Buckeyes fall short of dream

It was nothing if not very disappointing to watch then-No. 2 Ohio State squander its golden opportunity to play in the BCS national championship game last Saturday night in Indianapolis.

The 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship contest instead relegated (and I’m sure that’s the way the Buckeye players feel about it) 12-1 OSU to the Orange Bowl in Miami at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 3 versus 10-2 Clemson and quarterback Tajh Boyd.

Even though the Buckeyes battled the then-No. 10 Spartans on pretty much even terms throughout, they had to rally back with a 24-point flurry from the middle of the second quarter to the 5:36 mark of the third in erasing a 17-0 MSU lead.

However, that was the high watermark of the night for Ohio State, which didn’t score again, but saw the Spartans tacked on another 17 points to earn a Rose Bowl berth.

Quarterback Braxton Miller (21-142 yards) and running back Carlos Hyde (18-118 yards) combined for all but one carry and 13 of the 273 rushing yards for OSU against a stout, rugged MSU defense indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium.

But the Spartans continued to capitalize on the inexplicable porous OSU secondary lately to scuttle any further comeback attempts after the Buckeyes again fell behind by 10 and could never make up any more ground on their tormentors.

The Buckeyes were able to run between the tackles to get back in the game, but their usually-proficient passing attack was anything but with only eight completions in 21 attempts for just 101 yards. Meanwhile for Michigan State, QB Connor Cook took advantage of the troubled Buckeye secondary, peppering it with 40 passes with 24 completions for 304 yards and three touchdowns.

Still, with MSU ahead only 27-24 in the fourth quarter, OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier partially blocked a punt that traveled just 19 yards to the Spartan 47 with 7:36 to play to put the Buckeyes in prime scoring position.

Three plays later though, they faced a 4th-and-2 at the MSU 39 and decided to go for it after a timeout at 5:46. Then came the defining moment in the game as Miller tried to run to the right, but got strung out toward the sideline and picked up only one yard to surrender the ball back to the Spartans with just 5:41 remaining.

You’ve been running – and having success up the middle – most of the night, but yet determine the best play in this situation is to go wide to try and get the needed two yards instead of letting Miller or Hyde take the shortest way, straight ahead, to the most important first down of the game.

Anyway six plays later, Michigan State settled the issue with a 26-yard TD scamper into the end zone at 2:16.

And after Miller threw four straight incomplete passes, the last with 1:13 left, the Spartans ran out the game clock, which eerily came almost at midnight as the clock struck 12 on Ohio State’s national championship dream.

Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at shemmelgarn@newsandsenhtinel.com