EAST LANSING, Mich.— Michigan State and Ohio State opened the Big Ten season on the grandest of stages.
ESPN College GameDay was in town, 3:30 p.m. ABC game, and Urban Meyer’s first game in the Big Ten, there isn’t much more attention two teams can get.
With all eyes on Spartans Stadium, the 20th ranked Spartans (3-2, 0-1) fell to the 14th ranked Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0) 17-16.
The Buckeyes were led by potential Heisman front-runner Braxton Miller. The sophomore went 16-of-23 for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The dual-threat QB also added 136 yards on the ground.
Ohio State fans held their breath as Miller went down in the fourth quarter with what seemed to be a serious knee injury, but luckily he passed the ACL test on the sideline and was able to continue.
Michigan State’s offensive production didn’t come from their work-horse tailback Le’Veon Bell, who had 45 yards on 17 carries and eight catches for 58 yards, but instead from junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell who had 269 yards and a touchdown on 22-of-42 passing.
While tonight wasn’t statistically Maxwell’s best game as a Spartan, this game showed that his prior game experience has really helped with his maturation.
Maxwell made a lot of great throws, some not so great, but most importantly, he made a lot of the right reads.
The receiving corps was still very shaky as Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett, and Keith Mumphrey dropped a handful of passes early but gradually picked up their play in the second-half.
Out of the three receivers above, Mumphrey separated himself from the rest. The sophomore receiver had five catches for 79 yards including an impressive 29-yard catch-and-run that finished with a touchdown after bouncing off numerous OSU defenders.
However, the Mumphrey score was the only touchdown that MSU was able to score on the hard-hitting OSU defense.
On the other side, the Spartans defense was aggressive, as they caused three Ohio State turnovers, but found themselves lost at times trying to defend the versatility of Miller.
Ohio State junior receiver, Philly Brown, gave the MSU secondary all they could handle as he had 12 catches for 84 yards.
Sophomore Devin Smith had a game changing play when he blew past Johnny Adams on the right sideline in the final minutes of the third quarter for a 63-yard touchdown catch that gave OSU a 17-13 lead.
The Spartans were not able to overcome the four point deficit, as kicker Dan Conroy’s 48-yard field goal was the only Michigan State score in the fourth quarter.
Going forward, even with a big loss, the Spartans have something to take away from this game that will be essential down the road.
Maxwell really looked poised for the most part today, and it’s good to know that when Bell is ineffective running the ball that the offense can be efficient enough through the air.
The Michigan State front-seven have been solid all year, but the secondary is clearly the weak spot in the defense. Johnny Adams has allowed a big play nearly every game this season, and the lack of depth at the cornerback position for the Spartans causes a lot of one-on-one situations.
Ohio State cannot contend for the Big Ten Championship this season due to sanctions, but it’s clear that they are the best team in the conference. Offensively this team is very versatile, especially with the development of Miller at quarterback, and defensively, they are very intimidating.
With two losses it’s evident that Michigan State’s shot at a National Championship is in the can, but this loss doesn’t mean they can’t find themselves in the Rose Bowl.
The second-half of this game showed glimpses of what Spartan fans expected from the receivers three weeks ago. Maxwell is starting to find comfort with his receivers, and now it’s just a matter of them stepping up to the plate on a consistent basis.