- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ohio State overcame a minus-3 turnover margin, some key injuries, a premature whistle and a plucky Michigan State squad to hold off the Spartans 17-16 at Spartan Stadium. The 14th-ranked Buckeyes remain perfect at 5-0, while No. 20 Michigan State dropped its second game in three weeks.
Here are some quick thoughts on the game ...
It was over when: Carlos Hyde moved the chains with a 5-yard run on third-and-4 with just about two minutes remaining. Ohio State, which had stopped Michigan State moments earlier, then ran out the clock and celebrated a hard-fought win.
Game ball goes to: Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. He committed three turnovers (2 fumbles, 1 interception) but made more big plays than Michigan State and fought through some tough hits. The sophomore completed 16 of 23 passes for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Miller also recorded game-highs in both carries (23) and rush yards (136), displaying tremendous footwork to keep Michigan State's defense off balance.
Stat of the game: Ohio State averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 44 attempts. Michigan State, despite boasting the Big Ten's top rusher in Le'Veon Bell, had just 1.5 yards per carry (just 22 attempts).
Worst call: The officials at Spartan Stadium weren't replacements, but they made a rookie mistake early in the fourth quarter after Miller fumbled near the sideline. The officials ruled Miller down and blew the whistle, ending the play. The replay crew correctly reversed the call and awarded the ball to Michigan State, but the blown whistle prevented the Spartans from potentially scoring a touchdown on a fumble return. Michigan State had other chances to win, but the blown whistle really hurts in a 1-point game.
Unsung hero of the game: Ohio State senior linebacker Etienne Sabino. The former blue-chip recruit, who admits he has underachieved a bit in his career, stepped up in a big way Saturday. He recorded a second-half sack of Andrew Maxwell and pressured Maxwell on a third-and-9 play in the closing minutes, forcing a punt. Michigan State never regained possession.
What it means: Ohio State showed it can win on the road and overcome a lot of adversity. It's not easy to win when you're minus-3 in turnovers, but the Buckeyes received a better defensive effort than they've had in recent weeks, shutting down Bell, and their offensive line stepped up big late to salt away the game. Miller once again showcased big-play ability, making a perfect throw to Devin Smith for a 63-yard touchdown after Michigan State had taken the lead. The Spartans showed improvement in their passing game and generated more takeaways on defense, but they simply haven't put it all together against good teams. It has to be frustrating to lose on your home field when you're plus-3 in turnovers. Bell was a surprising nonfactor in the game, and the defense couldn't get a stop in the closing minutes. Michigan State can still make a run in the Legends division, but it will need to do well on the road after dropping two marquee home games.