Miller leads Buckeyes over Spartans

Bell held to 45 yards rushing
Miller leads Buckeyes over Spartans

Ohio State rode the arms and legs of sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller to make Urban Meyer’s Big Ten coaching debut a winning one.

Miller accounted for 315 total yards, including a decisive 63-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith in the third quarter, as the undefeated Buckeyes upset No. 18 Michigan State 17-16 in the conference opener for both schools Saturday at Spartan Stadium. Miller gained 136 yards on 23 carries and passed for 179 yards while completing 16 of 23 attempts.

Miller also committed three turnovers, including two fumbles, but Ohio State — which is ineligible for postseason play — is 5-0 under its heralded new coach.

Meyer called it one of the top wins of his career.

“This was a war. This was two sledgehammers going at each other,” he said. “I know the Big Ten is taking some heat but that was a great game.”

Buckeyes linebacker Ryan Shazier said Meyer will enjoy the smashmouth style of the Big Ten.

“He really saw how tough the game is up here,” Shazier said. “I think he really liked it. It was a real physical game and we planned on having a physical game.”

Andrew Maxwell threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Keith Mumphrey for Michigan State (3-2).

Spartans tailback Le’Veon Bell, who entered the game ranked third nationally with a 152.5 rushing average, was held to 45 yards on 17 carries. He added a career-high eight receptions for 58 yards.

Stopping Bell was the key to the Buckeyes’ defensive success, according to Shazier.

“We know most of their game involves their run offense,” he said. “We had to stop that and take control of the game. He probably got a little frustrated because he’s used to having 150 or so yards a game and he got shut down a little bit today.”

Mumphrey scored his first career touchdown on a bootleg by Maxwell after a faked handoff to Bell. Mumphrey broke three tackles and carried two defenders across the goal line with 4:49 remaining in the third quarter, lifting the Spartans to a 13-10 lead.

It didn’t last long, as Smith beat the one-on-one coverage of Johnny Adams along the right sideline for his 63-yard score with 3:05 left in the quarter. Meyer anticipated a blitz and went for the big play.

“It was a blitzathon,” he said. “When the ball starts moving against them, they blitz. I was just kind of watching and watching and said that was the right time. What a great throw and catch.”

Dan Conroy’s third field goal, a 48-yarder, cut Ohio State’s lead to 17-16 with 7:07 remaining. But the Spartans had just one more possession before the Buckeyes ran out the clock.

“They just played physical,” Maxwell said. “I thought they had a good pass rush all day. They didn’t blitz a whole lot but that’s a good defensive line. They’re going to cause a lot of people some problems.”

The loss made the Spartans’ road back to the Big Ten title game much tougher.

“We can still win our side of the conference,” Maxwell said. “We still have a chance to go to Indianapolis and we still have a chance to go to Pasadena. I think it starts with keeping our hope there and knowing that our goals are still in front of us.”

The Buckeyes scored on their first possession and that was enough to give them a 7-3 halftime lead. Miller had runs of 20 and 13 yards on the 75-yard drive and Jordan Hall finished it off with a one-yard run.

Michigan State responded with Conroy’s 34-yard field goal with 8:23 remaining in the first quarter. Bell caught three passes for 31 yards on the drive but the defenses dominated the rest of the half.

Miller committed two turnovers in Spartans territory, getting intercepted by safety Kurtis Drummond at the 17 and fumbling at the 38 late in the half. Miller’s fumble, which was recovered by linebacker Chris Norman, came two plays after Roby Bradley blocked a Mike Sadler punt at the MSU 35.

Conroy had a chance to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to one but missed a 42-yard field goal try in the final minute. He gained redemption early in the second half with the sixth 50-yard field goal of his career, pulling the Spartans within 7-6. Drew Basil gave the Buckeyes a four-point advantage midway through the third quarter on a 26-yard field goal.

NOTES: Hall sat out the second half with a knee injury … MSU center Travis Jackson was carted off in the second quarter with an apparent knee injury … Ohio State had won seven of the last eight meetings and 12 of the last 15 … The Buckeyes’ last loss at Spartan Stadium was 23-7 on Nov. 6, 1999. Ohio State had not played in East Lansing since 2008 … The Spartans were 1-4 in Big Ten openers against Ohio State but got the first victory in Columbus last season.