The Michigan State football team went into Ohio Stadium on Saturday with a 3-1 record. They left with a “program win.”

The game play wasn’t always pretty (2.3 yards per rush, 3 of 14 on third downs, 3 turnovers), but the result was stunningly beautiful. The Spartan defense absolutely shut down a Buckeye offense with a number of talented, young players such as Braxton Miller, Jordan Hall, and Carlos Hyde. The Ohio State offense managed only 178 yards. The Spartans emerged from the game with a huge win and a great deal of momentum.

Head Coach Mark Dantonio was happy with the way his team played, as he indicated in his post-game press conference.

 

“Big program win I think today. We just came out and played very well and [came] together, which is what we talked about…We came down here with an ideal, on a mission. We felt like we had to defend, whether that was on special teams, or on defense, or protecting the quarterback, which you have to do in an away game. And I think we did that.”

 

            Special teams and defense were definitely two strong points for the Spartans. The offensive line did not allow any sacks, which was surprising given that Ohio State has a great front seven. Ohio State’s linemen Johnathan Hankins and John Simon are both very talented young players. Spartan sophomore Dan France, however, had trouble at left tackle. Guard Joel Foreman was trying to coach France at some points during the game. The bye week will hopefully give France some time to work out the kinks in his game.

 “We were able to sack the quarterback and play well on defense. Special teams I thought was solid. Maybe the play of the game was Sadler picking up that punt early and getting it off for a 52-yard punt. Offensively, I thought we controlled the tempo of the football game, had some big plays. Liked to have scored some more points, but a win is a win.”

 

            The defense recorded nine sacks in the game. This stat was key. Miller and Bauserman did not have time to get set and throw. Sadler did a great getting the punt off. This was a turning point in the game. If Sadler didn’t get this punt off, Ohio State would have gotten the ball on the MSU 10 or 20. Even a field goal would have made a huge difference. The offense needs to score more points- period. They had chances to score points, but could not convert on key third downs and made some mistakes. The offense forced Dan Conroy to kick two 50+ yard field goals, the second of which he connected on.

 

“I thought the defense played lights out. Big program win for us. The only team that we had not beaten in this conference since coming here as a staff.”

 

            The phrase “lights out” is perfect. Save for a few plays, the defense had a great game. They came so close to shutting out the Buckeyes: within ten seconds. If the defense can consistently play like that the rest of the season, good things will certainly happen.

 

Coach Dantonio was asked if it was the game was special for the kids from Ohio. The Zanesville, OH native responded:

 

“It always is. Even going way back, the Michigan State-Ohio State rivalry has been special. There’s been some great games, you look back at Levi Jackson’s run, the 1998 game. We don’t play each other often, so that we’re down here once every four or five years, however it times out. But it’s special…if you’re from Ohio, as I am, it’s special to all of our Ohio players. But maybe even more importantly than that, I think it’s special to all of our football team, because you come to Ohio Stadium, you get to play in a great environment, it’s exciting to go home with a win.”

 

            The crowd of 105,000 people provided a great environment for MSU. Luckily, the Spartans’ stellar play kept the crowd subdued for much of the game.

 

Dantonio was asked about the win over Wisconsin last year in the opening weekend of Big Ten play as compared to Saturday’s win. He said:

 

“Well, obviously we needed a signature win away from home to point our way for us and give us credibility, and maybe more importantly, more confidence in ourselves. And I think we got that today. We went on the road, and we could play well. That’s big, because it’s tough to win in this game, period. And to win away from home is more difficult. I thought we took the crowd out of the game. It was a good day for us, a good day for the Spartans.”

 

            The MSU Head Coach evaluated how his defense held the OSU offense to so few yards:

 

“We blitzed quite often. We really felt like Braxton Miller is an outstanding athlete and that we couldn’t let him loose, that we had to try and put a fence around him. We did pressure him, but more importantly was not to let him get those loose plays, those plays where he drops back to pass and the next thing you know, he’s out of the pocket running. We put a premium on that in practice all week, and it paid dividends for us.”

 

The focus on boxing up Miller worked. The true freshmen had -27 yards rushing on the day. He was not able to run free at any point during the game. This was a major part of why the defense was so dominant.

 

Dantonio’s signature quote of the evening came when he was asked what type of program win the victory was:

 

“There were three Big Ten champs last year. We beat Wisconsin [last year] and we beat Ohio State. There’s one for you, and we can leave it at that.”