Michigan St. 10, Ohio St. 7
From the days of ''three yards and a cloud of dust'' through Eddie George and Beanie Wells, Ohio State has pinned its macho reputation on running the ball.
Only this time Michigan State said no.
Kirk Cousins threw a 33-yard scoring pass to B.J. Cunningham and the Spartans' No. 1-ranked defense overwhelmed the bumbling Buckeyes 10-7 Saturday, shutting them out until the final seconds.
''We have to go into every game thinking we can run the football; that's where the game is won,'' Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said after his team managed just 35 net rushing yards on 39 attempts, including a staggering nine quarterback sacks. ''At times, they were bringing in more guys than we could block.''
Michigan State (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) came in as the national leader in total defense (172 yards per game) and passing defense (101 ypg) - and backed up that lofty ranking. The Spartans packed the line with defenders to shut down the backs, all but daring the Buckeyes to go to the air with true freshman quarterback Braxton Miller.
Nothing seemed to work.
Jordan Hall led the Buckeyes with just 45 yards on 18 carries and Carlos Hyde netted 33 on five attempts. Neither were productive enough behind a porous line to sustain a ground game. That exposed the Buckeyes' top weakness, a passing game that ranks among the worst in the nation.
Miller, appearing as lost as most freshmen do, was ineffective throughout the first three quarters. He completed 5 of 10 passes for 56 yards with an interception, and was sacked four times for 32 yards in losses.
''They just came with a bunch of different blitzes,'' Miller said. ''We didn't pick up some of them. They came through free.''
At the start of the fourth quarter when Fickell summoned Joe Bauserman - a fifth-year senior who had started the Buckeyes' first three games - not much changed. Bauserman hit on just 7 of 14 passes for 87 yards including a largely meaningless 33-yard touchdown pass to Evan Spencer with 10 seconds left that averted Ohio State's first shutout in almost 18 years.
Fickell said after the game that he might just open up the quarterback job to the four contenders - also including Kenny Guiton and Taylor Graham - who had fought for it during spring and preseason practices. At another point he said Miller would remain his starter.
One thing he was not confused about was went wrong for Miller.
''Things were happening fast for him,'' Fickell said. ''He just maybe didn't see the field real well. We thought we were going to have to throw the football, as many people as they were putting in there (on the line to stop the run) and as much heat as they were bringing. We thought our best option was to go with a guy that probably could see the field a little bit better and throw the football a little bit better.''
Dan Conroy added a 50-yard field goal for the Spartans, far from flawless but thoroughly in command.
The Spartans ended a seven-game losing skid to the Buckeyes.
''This was a big program win,'' said Mark Dantonio, in his fifth year as head coach at MSU. ''Ohio State was the only team we hadn't beaten in the conference.''
Ohio State's erratic and ineffective offense almost made history. The Buckeyes had not been shut out in 183 home games, dating to a 6-0 loss to Wisconsin on Oct. 9, 1982, and hadn't been shut out anywhere since a 28-0 loss at Michigan on Nov. 20, 1993.
Miller said it was hard to escape all the pressure the Spartans threw at him.
''I'd say welcome to the Big Ten,'' he said. ''Michigan State, they're one of the best defenses around. I've got to keep working harder.''
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap