Ohio State has been no stranger to adversity all throughout a 2020 season that has been plagued with starts and stops in play. But in the face of their biggest bout of adversity on Saturday, the Buckeyes responded with a resounding 52-12 victory over Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday afternoon to move to 5-0.
Led by another sensational effort from quarterback Justin Fields, Ohio State wracked up 521 yards of total offense en route to the blowout victory. Fields accounted for 303 total yards and four touchdowns on the day, and running back Trey Sermon ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
In need of a bounce-back performance after being torched for nearly 500 yards in their last performance, the Ohio State defense turned in its most complete effort of the season, forcing four turnovers and limiting Michigan State to just 260 yards of offense.
Leading into the game, all eyes were on who would simply be making the trip to East Lansing following an outbreak of COVID-19 cases that forced the cancellation of the Buckeyes’ game at Illinois last week. The news was not pleasant for the Buckeyes, who were forced to play without three starters along the offensive line and three more starters on defense.
While undermanned, Ohio State started fast and never let up against a Michigan State team that couldn’t stay out of its own way for much of the day.
After forcing a three-and-out to begin the game, Fields and the Ohio State offense wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard. Fields found Chris Olave for 16 yards on the first play of the drive, and a penalty for roughing the passer two plays later had the Buckeyes out near midfield on their opening drive.
Facing a third and goal from the Michigan State 2-yard line, Fields scrambled into the end zone to cap off a 12-play drive and give Ohio State an early 7-0 lead.
The two teams traded punts midway through the first quarter before Fields would strike once again. A 44-yard run by the quarterback on first down had the Buckeyes back in business, and two plays later, Fields connected with Garrett Wilson for a 28-yard touchdown to increase their lead to 14-0 late in the opening quarter.
Still unable to muster any offense on the ensuing drive, Michigan State was once again forced to punt the ball back to Ohio State early in the second quarter, and the Buckeye offense was on the move once more.
Beginning the drive at their own 25-yard line, Fields engineered a 10-play drive that included big plays of 24 yards on a completion to Wilson and a 25-yard run by Sermon down to the Michigan State 2-yard line. Two plays later, Fields found the end zone on his second rushing touchdown of the day as the Buckeyes began to pour it on.
Blake Haubeil’s extra point gave Ohio State a 21-0 lead over the Spartans with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
Not to be outdone, the Ohio State defense got in on the scoring late in the first half. Backed up to their own end zone, Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi dropped back to pass on third down. Buckeye defensive tackle Haskell Garrett got his hand on Lombardi’s pass, sending the ball fluttering in the air. Not one to let a rare opportunity slip away, Garrett plucked the ball out of the air in the end zone for a pick-six and a 28-0 Ohio State lead shortly before halftime.
Both teams punted on their opening possessions of the second half, but the Ohio State offense again found paydirt early in the third quarter.
On third and one from the Ohio State 36-yard line, Sermon raced 64 yards down the Buckeye sideline, picking up a late block from Fields to spring him into the end zone. Haubeil added the extra point and the rout was officially on in East Lansing as the lead grew to 35-0.
Michigan State would end Ohio State’s bid at a shutout on the ensuing possession. Payton Thorne, taking over for Lombardi, who left the game with a head injury late in the first half, found a wide-open receiver in Jayden Reed on a 55-yard completion to begin the drive. On the next play, Thorne kept the ball himself and ran 20 yards for a Spartan touchdown.
A fumble by receiver Chris Olave on Ohio State’s next drive, coupled with the defensive miscues on the prior drive, may have given Buckeye fans a moment of deja-vu, but it was short-lived as cornerback Shaun Wade picked off Thorne on the first play of the Michigan State drive, turning the ball back over to Fields and company with great field position.
Ohio State cashed in on the short field with a field goal to increase their lead to 38-7 with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter, and fourth-quarter touchdowns from Olave and true freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud salted away the dominant win for the Buckeyes.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.