A year ago, Ohio State was upset by Michigan State. This time, it was no upset. The Spartans were clearly superior.
Bill Burke passed for 174 yards and two touchdowns as No. 19 Michigan State rolled to a 23-7 victory over the 20th-ranked Buckeyes, who may have cost themselves a shot at a New Year's Day bowl game.
"You just saw an old-fashioned butt-whupping," Ohio State coach John Cooper said.
The Spartans' defense, tops in the Big Ten against the run, held Ohio State to zero yards rushing and just four first downs. The Buckeyes finished with 79 yards, all in the air on 8-of-23 passing with one interception.
"The key was to put as much pressure as possible on their quarterback," Spartans' cornerback Amp Campbell said. "We knew he had happy feet, so we didn't want to let him get comfortable in the pocket."
It was the Buckeyes' worst rushing performance since finishing with minus-22 yards rushing in a 32-7 loss to Michigan State in 1965. The last time Ohio State had less total offense was 1963 when Penn State held the Buckeyes to 63 yards.
"We just didn't do anything offensively," Cooper said. "We came here knowing that we had to establish the running game, but we couldn't do that. We just didn't block anyone."
Ohio State quarterbacks were sacked six times.
"They were bringing guys from everywhere linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties, and we didn't pick them up," Cooper said. "There were plays where we were in max protect and still couldn't get the ball off. That comes from the fact that we were no threat running. They could just blitz us at will. We never gave our quarterack a chance."
Burke completed 15-of-24, including a 17-yard touchdown to Plaxico Burress and a 1-yard scoring flip to Chris Baker.
Ohio State's only score came on a 4-yard touchdown toss from Steve Bellisari to Michael Wiley following a third-quarter interception. For the game, Bellisari was just 7-of-16 for 61 yards with one interception. He watched the fourth quarter from the bench.
"It was really tough out there, because they were blitzing on every play," said Austin Moherman, who replaced Bellisari. "The quarterback doesn't have a chance like that. We didn't have time to make our reads or find our receivers."
The Buckeyes didn't cross the 50 in the first half, going three-and-out on their last five possessions before halftime. Michigan State's swarming defense held the Buckeyes to just 61 yards in the half, nine on the ground.
Burke, meanwhile, was beginning to find the range and Michigan State's line was opening big holes for Lloyd Clemons and T.J. Duckett as the Spartans scored on three straight possessions to take a 17-0 halftime lead.
Paul Edinger's 35-yard field goal gave Michigan State a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter. Then bad things began happening to the Buckeyes.
A 20-yard punt by Dan Stultz gave Michigan State the ball at the Buckeyes 45. Burke had completions of 25 and 17 yards before hitting Burress with a 17-yard touchdown pass with 6:43 left in the half. Burress was wide open in the left corner after cornerback Nate Clements fell.
"Field position was a huge factor today," Burke said.
The Spartans went 49 yards in 10 plays on their next possession as Burke completed 4-of-5 for 40 yards, finishing the drive with a 1-yard pass to Baker.
It looked like the Buckeyes might score in the final minute of the second quarter, but Ken-Yon Rambo dropped Bellisari's long pass at the Michigan State 15 and two snaps later the Buckeyes punted again.
The Buckeyes went three-and-out on their first possession of the third quarter, too. Then their luck changed if only for a little while.
Ahmed Plummer stepped in front of Burress for an interception and returned it 37 yards to the Michigan State 3. The Buckeyes drew a false-start flag on their first snap, but two snaps later Bellisari threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Wiley, closing the gap to 17-7.
The Spartans came back with a 75-yard, 13-play drive to set up a 33-yard field goal. And on the first snap of Ohio State's next possession, Bellisari's pass was picked off by Richard Newsome, setting up another 33-yarder by Edinger and a 20-7 lead four seconds into the fourth quarter.
Moherman went the rest of the way at quarterback in place of Bellisari. He wasn't very effective, either, but did complete an 18-yard pass to Wiley with just over 10 minutes remaining for the Buckeye's first first down since early in the first quarter.
"This was probably our most importnt game of the season, because we had to stop the losing streak and get things back on track," said defensive end Robaire Smith, who had four tackles for the Spartans.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed