COLUMBUS: For all the problems Ohio State is having offensively this season, the defense is at least keeping the Buckeyes in games. That was true again in Saturday’s 10-7 loss to Michigan State.
The defense surrendered just 10 points and forced two turnovers. The damage could’ve been much worse.
“The defense fought all game,” safety Christian Bryant said. “You can’t do nothing else. The offense is on scholarship, too.”
If Bryant sounds frustrated, he has good reason. The defense allowed the Spartans just 321 yards of offense and held them to a field goal for the final 52 minutes. But it still resulted in the Bucks’ second loss of the season.
The Spartans left Ohio Stadium feeling like they should’ve scored plenty more, but they were just 3 of 14 on third-down conversions, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw an interception in the end zone and another in the fourth quarter when the offense should’ve been more concerned with running out the clock.
“We didn’t finish drives,” Cousins said. “With a few plays going our way here or there, we feel like we could have come away with 20-plus points. You have to credit Ohio State’s defense for them to bend but not break.”
Of the Spartans’ 321 yards, 85 came on two plays — both deep passes to B.J. Cunningham.
“Of course it gets frustrating, but you can’t worry about the offense,” Bryant said. “They’re going to do what they have to do. With the defense, we just have to create stops.”
For the second time in three games, the home fans were showering the Buckeyes with boos most of the day. Against Toledo, fans were booing the presence of Joe Bauserman. This week they were booing the overall inept performance by the offense.
“I think people forget we’re missing four or five guys who probably combined for 100 starts or so,” center Mike Brewster said, referring to suspended starters Dan Herron, Mike Adams, DeVier Posey and the departed Terrelle Pryor. “We’re young out there, but we’re fighting.
“I’m sure people aren’t happy with the outcome, but we’re fighting our butts off and doing our best.”
Adams will immediately shore up an offensive line that was under siege all day by an aggressive Spartans’ defense.
“He’ll bring a lot of experience,” Brewster said. “He’s a great player.”
Cunningham, a senior who grew up in the Columbus suburb of Westerville, had nine catches for 154 yards and the touchdown in his lone appearance in Ohio Stadium.
Due to scheduling quirks, the Buckeyes haven’t faced the Spartans since Cunningham’s freshman season. But that game was in East Lansing, Mich. Saturday was his first and only appearance at home and he made the most of it.
Cousins split the coverage and Cunningham made a dazzling catch in the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. He later added a 52-yard catch in the fourth quarter. Cousins said his touchdown pass to Cunningham was a busted play.
“He wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near where he caught it,” Cousins said. “He was supposed to be basically standing on the sidelines and he caught it underneath the goal post. That was improvising and it shows why he’s a great player.”
He was lightly recruited by Ohio State four years ago, but Saturday he was the best receiver on the field.
“It was good to come home and win here,” he said.
The win was Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio’s first against the Buckeyes. Dantonio grew up in Zanesville and served as Jim Tressel’s defensive coordinator for three years. He was 0-4 against Tressel, losing twice each as head coach at Cincinnati and Michigan State.
The Buckeyes were the only Big Ten team Dantonio hadn’t beaten as head coach of the Spartans.
“It was a big program win for us,” Dantonio said. “This is special, especially if you’re from Ohio like I am. It’s special to all of our Ohio players.”
The win was Michigan State’s first over the Buckeyes since 1999.
Punter Ben Buchanan set a career high with 10 punts. … Travis Howard and Andrew Sweat each led the defense with 10 tackles. Bryant had a career-high nine. … Jonathan Hankins’ fumble recovery in the second quarter was the first of his career. … The Buckeyes haven’t been shut out at home since they lost 6-0 to Wisconsin on Oct. 9, 1982. They haven’t been shut out in a game since losing 28-0 at Michigan on Nov. 20, 1993.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com.