EAST LANSING, Mich. - Gareon Conley's bags were packed and still in the locker room, but in the moments Saturday after Ohio State's 17-16 win at Michigan State, the cornerback left nothing to chance with the football clutched in his left arm.

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Gareon Conley's bags were packed and still in the locker room, but in the moments Saturday after Ohio State's 17-16 win at Michigan State, the cornerback left nothing to chance with the football clutched in his left arm.

He carried it to the media interview room and held it secure throughout. It wasn't the ball he had intercepted from Michigan State's Tyler O'Connor with 1:30 left to effectively end the unanticipated defensive struggle.

It was the game ball, replete with the OSU logo, symbolic of a big play and a win that saw the Buckeyes stay alive in the College Football Playoff race with one regular-season game to play.

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"It means the world," Conley said of the ball. "Every game I take advantage of (the opportunity), and every time I get the chance to go out there with my teammates, I know I've got to give my all. And it's just an honor to get this ball."

When linebacker Chris Worley appeared before the media, he didn't have a ball, which was fitting in a way.

The interception he and safety Malik Hooker seemed to grab simultaneously with 4:54 left did not appear in the final stats. But it thwarted Michigan State's attempt at a two-point conversion on a pass by O'Connor.

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"I had it," Worley said, smiling, attempting to clear up confusion on which of them really made the interception.

Worley said he was spying O'Connor on the play and "I could see in his eyes he didn't really want to run the ball. So I kind of zoned off a little bit and played the passing game."

Worley, who had an official interception earlier in the game, said the defense would have preferred not to give up a 56-yard drive - all on eight runs by LJ Scott - that led the Buckeyes to that critical moment. But he also basked in the victory.

"Coming this time of the year, November, wins are hard to come by," Worley said. "So we'll take it any way we can."

tmay@dispatch.com

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