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QB tosses three TDs in return

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Craig Krenzel was more worried about
losing the game than his starting job.

Krenzel threw three touchdown passes and Lydell Ross ran for 125
yards to lead Ohio State (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) to a 33-23 victory over Michigan State (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) on Saturday.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said on Tuesday that he hoped to
get backup Scott McMullen into the game early because of the way
McMullen had played last week. It was McMullen's 5-yard pass to
Michael Jenkins with 1:35 left that gave the Buckeyes a 21-20 win
at Penn State while Krenzel watched from the sidelines with a mild
concussion.

"I wasn't motivated by being replaced; I was motivated by
offensively we haven't done as well as we should have all year
long," Krenzel said. "Coming down the stretch of this season
we're going to need to put some points on the board to help our
defense."

Ohio State moved into a tie for the top spot in the conference
heading into season-ending games against No. 16 Purdue and No. 8
Michigan.

The Buckeyes (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) turned the game around on Tyler
Everett's second-quarter interception and 66-yard return.

Jeff Smoker passed for 351 yards for the Spartans (7-3, 4-2),
but 265 yards came in the opening half. Smoker was 35-of-55 for two
touchdowns with two interceptions. The 55 attempts were one more
than John Leister's 1980 school mark and Smoker's 35 completions
were three more than the MSU mark he shared with Leister.

"They were coming hard," Smoker said of Ohio State's front
line. "It's one of the best defenses in the country. It's
definitely the best defense we've seen all year."

Ben Hartsock, Santonio Holmes and Ryan Hamby caught touchdown
passes from Krenzel.

"It was a textbook Krenzel performance," Hartsock said. "He
was checking at the line, firing the ball in there and he took some
risks today. He wasn't worried about losing his starting position.
He was only concerned with beating Michigan State."

Krenzel, 22-2 as a starter, completed 12 of 23 passes for 213
yards with one interception and added 33 yards rushing on 14
attempts. He entered the game with only six TD passes this season,
two in the last four games.

"This time of year in the Big Ten, wins are tough to come by,"
Krenzel said. "I'm just happy we walked away from this game with a
win against a great team. We've got two more great football teams
coming up."

The Buckeyes won their 15th consecutive home game before a crowd
of 105,194, the second largest ever at Ohio Stadium.

Ohio State took the second-half kickoff and needed just eight
plays to cover 80 yards, with Krenzel hitting tight end Hamby on a
2-yard play-action pass for a 24-10 lead.

On the kickoff, however, the Spartans' DeAndra Cobb sped up the
middle and then cut to the right sideline untouched for a 93-yard
touchdown return -- his third TD return of the season. It was the
first kickoff return for a score against Ohio State since Michigan
State's Larry Jackson also went 93 yards against the Buckeyes in
1984.

"I was just trying to get the momentum changed," Cobb said.
"We needed it. That was the only thing that was running through my
mind."

Ohio State's defense all but slammed the door shut the rest of
the way, limiting the Spartans to Smoker's 19-yard scoring pass to
Aaron Alexander with 3:21 remaining.

Mike Nugent kicked field goals of 44, 24, 42 and 18 for the
Buckeyes, the latter three stretching the lead to 33-17 before the
Spartans' final score.

Michigan State led 7-3 and was moving downfield early in the
second period. On second down at the Ohio State 18, Smoker was
pressured, underthrowing the ball down the left sideline. Everett
picked off the pass at the 6 and streaked past the Buckeyes bench
while teammates and coaches cheered him on and waved towels. He
brought the ball back 66 yards to the Michigan State 28.

The momentum had abruptly changed.

"That was big. Was it crucial? It really would have given us a
boost," Michigan State coach John L. Smith said. "Anytime you
make a mistake, it's vital -- especially against a team like that."

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel added, "Turnovers are the key to
everything. When there's a 70-yard flop on a turnover like that,
that's huge."

Ohio State picked up one yard on the next two plays but then
benefited from an offsides and a dead-ball personal-foul penalty to
get a first down at the 11.

Michigan State -- the most penalized team in the Big Ten -- had 12
penalties for 89 yards, many killing drives or extending Ohio State
possessions.

Krenzel then tossed a 17-yard strike to Hartsock for a 10-7
lead.

Michigan State punted on its next possession and Ohio State
wasted no time in making it 17-7 on Krenzel's 37-yard TD pass to
Holmes.

Michigan State had its fewest rushes ever -- 17 for 5 net yards --
against the nation's second stingiest defense against the run.

"We knew coming into the game we had to get after Smoker,"
defensive end Will Smith said. "Any time we can make a team
one-dimensional -- just throwing the ball -- it's in favor of the
defense."

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