Oct. 1, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio - No. 25 Michigan State withstood a late rally from the Buckeyes to escape Ohio Stadium with a 10-7 win Saturday in the conference opener for both teams.
A Big Ten defensive battle was witnessed by 105,306 fans at Ohio Stadium as the Spartans (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) and their aggressive, blitzing defense limited the Buckeye offense to 178 total yards and sacked the OSU quarterbacks nine times on the day. Ohio State (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) countered with an inspired defensive performance of its own, forcing three Spartan turnovers while repeatedly rising to the occasion with their backs to the wall.
Despite the best efforts of the OSU defense, the Scarlet and Gray failed to sustain a consistent offensive attack. The Spartans stuffed the Buckeyes on the ground, holding Ohio State to 35 yards on 39 attempts, while freshman Braxton Miller (5 of 10) and senior Joe Bauserman (7 of 14) combined for only 143 yards passing.
Michigan State never trailed, jumping out to an early first quarter lead as Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham connected from 33 yards at the 7:44 mark for a 7-0 advantage.
Ohio State mounted its first significant drive of the game on its first possession of the second quarter. Miller hit sophomore wide receiver Chris Fields for a 33 yard gain to the Spartan 33, but an interception by MSU defensive back Darqueze Dennard squashed the Buckeye threat.
MSU threatened late in the second, but once again came away empty handed. With a first and 10 at the OSU25, Cousins mishandled a ball that sophomore defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins recovered for the Buckeyes at the 38.
The Spartans advanced the ball to the Buckeye 31-yard line on its second drive of the third quarter but stalled once again. In an attempt to extend the lead to two possessions, Dan Conway fell short from 51 yards.
MSU appeared to break the game open near the end of the third. Facing a third and 6 at their own 31-yard line, Cousins found a wide open Cunningham for 52 yards to the Ohio State 17. After Edwin Baker gave the Spartans a first and goal at the Buckeye 5, the Silver Bullets held on three-consecutive plays to set up a fourth down early in the fourth quarter. On the following play, sophomore defensive back Bradley Roby tipped a Cousins' fade pass to Cunningham that C.J. Barnett intercepted in the endzone.
Bauserman entered the game on the following series but was unable to generate any offense, going three-and-out. Michigan State would add a Conway field goal from 50 yards on the next possession to extend its lead to 10.
An interception by Roby at the Ohio State 24 kept the Buckeyes alive with just over four minutes to play. After the teams traded possessions, Bauserman found freshman wide receiver Evan Spencer open in the middle of the field for a 33-yard TD, making the score 10-7 with 10 seconds remaining on the clock. MSU would recover the ensuing onside kick to close the game.