Stroud, No. 3 Ohio State ace first road test


EAST LANSING, Mich. — No. 3 Ohio State hit the road for the first time on Saturday, and the trip proved to be harmless as quarterback C.J. Stroud and the Buckeye offense bludgeoned the punchless Michigan State Spartans en route to a resounding 49-20 win on Saturday afternoon.

Stroud finished with 361 yards passing on 21 completions for the game, and his six touchdown passes tied his own single-game record on another banner day for the Heisman Trophy candidate.

Marvin Harrison was the prime beneficiary of Stroud’s prolific performance, hauling in seven passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns for this third game with three touchdowns already this season. Emeka Egbuka also eclipsed the 100-yard mark with 143 yards and a touchdown on five catches.

Down a running back in Miyan Williams, who did not travel with the team, TreVeyon Henderson returned from a one-game absence and paced the Ohio State ground attack with 119 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries before leaving in the third quarter with an injury.

For Michigan State, the defeat is the fourth consecutive loss after starting the season with two wins. The Spartans mustered just 202 yards of offense on the day while relenting 614 yards to Ohio State in yet another poor showing on both sides of the ball for third-year head coach Mel Tucker.

Things began to spiral quickly for Michigan State to begin the game. Ohio State forced a quick stop on the opening possession of the game when safety Lathan Ransom intercepted Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne in the end zone on a deep pass, and Stroud got the scoring started in a hurry on Ohio State’s first offensive possession.

A 16-yard completion to Egbuka had Ohio State out and running, and a 26-yard run by Henderson quickly moved the ball across midfield. Stroud capped off the seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Harrison to give Ohio State an early 7-0 lead.

Another quick punt by Michigan State had the Ohio State offense right back on the field, but a mixup between Stroud and Egbuka led to a Charles Brantley interception that was returned 32 yards for a touchdown. Jack Stone’s extra point was good and Michigan State evened the score at 7-7 with 8:32 to play in the first.

The interception was Stroud’s third of the season and the third consecutive game in which he’s thrown one.

Brantley’s interception and touchdown sent a charge through Spartan Stadium as the Michigan State faithful were reinvigorated, but the good vibes wouldn’t last long as there was no slowing down the Ohio State offense.

Just three plays into the ensuing drive, Stroud and Egbuka atoned for their cross-up by connecting for a 69-yard touchdown to quickly recapture the lead for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes would never trail again as Stroud added his third touchdown pass of the half early in the second quarter when he found Julian Fleming on a 51-yard scoring strike to open up a 21-7 advantage.

In danger of being buried early, Michigan State showed one last temporary gasp of life on their first possession of the second quarter with some considerable help from the Ohio State defense. A pass interference call on Ohio State cornerback Cam Brown gave Michigan State a new set of downs in Ohio State territory, and an illegal hands to the face penalty on Zach Harrison negated a third-down sack by Mike Hall.

Thorne made the most of the gifted yardage on the next play when he found Reed for 18 yards and a touchdown. Stone’s extra point was no good, however, and Ohio State’s lead was 21-13 with 10 minutes remaining in the half.

Henderson’s 1-yard touchdown run and Harrison’s second touchdown catch of the half blew the game open for Ohio State just before halftime as the Buckeyes cruised into the locker room with a 35-13 lead.

Ohio State outgained Michigan State 429-117 in total yardage in the first half, and the Spartans were held to just four yards rushing over the opening two quarters.

Ohio State immediately increased its lead on the opening possession of the second half. Stroud’s touchdown pass to Harrison capped a 10-play drive and essentially put the game away for the Buckeyes as they cruised from there.

Thorne was sacked by Hall on third down to end Michigan State’s opening drive of the second half, forcing the Spartans to punt the ball back to the Ohio State offense. Hall finished his afternoon with 2.5 sacks to lead the Buckeye pass rush.

Stroud added his sixth and final touchdown pass in the closing minutes of the third quarter when he found Gee Scott Jr. in the back of the end zone for Scott’s first collegiate touchdown, which increased Ohio State’s lead to 49-13.

With a massive lead, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day pulled Stroud and many of his starters following the score as the backups salted away the remaining quarter of play.

Following the game, Day admitted it felt a bit like nitpicking to poke holes in his team’s performance, but given the standard they’re chasing, also fair.

“We want to be the best in the country,” Day said. “That’s our goal, and we want to challenge to be the best in the country, so we have to figure out how we can get better in different areas. We’re not just going to sit here and say, ‘It was a great game so we’re good.’ No, we’re not. We have to keep building and keep growing, and that’s the point that we have to make sure we address in the bye week … Any given day, anything can happen.”

Ohio State will get its bye week at a much-needed time this upcoming week as the Buckeyes continue to deal with nagging injuries to several players. They return to the field on Oct. 22 when they host the Iowa Hawkeyes (3-2) in Ohio Stadium. A kickoff time has not yet been announced.

By Dillon Davis

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Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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