3-1 when both teams are ranked in the Top 5).




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