INDIANAPOLIS: Gone was the chance to win a national championship. Gone was the 24-game winning streak. Gone are most of the defenders who beat back the critics that persistently ridicule the Big Ten.
If not for the high tech roof that covers Lucas Oil Stadium, the sky also would have fallen on Ohio State, which lost the Big Ten Championship Game 34-24 to Michigan State on Saturday night.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said he couldn’t measure the degree of disappointment.
“Does that make this loss harder? No,” he said. “What makes it harder is that I wanted these guys to experience something special. And we are.
“We imagine there’s a chance we’ll get invited to a great bowl game. I you’re asking me to measure the levels of hurt, I’m not sure I can do that.”
The second-ranked Buckeyes no long can participate in THE BOWL GAME, the BCS title game Jan. 6 against Florida State. Maybe that’s a good thing, the way Michigan State exposed OSU’s porous pass defense.
Neither will Ohio State represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1. That honor will go to Michigan State. By most appraisals, great will not apply to the bowl game in which the Buckeyes will appear. More than likely, the Orange Bowl will jump at the chance to get Buckeyes and their horde of fans.
“We’re 12-1, and we’re going to the Rose Bowl, and that’s something we’ve worked very hard for,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “A lot of people didn’t give us a chance to be here right now, but we perservered through it all and proved them wrong.”
For the first time all season, the combination of quarterback Braxton Miller and tailback Carlos Hyde were not enough, even though Miller amassed 142 yards on the ground (an average of 6.8) and Hyde ran for 118 yards (averaging 6.6).
Except for Miller’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Philly Brown to get the Buckeyes on the board late in the second quarter, it appeared that Woody Hayes had drawn up the game plan. Miller completed on 8-of-21 passes for 101 yards, not enough to make a difference.
Then again, the passes that Miller did throw missed their target or were well defended and were knocked away from OSU receivers.
By contrast, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook of Hinckley and Walsh Jesuit riddled the OSU defense, throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns.
Maybe the most shocking occurrence was to see Meyer lose a game. Since becoming head coach of the Buckeyes before the 2012 season, it was beginning to look as if he were invincible.
But his streak also ended with a thud.
Ohio State’s cornerbacks and safeties were not up to the task of containing Cook and his group of receivers. On all three of his touchdown passes, an OSU defender wasn’t within shouting distance of the receiver.
C.J. Barnett, who was outflanked on the final touchdown pass, was the man wearing the largest goat horns. In all, he was beaten on two of the three scoring passes plus a 48-yarder that set up the touchdown pass (also against Barnett) that put the Spartans ahead for good 27-24 with 11:41 to play in the fourth quarter.
“I was disappointed with our pass defense,” Meyer said. “We have to get this fixed. We’re going to get back to work.”
The Spartans opened the scoring with Michael Geiger’s 40-yard field goal with 8:36 to play in the first quarter. The 47-yard drive to OSU’s 30 was helped immeasurably by two third-down interference penalties, one each by Doran Grant and Ryan Shazier.
In other words, the Buckeyes had two chances to end the MSU drive but botched them both.
With nine minutes to play in the second quarter, Ohio State was down 17-0 then scored the next 24 points, only to wilt down the stretch.
How bad was Ohio State in the first quarter? The Buckeyes had more yards lost to penalties (42) than they gained offensively (28), as Michigan State’s defense appeared to be as impenetrable as advertised.
Meyer said earlier in the week that right guard Marcus Hall wouldn’t start. He didn’t say he would be rooted to the bench the entire game.
Hall was ejected from the Michigan game for throwing a punch then made an obscene gesture to the fans on his way to the locker room.
“He’s fine,” Meyer said. “He’s disappointed with his actions. The good thing is that’s not who he is at all. I just feel it wasn’t right to play him.”