Just Give Mark Dantonio the Coach of the Year Award Right Now
Michigan State just knocked Ohio State from the ranks of the unbeaten.
On the road. With a one-dimensional offense. And without five starters, and even more contributors. And with a pair of guys with less than 60 combined career pass attempts splitting time at quarterback .
And--oh yeah-- the most successful and decorated signal caller in school history watched from the sideline.
The Spartans effectively salvaged their season after what looked like a crippling loss two weeks ago at Nebraska, and they did it by winning on the road against the defending national champions who had won 23 consecutive games.
The way they did it was even more impressive. Michigan State has been tormented by injuries all season. Key starters Ed Davis, RJ WIlliamson and Vayante Copeland had all been lost for the season by the time Saturday rolled around, and more guys have missed time throughout the campaign. But the injury bug dealt its cruelest blow yet to the Spartans when Connor Cook was forced to sit out versus the Buckeyes.
So Dantonio and co. knew they would have to get it done with the inexperienced tandem of Tyler O'Connor and Damien Terry at quarterback. Translation: MSU was going to have to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in order to win.
And that's exactly what happened.
For the first time all season, the Spartans' offensive line imposed their will on their opponent. They gashed Ohio State, which had been top 25 in the nation in rush defense. And the Buckeyes knew it was coming, given the youth MSU had at QB.
Michigan State's play calling was seriously lopsided in favor of keeping the ball on the ground, too. But even though they knew it was coming, Ohio State still couldn't stop the run. That's the definition of imposing your will.
But what MSU did on defense was even more stunning. The Spartans shut down Ohio State's potent offense. They were the first team to hold Ezekiel Elliott under 100 yards rushing in 15 games. In fact, they held him to 33 yards on 12 carries--this is a guy who was averaging 140 yards on the ground per game this season.
Michigan State turned J.T. Barrett, the guy who lit the Spartans up like a Christmas tree a season ago, into a non-factor. The Buckeyes' QB finished just 9-of-16 passing for 46 yards.
And the only two scores Ohio State mustered against the Spartan defense came courtesy of turnovers from MSU's offense.
It's obvious Dantonio deserves at least some consideration for the nation's coach of the year. But when you consider all the circumstances surrounding the Spartans and the way they just dominated No. 3 Ohio State on the road, it seems to me we should just give the guy the award right now.
Here are some more crazy stats from MSU's 17-14 win over the Buckeyes.
Dantonio gave Urban Meyer a heavy dose of Woody Hayes-style football.
MSU ran 34 offensive snaps over the final two quarters of play. Just four of those were passes, and only one of those four were completed.
Yes, you read that correctly: Michigan State ran the ball on 34 of 38 second-half plays.
If you watched the game, it's clear the Spartans won up front. But the proof really is in the pudding.
MSU ran the ball 51 times (!) for 203 yards. The Buckeyes rushed 29 times for just 86 yards--that's less than 3 yards per carry.
We all know OSU has an explosive offense. So playing keep away from them is a great strategy.
Easier said to done, but the Spartans did it. They possessed the ball for 38:10 on Saturday, nearly doubling-up Ohio State's 21:50. That's a stranglehold on time of possession, and it effectively kept the Buckeyes from getting into an offensive rhythm.
The Spartans converted on seven of 15 third downs.
And while on defense, they held Ohio State to a paltry 4-of-14 on third downs.
L.J. Scott had a big day for the Spartans, especially on MSU's last two drives when he carried the ball 10 times for 54 yards. He helped get State into better field position for what turned out to be the game-winning field goal from Michael Geiger (another Ohioan).
Scott was a highly sought-after recruit out of Hubbard, Ohio. OSU wanted him, too, but he chose the Spartans over the national power in his home state.
ESPN College GameDay's Lee Corso has picked against MSU all three times this season the Spartans have been featured as the primary contest on the program.
He's 0-3 (Oregon, Michigan and now Ohio State).
With the game-winning field goal as time expired Saturday, the Spartans have beaten both Michigan and Ohio State this year while leading for exactly 0 seconds in each game.
Michigan State has now beaten OSU four straight times when the Buckeyes are undefeated in November or later (1974, 1998, 2013, 2015).
Urban Meyer only has two losses to Big Ten teams since he arrived in Columbus in 2012.
Both of those came at the hands of the Spartans.
After toppling No. 3 OSU, Michigan State has now won eight of its past 10 games versus the AP Top 25.
Even more impressive: The Spartans are 6-1 against the AP Top 5 under Dantonio.