COLUMBUS — Another Saturday, another surprise.
One week a shocking loss to Iowa, Ohio State delivered a shocker of its own when it bludgeoned Michigan State 48-3 on Saturday in a game that was, as they say, not nearly as close as the score indicated.
No. 13 Ohio State (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) came into the game viewed as a team that might be teetering on the brink of a knockout blow from No. 12 Michigan State (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten), a team that had been on the upswing recently.
But the Buckeyes deleted that storyline in a hurry when they scored five of the first six times they had the ball to take a 35-0 lead with six minutes left in the first half.
When it was over, their 45-point win was the biggest margin of victory ever for an Ohio State football team over Michigan State, surpassing a 42-point win in 1979.
With the win Ohio State is in control of its own destiny in the Big Ten East Division. If it beats Illinois at home and wins at Michigan in two weeks, it will play in the Big Ten championship game.
Much of the talk in the week leading up to Saturday’s game was about Ohio State’s running game and if it would be able to re-establish that part of its offense.
Michigan State came into the game allowing only 87 yards a game on the ground and had held some of the best running backs in the country, including Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and Notre Dame’s Josh Adams, below 70 yards.
But Ohio State rolled up 524 yards total offense and 335 of those yards were rushing yards. Mike Weber had 162 yards on nine carries, including touchdown runs of 82 yards and 47 yards, and J.K. Dobbins ran for 124 yards on 18 carries.
Defensively, the Buckeyes limited Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke to 131 yards passing, sacked him three times and intercepted him twice.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said the focus in practice leading up to Saturday was “controlling the line of scrimmage.” And Ohio State did that offensively and defensively.
“Whoever wins the battle in the trenches is usually who wins this game. We knew we had to establish the run game today to be successful and we were able to go out there and do that,” offensive tackle Jamarco Jones said.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Ohio State “got a wave of momentum” early in the game and almost nothing went right for his team after that.
“We didn’t separate our receivers. We didn’t throw the ball accurately. We couldn’t protect the quarterback. We couldn’t run the ball. We didn’t pressure their quarterback and we couldn’t stop the run. Consequently, a meltdown happened. Give Ohio State a lot of credit,” Dantonio said.
Meyer said running the ball more was “a mandate” from him. “I thought our two backs played fantastic,” he said. “You talk about a 1-2 punch, that was outstanding.”
Dobbins became only the third non-redshirt freshman to rush for more than 1,000 yards and now has 1,038 yards.
The other true freshmen to go over 1,000 yards were Robert Smith and Maurice Clarett. Weber did it as a redshirt freshman last season when he led Ohio State with 1,096 yards.
A hamstring injury limited him early in the season and he had not shown breakaway speed when healthy last year.
But that all changed twice on Saturday when he ran through the heart of Michigan State’s defense and outran every pursuer on both of his long touchdowns.
“It felt good. I went through a lot of injuries that had been nagging me all season,” Weber said. “I’m finally 100 percent and I got to show that today.”
Ohio State’s resurgence after last week’s disaster started with “playing Ohio State football,” Weber said.
“We got hit in the mouth (at Iowa) and Coach Meyer did a good job of explaining that we needed to go back to square one and play Ohio State football,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.