Wells carries Bucks to 24-17 win
COLUMBUS, Ohio - It was truly a tale of two halves in today's Big Ten clash between Ohio State and Michigan St. The first saw complete dominance by the Buckeyes as they racked up nearly 250 yards of offense and jumped to a 17-0 lead. But the second was full of mistake after mistake for the No. 1 team in the nation.
"Well, it was an interesting game we played today," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "I thought our guys came out, played very, very solid first half and defensively I thought we played solid the whole game. Offensively, unfortunately, we gave away 14 points, which you can't do if you want to be the Big Ten champions, but fortunately our defense is who they are."
What looked to be a complete blowout quickly turned into nailbiter early on in the third quarter, when back-to-back drives saw the Buckeyes turn the ball over and returned for a Spartan touchdown. The first was an interception; the second a fumble. Both were by Boeckman. And on the Buckeyes's very next possesion, the team nearly fumbled away its national championship hopes - again.
Wells, who turned in a stellar performance with 31 and 221 yards, fumbled the ball inside his own 10-yard line, but a lucky bounce deflected right back into his arms. The Buckeyes were forced to punt the ball later in the drive though, much like every other Ohio State drive that quarter. The Spartans added a field goal on its next drive with under four minutes left in the game to cut their deficit to 24-17, but that was all they could muster offensivley as Wells pounded the ball seven straight times on the final drive to seal the victory.
"They did a good job bringing some blitzes off the front that we hadn't prepared for," Tressel said. "We still have to, when things go that way, we've got to hold on to the ball or take our sack, we've got to hand the ball to the official when we get done with the run that's not so good. We didn't panic, and it wasn't a good quarter for us offensively, but I thought our guys did a good job back there."
I'm not sure what happened to the Buckeyes in this second half, it's almost as if they quit trying. They lost track of simple fundamental things and it resulted in numerous mistakes. I hope this serves as a wake up call heading into a tough Penn State enviroment next week. Without the play of Wells and his ability to close out the game on his shoulders, this easily could have gone the other way. I really think this is exactly what the Buckeyes needed. I've been covering them all season and this was the first time they really seemed to be threatned by an opponent this late in the game.
I have no doubt that the next time Ohio State mounts a big lead, they'll be more aware of what can happen if they go on cruise control. And I have to give the Spartans credit, though they only had 185 yards of offense in this game, they made some good adjusments at halftime and were able to move the ball a bit more. Of course, only their defense was able to put anything on the board. You're not going to win games that way.
Key to the game: Ohio State's ability to shutdown the running game
I said at the beginning of the game that the outcome would be determined by the Spartans ability to run. Simply put, they just couldn't. Ringer had only 50 yards rushing in the game as the team finished with 60 in the contest - three yards less than the Buckeyes average this season. Too bad offensive turnovers are going to make this defense look a little more worse than it should.
Player of the Game: Beanie Wells
31 carries for 221 yards, 1 TD
For the first time all season, he's lived up to the hype as one of the nation's top running backs. He showed no letup with an ailing ankle to break off numerous big runs - the biggest coming in the first half when he broke off a 47-yard run. He carried the Buckeye's offense when his team needed him the most late in the game.
Play of the Game: Wells' 4-yard first down run on 3rd-and-3 with a minute left in the fourth
There were some great plays early on in the game, but after the momentum was completly shifted to Michigan St. in that second half, none proved to be more important than Wells' first down run in the closing moments of the game. Up by just a touchdown with nearly four minutes to play, Wells carried the ball seven straight times to wipe away all three Spartan timeouts. His final run sealed the Buckeye's eighth win of the season.
Quote of the night: Coach Tressel when asked if Beanie asked for the ball on that last drive:
"Beanie doesn't talk much -- I don't know if you guys have been around him -- especially on the field, does he? I don't ever remember getting a hello from Beanie on the field, so, no, he didn't."
REPORTER: Did you say anything to him, though?
COACH TRESSEL: "I don't talk much more either."
Next Up: Ohio State - 10/27 at Penn State 8 p.m.
Michigan St. - 10/27 at Iowa 1 p.m.