Football: Seniors, secondary shine, defensive struggles subside in win over Michigan State

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Ohio State sophomore safety Lathan Ransom (12) celebrates after he tackled a player on Penn State’s offense during the Ohio State-Penn State game Oct. 30. Ohio State won 33-24. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor

Some may have expected a heavyweight battle in the trenches when two top 10 teams squared off in Ohio Stadium Saturday.

While the Buckeyes did battle on the line of scrimmage, the front line called in air support to stymie the Spartans.

Struggling to defend the pass in recent weeks, then-No. 4 Ohio State held then-No. 7 Michigan State to under 175 yards passing in a 56-7 massacre. The Buckeyes led 49-0 at halftime and cruised through the final frames.

The Ohio State defensive line dominated the Spartans, allowing few lanes for Michigan State junior running back Kenneth Walker III to sprint through and limiting his opportunities on the edge.

Leading up to the game, Buckeyes sophomore safety Lathan Ransom said Ohio State’s ability to play the run could spur exceptional collective defensive performance.

“I think that’s what we really pride ourselves on, stopping the run on defense,” Ransom said. “We bought into doing that. D-line, linebackers, DBs have all bought into stopping the run. If you can do that, you’ll play great defense.”

Ohio State senior defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, who got penetration on Walker’s first carry, said it set the tone for the afternoon and allowed the defense’s energy to snowball.

“I truly believe that once anybody on the defense sets the tone and it starts early in the game, it’s just like a ball of snow: Once it gets rolling down the hill, everybody gravitates to it,” Garrett said. “I feel that by me coming out and setting the tone, it gravitated to everybody else on the team.”

Senior defensive end Tyreke Smith said the defensive line and defense as a whole focused on keeping Walker from running the show.

“We didn’t want to be one of those teams that he did what he wanted against, so we had that mindset that we was going to shut him down the whole week,” Smith said. “We took that mindset, took it on to the game, took what we did in practice and put it into the game and it paid off for us.”

Walker finished with 25 rushing yards on six carries, failing to score as Michigan State was bound to 66 total yards on the ground.

Early strikes from Ohio State’s offense forced the Spartans to play catch-up.

The defense’s focus was to slow the run and make Michigan State’s typically well-balanced offense one-dimensional, head coach Ryan Day said.

“I think they took it as a challenge to stop the run,” Day said. “Certainly had a lot of respect for Walker coming into the game and wanted to do a good job stopping the run and make them play really one-dimensional, and I thought we did that.”

Spartans redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne completed only 14-of-36 attempts and lead wide receiver junior Jayden Reed caught just two passes, only one of which gained more than 20 yards.

Buckeyes sophomore safety Bryson Shaw said game-plan execution was a spot the secondary desperately needed to improve upon after giving up 248 yards through the air to Adrian Martinez-led Nebraska and allowing 390 yards and four scores in the same fashion against Purdue.

Ransom said he learned from miscues that triggered explosive plays against Nebraska, including a 72-yard touchdown catch by Cornhuskers senior wide receiver Samori Toure. Toure crossed Ransom’s face at the line and beat him to midfield before outrunning Shaw to the goal line.

“I took responsibility for that. I got beat on that, and that was unacceptable,” Ransom said. “So going into Purdue week I had to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Coming off a performance where three Boilermaker receivers brought in seven or more catches, Ohio State tightened coverage, keeping Reed and company in check. Michigan State had one completion that gained more than 25 yards and no Spartan caught more than four passes.

After Purdue converted 50 percent of its third down opportunities, Ohio State allowed Michigan State to capitalize on just over 31 percent of those tries Saturday.

Shaw said the defense needs to keep learning and taking steps forward.

“I just thought some of us didn’t do our jobs, including myself,” Shaw said. “We’ll get it corrected, we’ll get on that film and get it corrected.”

The Buckeyes got it corrected against Michigan State. Another challenge, No. 5 Michigan, awaits Ohio State in “The Big House” Saturday.

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