INDIANAPOLIS — Ohio State’s title dream is over.
The second-ranked Buckeyes sent a scarlet-drenched crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium home with shattered hearts in a 34-24 loss to Michigan State in Saturday night’s Big Ten championship game.
A back-and-forth thriller ultimately gave way to coach Urban Meyer’s first loss of a previously charmed two-year run in Columbus that will now fall one game short of a shot at the national title.
"We are all very blessed to have these kids on this team and I just love that locker room," Meyer said afterward, appearing dazed and exhausted. "This is going to haunt all of us for a little bit."
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Ohio State (12-1) flipped a 17-0 deficit into a 24-17 lead midway through the third quarter. Yet ultimately, the Buckeyes’ national-best 24-game winning streak ended in a hail of missed chances to a familiar spoiler, with Saturday night joining 1974 and 1998 as pained chapters in OSU history. MSU (12-1) ruined perfect — and potential championship-bound — OSU seasons all three times.
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Michigan State’s Connor Cook threw a nine-yard TD pass to tight end Josiah Price to nudge the Spartans ahead 27-24 early in the fourth quarter, and in a game defined by its wild swings, the Buckeyes did not have a final answer.
Trailing by three, OSU quarterback Braxton Miller rolled right on a fourth-and-2 sweep at the MSU 38 with 5:46 remaining. But his blockers whiffed and he was stuffed for no gain.
"That was my call," Meyer said. "Put the ball in the hands of our best player, run it to the boundary, and take a chance to try to win the game. ... I knew they would pressure us."
Jeremy Langford then punctuated the Spartans’ ensuing drive with a clinching 26-yard touchdown run, and moments later, the confetti rained down.
Michigan State is headed for its first Rose Bowl since 1988. The Buckeyes will likely still receive a BCS berth, possibly in the Orange Bowl in Miami.
In a game between one of the most prolific offenses in Big Ten history and Michigan State’s national-best defense, Cook’s career-high 304 yards passing for three touchdowns and MSU’s resilient defense was too much for the mistake-prone Buckeyes.
Miller ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries while Carlos Hyde rushed for 118 yards on 18 carries, though a lack of a passing game — accentuated by a series of drops — helped undo OSU. The Buckeyes were 1 of 10 on third down.
Ohio State spent much of the first half vacuuming the life out of the stadium.
A three-and-out on the opening drive foreshadowed its early offensive struggles while two third-down pass interference calls on Michigan State’s first series underscored its out-of-sorts defense.
Cook twice burned Ohio State’s maligned pass defense for deep touchdown passes — first with a 72-yard toss to Keith Mumphery, then a 33-yarder to Tony Lippett — as MSU dashed to a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Yet with the Buckeyes’ season on the brink of an ugly detour, desperation kicked in.
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Two plays after the Spartans went ahead 17-0, Miller scrambled for 48 yards and OSU was off. The Buckeyes kicked down MSU’s previously stone-walled rush defense with 24 unanswered points — Hyde running through them and Miller around them.
Miller lofted a 20-yard touchdown pass to Corey Brown and ran in third-quarter scores of eight and six yards.
Michigan State, though, had an answer.
Freshman kicker Michael Geiger, an Ottawa Hills graduate, sent in a 44-yard field goal and the Spartans went back ahead 27-24 with Cook’s nine-yard throwback TD pass to Price punctuating their next possession early in the fourth quarter.
Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio then went for the kill shot, calling for an onside kick. But the stunned Buckeyes were able to nudge the ball out of bounds to keep possession.
The Buckeyes then wasted back-to-back short fields, the final instance the one that will haunt OSU the most. Linebacker Ryan Shazier deflected a 19-yard punt that gave OSU the ball at the MSU 39 with 7:36 left in the game. Miller, though, was stuffed on the fourth-and-two sweep.