Michigan State played its third top ten team of the year and the results were the same: a complete failure.
Ohio State is the number one team in the country and they looked like it against a Spartan team that gave little resistance on defense and almost no challenge on offense. This game felt even more deflating than the blowout losses to Washington and Michigan. It had less of a sharp edge than the Michigan loss, but it still goes down in the books the same way.
Without further ado, the grades:
Details of the Curve for this Game: Ohio State is the number one ranked team in the nation. This means MSU was expected to lose this game, and lose it big. The grades below presume a curve that helps a struggling MSU team.
The offense started fast. A couple of first downs, highlighted by a slant pass to Alante Brown, put the Spartans in the Buckeyes territory on the first drive. That’s where it stopped cold. Kaitin Houser pulled the ball out of Mangham’s hands on an apparent option play and instead of closing to the line of scrimmage on third and three he lost six yards. The play resulted in forcing a tough long field goal that was missed.
That first drive became the blueprint early for the Spartans. Gain one or two first downs to get to mid field and then stall out. Scoring against Ohio State is a positive. The problem is it was only three points in the first half while the defense was getting run over.
The second half started even less promising. A three and out kept the Spartan offense from breathing any life into the Spartans.
The Spartans earned a few first downs in the first half and seemed to gain to the mid field then stall. It was a credit to Ohio State’s defense but also another - in an extensively long list - indication that the offense is unable to put together sustained drives against any sort of resistance. Katin Houser may look better this late in the season but his productivity is still anemic. It’s clear the Spartan offense had no option that created any sustained production this year.
The defense got run over. From the opening series it was clear that hopes the improving defense for the Spartans would keep them in the game were futile. Counting the first play of the second quarter as the first quarter, Ohio State scored 21 points in the first quarter. That was a season high for them. MSU once again helped another team look incredible.
After a solid punt pinned OSU on their own 2-yard line, the Spartan defense showed up with a huge 3-and-out. The stop kept OSU from scoring and set up MSU with a mid field starting position that resulted in a field goal.
Unfortunately, the next defensive stand made the stop feel like a fluke rather than the start of something. MSU’s defense came out after the field goal and let the Buckeyes drive straight down the field for a touchdown.
The first half ended 35-3. There is no grade but failing at that point for the unit.
Special Teams: C+
Jonathan Kim started the game with a missed 56-yard field goal. The play was a nothing to lose situation for Kim. He missed the 56-yard kick and everyone shrugged. The decision rests with the coaches to go for it. Missing a 56-yard field goal is not a surprise for anyone. It’s nice that Kim has the leg to even consider going for it there. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.
The special teams contributed one of their truly rare positive plays in the 2nd quarter. With the offense stuck on 4th and 1 near mid field the offense lined up for a punt and direct snapped to Mangham. It worked, even in a situation where everyone in the stadium was thinking a fake punt might be an option.
Despite the offense stalling out almost immediately after that conversion, the punting unit contributed again by pinning OSU inside their one 5-yard line. This led to a MSU defensive stop that led to the offense starting at mid field which led to a 52-yard field goal by Jonathan Kim. This was a score generated by the special teams.
Of course it all wasn’t perfect in the first half. After the field goal by Jonathan Kim the kick off team managed to be offside. That’s something I literally didn’t think was possible. Ugh.
Adding salt to the wound the Spartans managed yet another pre-snap penalty on a punt.
The two penalties are embarrassing. For once the overall performance of the unit outweighed those mistakes and contributed the lone bright spot on the game.
The punt unit consistently punted well. Even the lone shank ended up as a fairly well placed punt. The team as a whole could not exploit the field position winning type punts that were being kicked.
The first coaching decision of the game came early at the end of the first offensive possession for MSU. After the offense got stuffed on an ill-advised decision by Katin Houser, the decision was to go with a 56-yard field goal. To keep up with Ohio State MSU knew they would have to pull out all the stops. The call was aggressive and understandable for a team hoping to just keep this game close.
From there the Spartans simply got run over. The big coaching decisions in-game were few and far between.
The defense had so many injuries and were playing such a better team the results did not seem to be scheme related.
On offense, Jay Johnson avoided some of his worst tendencies, yet the offense was still largely ineffectual. Two personnel decisions raised some questions: not playing Maliq Carr till the end of the third quarter, and the seeming preference for Mangham. The first is truly inexplicable. The latter can only be explained by a desire by the coaching staff to get Mangham some playing time after so much time missed. Still, keeping Nathan Carter out of the game plan seemed like a poor choice.
There may not have been a scheme to compete with Ohio State. Still, the Spartans have played powerhouse teams and looked better in stretches than at any point during this game. This was a failure at all levels for this team, the coaches can’t escape that grade.
Michigan State looked like an FCS program tonight. Forget effort, the outcomes were simply not even in the same realm as Ohio State. The Buckeyes have been struggling on offense and looked like a pro team practicing against a high school JV squad in this game. MSU continued its trend of offensive futility with Katin Houser at the helm.
The surprisingly improved performance of the special teams was not enough to save the team. This was a failure in everything on field today, and an indictment of everything that has happened off the field - from the Tucker fiasco to the recruiting.