Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had a succinct answer when asked after the 34-24 loss to Michigan State on Saturday night whether the Buckeyes should have gotten running back Carlos Hyde more second-half touches.
“Yes,” he said.
That one-word response spoke volumes. Going against the No. 1 rush defense in the nation, the Buckeyes gained 273 yards on the ground — 218 more than the average of the Spartans’ opponents this year.
But Hyde seemed to disappear at a crucial point in the Buckeyes’ 34-24 defeat in the Big Ten title game.
In the previous three games, Hyde averaged 196.3 yards on 23 carries with seven total touchdowns. Against the Spartans, the 2013 Big Ten running back of the year award had 118 yards on 18 attempts and no scores.
In three fruitless possessions after the Buckeyes ripped off 24 straight points to take a 24-17 third-quarter lead, Hyde had just four runs — gaining 12, 6, 4 and 3 yards.
“I feel I could have gotten any yardage we needed in the second half,” Hyde said. “Me and the offensive line were doing a great job. I felt we could have run the ball the whole game in the second half. But you can’t question the coaches’ calls.”
Trailing 27-24 with 5:46 to go, OSU was facing a fourth-and-2 situation at the MSU 39-yard line. Quarterback Braxton Miller tried a sweep with Hyde as a lead blocker and was stopped for no gain on a tackle by Hamilton native Denicos Allen.
The Spartans then put the game away with a 26-yard scoring run by Jeremy Langford with just over two minutes left.
“That was my call,” Meyer said. “I wanted to put the ball in the hands of our best player, Braxton. … I knew they’d pressure us (up the middle), and I thought we’d be able to come out the other end of it. That’s why (we did that). That was a chance to go try to win the game.”
Miller was dynamic on the ground otherwise, finishing with 142 yards on 21 carries. But he seemed to fare best on zone-read options with Hyde in the backfield. The Buckeyes gained just 25 of their 374 total yards in the fourth quarter when Miller was often in shotgun formation with an empty backfield.
“It hurts, definitely,” Hyde said of the defeat. “I’m a senior. It’s my last year here. To be that close to go to the national championship my senior year and fail, it hurts. But it happens. You move on and get ready for whatever bowl game we’re playing.”
Porous defense: The Spartans had trouble running the ball for most of the game, but the Buckeyes’ pass defense was an issue again.
Connor Cook, a sophomore QB, was 24 for 40 passing for 304 yards and three TDs with one interception. He was sacked just once.
Michigan passed for 451 yards on OSU a week earlier.
“I’m disappointed,” Meyer said. “Pass defense, we have to get this fixed. We’re going to get back to work.”
Major penalties: The Buckeyes had three 15-yard infractions in the first quarter, all costly self-inflicted wounds. They were obvious calls, too.
Two pass-interference flags kept MSU’s opening drive alive. Cornerback Doran Grant and linebacker Ryan Shazier needlessly hit receivers on third-and-long situations.
And sniper Devin Smith blasted a punt returner before the ball arrived.
Grant also had a pass-interference penalty early in the fourth quarter.
Slow start: The Buckeyes were blanked in the first quarter for the first time this year. They had outscored opponents, 220-52.
They were held under 30 points in a game for the first time this year.
Buckeye bits: Kicker Drew Basil made a 28-yard field goal at the end of the first half. He’s 9 for 10 this season but hadn’t kicked one since the Illinois game three weeks earlier.
• Dantonio is known for his trick plays, and he tried one against the Buckeyes. After taking a 27-24 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Spartans attempted an onside kick. It was batted out of bounds, though, and the Buckeyes took over at their 41-yard line.
• Allen, a senior linebacker, finished with eight tackles for the Spartans. Teammate R.J. Williamson, a third-year sophomore safety from Dunbar, was credited with one tackle.