Drue Chrisman’s day at Michigan State on Saturday could not have started much worse.
It could not have ended much better.
The Ohio State punter took the Spartan Stadium field for the first time with about 10 minutes to go in the first quarter hoping to pick up the offense for going three-and-out on its first possession.
With the line of scrimmage the OSU 31, he had a chance to really boom one and force Michigan State to start its second possession inside its 20.
The Spartans got the ball at the Ohio State 35 instead after Chrisman shanked one off the side of his foot. It covered just four yards before going out of bounds.
“I think I didn’t realize how strong the wind was,” he said. “It just pushed it out of my hands right off the drop and it came off the side of my foot about 10 rows deep into the bleachers. I don’t know where it ranks in Ohio State’s worst punts in history, but it’s definitely my worst punt. I was just like, ‘Man, I’ve just got to ball out after this one.”
Chrisman averaged a respectable 42 yards on his other eight punts with a long of 53, but there is more to the story.
He also pinned the Spartans inside the 10-yard line an astounding six times.
It gets better still.
In the third quarter, Chrisman hit a 33-yarder that was downed at the Michigan State 5 with 12:14 on the clock.
Less than three minutes later, his 27-yarder was downed at the 6.
He boomed the third one 53 yards before it went out of bounds at the 3, and with a minute left in the quarter his 39-yarder was downed at the 1.
That’s when things really started to turn.
Tired of seeing his team stuck in its own end, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio called for his snapper to send the ball out the back of the end zone for a safety rather than risk a punt being blocked or give the ball back to Ohio State already in field goal range.
The Buckeyes did not do anything with their ensuing possession, but there was Chrisman again, this time with a 44-yarder that was downed at the 2.
One play later, Michigan State botched the snap in the end zone and Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones recovered for a touchdown.
Chrisman said his teammates told him to stay positive after the shank, and he credited the job of senior receivers Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon covering his other punts.
“They make my job easy — All credit to them,” Chrisman said. “They just tell me put it around me and I’ll get it down. That’s what they did. They’ve been solid all year. I wouldn’t ask for any better.”
McLaurin said he just wants to help the team any way he can. He caught five passes for 63 yards but also took pride in his blocking on the perimeter — and those punts he stopped near the goal line.
“The first one that I ran and knocked the ball back in was probably my favorite since I’ve been here,” he said. “That’s part of our plan to win. Coach (Urban) Meyer preaches it. That’s part of our gospel. We have a big board and I want to say there’s a three-percent chance a team scores when it starts inside its own 5. So we preach that, we believe in that and I was just telling the young guys if you want to make your spot on this team and grab a lot of respect, especially from Coach Meyer, special teams is the way to do it.”
They spend part of practice on Thursdays syncing up coverage and kicks.
“I know where Drue’s going to kick it,” McLaurin said. “It’s very exact where Coach Meyer wants the ball. He does a very good job of putting the ball on my hip or Johnnie’s hip and it’s our job as athletes to run it down and either catch it, down the ball where it is or knock it back in.”