Punting, defense give Buckeyes leg up
Saturday: Ohio State 26, Michigan State 6
Next game: Ohio State at Maryland
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Maryland Stadium, College Park, Md.
TV: ABC (Ch. 6)
Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)
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A grind-it-out win over Sparty is good for the soul, not so good for the polls. Buckeyes need a wow moment at Maryland.
In the polls/CFP
Despite the win, West Virginia moved past Ohio State to No. 7 in the coaches poll — the Buckeyes falling to No. 8 — and OSU dropped to No. 9 in the Associated Press media poll as Washington State leaped to No. 8. It seems unlikely that the Buckeyes will rise from their station at No. 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday.
Drue Chrisman rose from the outhouse to the penthouse within three hours on the frigid, windy day, shaking off an opening 4-yard punt into the stands to lob-wedging five boots inside the MSU 6-yard line, the difference-making stat in the game. But Chrisman needed help from “gunners” Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon and long snapper Liam McCullough to make sure three of those kicks did not become touchbacks.
What seems better?
The Ohio State defense, led by bouncer and touchdown pouncer Dre’Mont Jones, was responsible for nine points — Jones' TD on a fumble recovery and a safety — as Chrisman and Co. set things up. The Buckeyes gave up just one significant play, a 47-yard run by backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi. But with the Buckeyes shutting down the run otherwise, both MSU quarterbacks struggled mightily throwing the ball in the wind.
What’s been better?
Dwayne Haskins Jr. and the passing game, but the conditions had a lot to do with that. Haskins completed 24 of 39 for 227 yards and one TD, on a 1-yard shovel pass-and-run to Parris Campbell. Haskins' yardage total pushed him to 3,280 and past Bob Hoying (3,269 in 1995) into second place on the OSU season-best list. Haskins is 50 yards short of Joe Germaine’s school record (3,330 in 1998). Haskins is just three TD passes short of J.T. Barrett’s season school-record 36 (last year).
Nothing came easy against the country’s No. 1 defense against the run, but running back Mike Weber, the line and blocking receivers kept plowing. In the fourth quarter, Weber pushed to a game-total 104 yards, a badge of honor that kept flickering the idea the run game has found late-season footing.
Tate Martell entered the game three times, to the delight of fans who have wanted to see him play. Only two of the moments counted. He had a 5-yard run during one series and later was unable to field a wide snap from center Michael Jordan, leading to a Spartans fumble recovery. Martell also went in on fourth-and-1 late in the third quarter at the MSU 35 with the Buckeyes leading just 7-6. An illegal procedure penalty wiped out Martell's chance to run a play and Chrisman's punt pinned MSU deep, leading to a safety.
Maryland, which has dealt with the tragic death of lineman Jordan McNair, who suffered heat stroke during a late-May team workout, and the fallout. That included the suspension and eventual firing a couple of weeks ago of coach D.J. Durkin. Interim coach Matt Canada has kept the Terps focused for the most part — remember, they upset Texas on Sept. 1. But they’ve lost three of the last four, including 34-32 to Indiana on Saturday.
This week’s challenge
Fans, poll voters and CFP committee members want to see a complete game from a team that claims to be a contender. Of course, the great distraction is the showdown looming next week with Michigan that will answer all questions, one way or the other.