Ohio State gets signature win against Michigan State

Todd Porter

Ohio State’s offensive linemen took off their skirts, and then stripped Sparty the Spartan of his Saturday. A week after playing like self-described girls, the Buckeyes beat the pants off 20th-ranked Michigan State 45-7 in front of 77,360 mostly disappointed MSU fans at Spartan Stadium.

“It was like a cleansing,” right guard Jim Cordle said after the OSU offense rolled up 332 yards of offense and scored four touchdowns, after not sniffing the end zone in last week’s anemic win over Purdue. “We wanted to show we’re good. We think we did that. ... We haven’t been playing like we’re good.”

This was the 12th-ranked Buckeyes’ signature win to this point in the season. And it could have been a decisive chapter in the young career of true freshman Terrelle Pryor and -- at his urging -- a spot back on the bench.

Pryor, who struggled last week, asked Head Coach Jim Tressel to bench him if he didn’t move the offense. It was the kind off self-issued challenge Pryor must have needed. Pryor walked into the coach’s office Friday afternoon before the team was to depart for East Lansing.

“He said, ‘If I don’t move the ball down the field, you should bench me,’” Tressel confided after the game. “That’s the way he is. I told him, ‘Relax now.’ But I also said, ‘If you throw it to them, don’t worry, you won’t have to make that request.’”

Pryor did not throw an interception. He completed 7-of-11 passes for 116 yards and took two sacks. He ran the ball 12 times for 72 yards, including a first-quarter 18-yard TD run.

“I was dead serious,” Pryor said of asking to be benched. “Coach looked me right in the eye and said, ‘T.P., I believe in you.’

“I needed that challenge. ... I just challenged myself; if I don’t move the ball, I’ll sit down.”

Pryor kept his starting position. He led the Buckeye offense to four first-half touchdowns, and Michigan State stared at a 28-0 halftime deficit.

The rout started the same way many Buckeye drives have been wasted.

OSU overcame a Cordle false start on first down. He was bailed out on a 20-yard cutback run from Beanie Wells to the MSU 32. Two plays later, Pryor zipped a short pass to freshman DeVier Posey, who got to the Spartan 18.

Then Pryor did was Pryor does. He faked a handoff to Wells inside and kept the ball around left end. MSU cornerback Ross Weaver had a chance to save a touchdown, but Pryor stiff-armed him to the ground on his way to the end zone.

“If we walk out of here thinking, ‘Oh boy, we’re wonderful,’ that team (No. 3 Penn State) coming in next week is good now,” Tressel said.

The Buckeyes were dominant on both sides of the ball and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins set up a recovery touchdown for the second week in a row.

But the momentum-turning fumble recovery came in the first quarter. Brian Hoyer completed a short pass to true freshman Keshawn Martin, who, in one play, showed the brilliance and bewilderment of a freshman. Martin put a move on Kurt Coleman that nearly made the Buckeye safety lose a shoe. Then Coleman recovered and caught Martin and poked the ball out of Coleman’s inside arm. Donald Washington recovered.

On third-and-goal from the 7, Pryor faked a handoff, eluded a sack as he rolled right and then rifled a pass to Brian Robiskie in the back of the end zone for a 14-0 lead. The pass from Pryor was almost as if he was silencing critics.

Then it was time to silence the 77,360.

After another three-and-out series, Pryor flexed his muscles. He beat a cornerback blitz as Brian Hartline ran past safety Otis Wiley. Pryor threw the ball off his back leg because of the blitz.

Hartline made the catch and then bounced off Wiley and Danny Fortener and sprinted to the MSU 1. Wells carried from there and the Buckeyes had a 21-0 lead before the first quarter was over.

The passing game was OSU’s flash to Wells’ dash. He carried it a season-high 31 times for 140 yards and two TDs.

“It’s a stepping stone,” Hartline said. “OK, we did this. I wouldn’t say it means a whole lot until we get into next week, and the following week, and keep it going. One game doesn’t say a lot, but it gets us in the right direction and gives us confidence on offense.”

The Repository