|Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, top, gets sacked by Michigan State's Johnny Adams Saturday, during the Spartans 10-7 win over the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. (AP/Jay LaPrete)|
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the score wasn't for the victory — it was to avoid being shut out for the first time since 1993.
The Buckeyes offense on Saturday was, well ... offensive. Ohio State recorded 178 total yards — 62 coming on the final series with the Spartans in prevent mode — totaled just 35 yards on the ground and surrendered nine sacks in the 10-7 loss, the first to Michigan State since 1999.
The Spartans' defensive front went through the Buckeyes' offensive line Saturday like a tsunami through a screen door, pressuring Ohio State quarterbacks all game long and bottling up the run game for a season-low output.
Miller — who was making just his second start of his collegiate career — didn't have much of a chance in the loss, essentially being corralled before he could get to the recovery step on most of his drops. Miller finished the day 5-of-10 passing for 56 yards, an interception and no touchdowns.
"We just gotta do a better job (up front)," OSU interim head coach Luke Fickell said. "That's ultimately what it comes down to. You don't give your quarterback much of a chance if he's getting sacked nine times. But that goes all around. If you can't run the football really well, then you put your quarterback in a situation that he is a sitting guy back there."
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day for the Buckeyes was that Miller, who is known for being a dynamic runner at quarterback, rushed the ball nine times in the defeat for negative-27 yards.
Fickell replaced Miller with Bauserman in the fourth quarter, while trailing 7-0. Bauserman wouldn't find the going any better, as he was sacked five times in as many offensive series.
The senior signal caller did finish 7-of-14 for 87 yards and a touchdown, but most of the success came on the Buckeyes' final series of the game, when the Spartans were only rushing four defenders.
Fickell said he made the change because he felt Miller just wasn't seeing the field the way he needed to, to be successful.
"Things were happening fast for (Miller)," Fickell said. "They're going to get on you, get after you. And they did a great job of it. I think maybe he didn't see the field real well. We thought we're going to have to throw the football as many people as they're putting in there and as much heat as they're bringing.
"So we thought our best option was to go with a guy that probably could see the field a little better and maybe throw the football a little better in some of the formations or spreads that we needed to get into."
The Spartans offense also didn't find much success on Saturday, rushing for just 71 yards on the day (2.9 per carry). However, the visitors would make just enough plays in the game to squeak out the victory.
On their second offensive series of the day, Michigan State went ahead 7-0, when quarterback Kirk Cousins avoided pressure from the Buckeyes' defense, rolled right, stepped up and delivered a perfect 33-yard scoring strike to receiver B.J. Cunningham in the back of the end zone.
The Spartans pitch-and-catch would put them ahead on the scoreboard for the rest of the day. They would add a Dan Conroy 50-yard field goal with 10:35 to play in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.
Cousins finished 20-of-32 passing for 250 yards, including a touchdown and two interceptions.
The Spartans passer felt the team underachieved in the victory.
"We didn't finish drives," Cousins said. "We feel like we could have, with a few plays going our way here or there, come away with 20-plus points with the field goal.
"You have to give credit to Ohio State's defense for them to bend but not break. That's what good defense do."
Ohio State senior defensive back Tyler Moeller said the loss is going to be a tough one to swallow.
"I thought we played pretty well out there (defensively)," Moeller said. "We had some decent turnovers when we needed to. We did give up 10 points which was 10 too many.
"This is a hard one. Every loss is hard. We fought hard and came up short. The hardest ones are the close losses. The ones where you think you are going to get it done and fall short."
The deciding factor of the game, though, was Michigan State's dominance up front defensively. The Spartans not only harassed the Ohio State passers for most of the game, but they stymied the Buckeyes' rushing attack for less than a yard per carry in the win.
"(Michigan State) got to the point where seven or eight guys would play to stop the run," said OSU tailback Carlos Hyde, who finished with 33 yards on five carries. "It was more than we could handle. It's frustrating. I know our offense is good and capable of scoring points and making plays."
No matter who the quarterback is at Ohio State, or whichever man's toting the football, the offensive line woes must be shored up quickly or it's going to be a monumentally disappointing season for the Buckeyes.
Fickell believes it will take a collective effort to right the ship.
"You wish you would have gotten a lot better (production)," Fickell said. "Now is it the line? Is it the backs? Is it the situation we're not putting them in the right situation, too?
"It's a whole group effort, and we just gotta figure out how we get it better."
The Buckeyes (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) will travel to Nebraska next Saturday night.