EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Top-ranked Ohio State has Heisman
Trophy contender Troy Smith, the explosive Ted Ginn Jr. and a
potent running game.
A month ago, Michigan State stood at 3-0, a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten. Four losses later, the Spartans are under .500, struggling on both sides of the ball, and seemingly unable to stop the bleeding. Here is a statistical comparison that shows how steep the fall has been in East Lansing.
First 3 games
Last 4 games
The Buckeyes' defense doesn't get as much publicity, but it can
be just as dominant as their offense.
The Ohio State defense battered and bruised Michigan State in a
38-7 victory Saturday. The Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) narrowly
missed a shutout, giving up a meaningless TD to the reeling
Spartans (3-4, 0-3) with just more than a minute left to play.
The victory extends the nation's longest winning streak to 14
games, and the Buckeyes appear to have a fairly clear path in the
Big Ten until it hosts No. 4 Michigan in the last game of the
regular season Nov. 18.
The Buckeyes -- despite heavy losses from last year's defense --
are allowing just nine points per game.
"I face them all the time in practice," Smith said of his
buddies on D. "They make me better every day."
Smith did nothing to hurt his Heisman Trophy candidacy, smoothly
leading the Ohio State offense. He completed 15 of 22 passes for
234 yards and two touchdowns.
Anthony Gonzalez caught seven passes for 118 yards and a TD,
while Ginn returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown.
Michigan State entered the game averaging 31 points per contest.
But the Spartans gained just 79 yards in the first half and trailed
24-0 at the break.
The Spartans had upset the Buckeyes the last two times they
played with Ohio State ranked No. 1 -- in 1974 and 1998.
There was no threat of a similar upset Saturday.
Michigan State won three straight to start the season, including
a quality win at Pitt. But the Spartans have struggled since
blowing a 16-point, fourth-quarter lead and losing to Notre Dame on
Sept. 23. They've now lost four straight, making coach John L.
Smith's future with the school somewhat murky.
The Spartans had an early chance to steal momentum from Ohio
State, recovering Chris Wells' fumble at the Buckeyes' 31 just
three plays into the game. But a holding penalty and a sack took
the Spartans out of scoring range.
"We had an opportunity early," John L. Smith said. "We needed
to capitalize on it. We didn't capitalize on it."
Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis made the sack on
quarterback Drew Stanton, throwing him for a 16-yard loss.
"We were in control the whole game," Laurinaitis said. "But
that first sack turned momentum around."
Ohio State responded with an 80-yard, 12-play drive -- capped by
a 2-yard touchdown run by Antonio Pittman -- to take a 7-0 lead
midway through the first quarter. A 37-yard catch by Ginn, who
broke a tackle near midfield, moved the Buckeyes into Michigan
Michigan State drove to the Ohio State 36 early in the second
quarter, but failed on a fourth-and-2 on a draw by Stanton.
Ohio State then marched downfield and took a 10-0 lead on Aaron
Pettrey's 32-yard field goal.
Stanton was jarred by Ohio State defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock
on the Spartans' next possession, appearing to hurt his back.
Stanton was knocked out of the game for good midway through the
third quarter, hitting his head on a large sideline Gatorade
container after a hit by linebacker Marcus Freeman.
He walked back to the Michigan State sideline under his own
power, but was replaced by backup Brian Hoyer on the Spartans' next
possession. Stanton is expected to be OK but has a sore neck and
back, Smith said.
Michigan State defensive back Greg Cooper was carted off the
field in the third quarter after tackling Pittman. Cooper briefly
lost consciousness but is responding and moving, Michigan State
officials said. He was taken to a hospital as a precaution.
The Spartans played the entire game without leading rusher Javon
Ringer (knee) and receiver Matt Trannon (ankle).
Stanton completed 8 of 16 passes for 54 yards. He was
intercepted by Freeman in the second quarter.
Ginn's punt return made it 17-0 with about five minutes left in
the first half, taking Michigan State out of it for good.
"Getting that punt return for a touchdown was gigantic," Ohio
State coach Jim Tressel said.
The Buckeyes have won five straight against Michigan State.
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