Ohio State used a familiar formula to beat Michigan State on Saturday.
Well, at least one familiar to fans from a decade ago.
Coach Urban Meyer’s squad relied heavily enough on defense and special teams to knock off the Spartans 26-6 and one could be forgiven for thinking Jim Tressel had returned to the sidelines.
Here are five things to know about the game:
1. Ohio State found a way to run the ball.
The Buckeyes didn’t run for a lot of yards against the No. 1 rush defense in the country, but they scratched out enough.
Mike Weber, Detroit native, ran for 104 yards on 22 carries. He did most of his work in the fourth quarter when the Buckeyes had the ball for 11:47 and put the game away.
J.K. Dobbins added 28 yards on 14 carries.
Ohio State’s running game wasn’t efficient — the Buckeyes’ 2.7-yard average per carry is the lowest this season — but it was effective when it needed to be.
“That was November football at Michigan State,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. Every run, Mike Weber ran for 100 yards and I would have to say 75-percent of them were post-contact yards. He ran really, really hard. Everything about that was really hard against that defense.”
2. Michigan State did not.
Outside of a 47-yard run by backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi, the Spartans had no running game. That play accounted for all but seven of their net yards on the ground.
Of course making rushing yards is hard if you don’t try, and the Michigan State coaching staff might have figured it was a futile endeavor from the start.
“We continue to evaluate the scheme we’re using,” MSU offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. “We continue to try and find ways to be able to run the football. Obviously, we struggled today.”
Starting running back Connor Heyward carried only four times and netted one yad. Backup La’Darius Jefferson picked up four yards on two carries, and that was it.
3. Both Spartans quarterbacks struggled mightily.
Not having a running game became an even bigger issue with both Michigan State quarterbacks having a hard time hitting their targets.
Starter Brian Lewerke completely only 11 of his 28 passes for 128 yards. His arm was hit on a fourth quarter pass that ended up falling into the arms of Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade.
Lombardi gave the team a spark when he came in late in the second quarter, leading the Spartans to a field goal, but he was not able to sustain it. He ended the day 7 for 19 for 92 yards.
4. Drue Chrisman was incredible.
Ohio State’s punter shook off a woeful 4-yard effort on his first punt of the day to have a stellar afternoon.
The Cincinnati native (with the help of Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon in coverage) landed six of his nine punts inside the 20-yard line, including five at the 6 or closer in the third quarter.
That kept MSU buried in its own end and eventually led to a safety and a fumble recovery in the end zone for an Ohio State touchdown.
“We were backed up like five straight times there and really not able to run some of our offense because of coming out offense, so that made it a little more difficult,” Warner said.
5. Brendon White had another memorable day.
The sophomore safety who was a sensation off the bench a week ago against Nebraska earned a starting role Saturday.
He was credited with five tackles and broke up a pass.
He also accepted the game ball on behalf of his father, William White, a former Ohio State safety who is battling ALS.
“It was kind of cool to see Brendon come up and take it on behalf of his father,” Meyer said. “I’ve known William since 1986. He’s a dear friend, one of the smartest guys i’ve ever met and one of the greatest football players I’ve ever met so I know Buckeye nation would approve of that.”
The younger White said the locker room went crazy when they got the news.
“They yelled and cheered,” Brendon White said. “Not only do I have support from my family for fighting my father’s disease, but having it come from Buckeye Nation is very cool, and that’s why this place is so special.”