Saturday, October 1, 2011
Halftime: Michigan State 7, Ohio State 0
By Brian Bennett
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Quick analysis from Ohio Stadium, where Michigan State leads Ohio State 7-0:
Turning point: Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard ripped the ball away from Ohio State receiver Devin Smith as the two were falling backward. That went as an interception as the Spartans took over at their own 6-yard line in the second quarter. That was the Buckeyes' best and only chance to score in the first half, and the way things are going, they might not get another chance that good today. Ohio State did get a break in the final minute of the half when Kirk Cousins simply dropped the ball while going back to pass. Michigan State had driven inside the Buckeyes' 35 and looked like it was ready to build the lead. Still, the way Ohio State's offense has played, a 7-0 cushion might be enough.
Stat of the half: Ohio State has 87 total yards in the half and only 31 rushing yards on 21 carries. A lot of that is due to negative yardage from sacks, as Michigan State has repeatedly gotten penetration right up the middle and collapsed on quarterback Braxton Miller. William Gholston, Jerel Worthy and Max Bullough have been among the stars on the Spartans' defense.
Best player in the half: Michigan State receiver B.J. Cunningham. The Spartans' career receiving yards leaders is clearly the best offensive playmaker on either side, which admittedly isn't saying much in this game. He has seven catches for 90 yards and the game's only score, coming on a 33-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
What Michigan State needs to do: Keep attacking with the pass. The running game has only been intermittently successful, while the Ohio State cornerbacks are playing soft against Cunningham and the other receivers. Cousins has completed 13-of-19 passes, but he has misfired on a few open throws and had that costly turnover. The Spartans need more out of their senior leader at quarterback.
What Ohio State needs to do: The Buckeyes might very well need a defensive or special teams score -- or at least a huge play there -- to get on the board today. Barring that, they're going to have to vary things up with their all-too-vanilla offense, which is so predictable that Michigan State appears to know what's coming every down. Maybe even Joe Bauserman could provide a spark off the bench, as Miller looks lost and has gotten hit a lot in the first half. Ohio State is very lucky to be down by only one touchdown.