Rapid Reaction: Short-handed Ohio State still too strong for Michigan State
Ohio State had its head coach, some assistants and several players missing from Saturday’s game at Michigan State as a result of positive COVID-19 tests.
One team was definitely short-handed at Spartan Stadium. But it wasn’t Ohio State, No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
The Buckeyes, even without coach Ryan Day and three-fifths of its starting offensive line, had way too much talent for Michigan State to handle in a 52-12 victory.
Justin Fields ran for 104 yards and the two scores and threw for 199 yards and two TDs. Chris Olave caught 10 passes for 139 yards and a score for the Buckeyes, who again gained more than 500 yards on offense.
The Buckeyes started the second half in the same emphatic way as they ended the first. Graduate transfer running back Trey Sermon had his best play as a Buckeye, running 64 yards for a touchdown — with Fields running with him and nudging a defender out of bounds way downfield — for a 35-0 OSU lead.
After backup quarterback Payton Thorne scored on a 20-yard run to put MSU on the board, the teams exchanged turnovers.
In the first quarter, Fields hit Garrett Wilson on the right sideline and Wilson took care of the rest, sprinting into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown and a 14-0 OSU lead.
Fields, who averages about 10 rushes per game in his Buckeyes career, ran five times for 71 yards and a touchdown just in the first quarter against the Spartans. That included a 44-yard scamper to help set up the second OSU touchdown. The junior quarterback wound up with 104 rushing yards.
Then early in the second quarter, Fields ran it in from 1 yard for his second touchdown of the day to give the Buckeyes a 21-0 lead.
OSU’s defense, which dominated in the first half, allowing just 80 yards, also put points on the board. With the Spartans backed up to their 2-yard line after a deep punt by Drue Chrisman, Rocky Lombardi dropped back deep into his own end zone on third down. Defensive tackle Haskell Garrett batted the pass with his left hand and caught it in the end zone for a touchdown and a 28-0 Buckeyes lead.
Near the end of the first half, Lombardi was knocked out of the game on a hit and Thorne came in to replace him. Thorne completed his first 11 pass attempts before Shaun Wade intercepted him in the third quarter.
Fields had some adventures early trying to handle some errant shotgun snaps. But then, the whole offensive line was a piecemeal proposition.
OSU was without three starting offensive linemen. Rock-steady right guard Wyatt Davis remained in place but otherwise it was all change. Harry Miller shifted from left guard to center. The other three O-linemen made their first career start: Left tackle Dawand Jones (the tallest and heaviest player on the OSU roster at 6 feet 8, 360 pounds), left guard Matthew Jones and right tackle Max Wray.
But those errant snaps didn’t cost OSU any points until one from Luke Wypier sailed in the end zone in the final minutes for a Spartans safety, but by then the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Michigan State didn’t have a full roster either. Wide receiver Ricky White, who has 10 catches for 223 yards and a touchdown on the season, was out for the Spartans.
With Ryan Day and several assistants out for the Buckeyes, Larry Johnson was temporarily in charge. Johnson is the assistant head coach and defensive line coach.