for this game

Top-ranked Ohio State avoids upset bug, beats Michigan State

Oct 21, 2007 - 12:42 AM COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- History both past and present suggested Ohio State would struggle on Saturday. But the top-ranked team in the nation refused succumb to the upset bug.

Todd Boeckman threw a pair of touchdowns Saturday and Chris Wells set a career high with 221 yards on the ground to lead the No. 1 Buckeyes to a 24-17 Big Ten Conference victory over upset-minded Michigan State.

Brian Robiskie caught a 50-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter which proved to be the winning score for Ohio State, which avoided being the third No. 1 team to fall this season.

"We never panicked today," Robiskie said. "We have done a great job all year not depending on one guy to make plays. We played together and came out on top."

In both 1974 and 1998, an unranked Michigan State team took down top-ranked Ohio State. The Spartans scored the last 19 points of the 1998 contest to rally for a 28-24 upset.

The Buckeyes jumped out to a 24-0 lead Saturday and watched as the Spartans scored 17 unanswered points.

"We hung in there the whole game," Boeckman said. "We made some mistakes, but we came out and got a victory and that is the good part."

But Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) would not allow a repeat of the 1998 upset, using a 3 1/2-minute drive to end the game and keep the ball out of the hands Michigan State (5-3, 1-3).

Boeckman got the Buckeyes started on the opening drive of the game, leading his team 93 yards in just over three minutes and capping the seven-play drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ballard.

Ryan Pretorius' 42-yard field goal on Ohio State's next drive increased the lead to 10-0.

Wells, who saw limited action due to injury last week against Kent State, showed no ill effects and rushed for a five-yard score in the second quarter to send the Buckeyes into halftime with a 17-0 lead.

"We knew for us to be a good team, we were going to need (Wells) to be a warrior, a workhorse," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said, "That's what he wants to be. That's what we want him to be."

When Boeckman hit Robiskie in the third to make it 24-0, an upset seemed highly unlikely.

But the Spartans - led by first-year coach Mark Dantonio, who was the defensive coordinator on Ohio State's 2002 national championship team - turned up the pressure on Boeckman.

Safety Otis Wiley intercepted a pass and returned it 54 yards to put Michigan State on the board. Two plays later, defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic sacked Boeckman and forced a fumble, which line backer SirDarean Adams returned 25 yards to make it a 24-14 game.

"We came for the walk through Friday and I had a vision of an interception," Wiley said. "I was put in and knew I had to go out hard. I played like it was my last game. I was just glad to be able to help my team."

Saint-Dic's forced fumble was his eighth of the season, good for first in the nation.

"They did a good job bringing some blitzes off the front that we hadn't prepared for," Tressel said. "We still have to, when things go that way, we've got to hold on to the ball or take our sack, we've got to hand the ball to the official when we get done with the run that's not so good.

"We didn't panic, and it wasn't a good quarter for us offensively, but I thought our guys did a good job back there, coming-out zone as we called it, seemed like we were pinned down a couple times, I thought our guys raised up and ran the ball, our goal is to be able to rush the ball for 200 yards and I think we were close to that."

The Spartans added a fourth-quarter field goal but would get no closer, as Wells rushed seven times on the Buckeyes' final drive for 36 yards to ensure the win.

"We had a great comeback, but when you play a great defense like Ohio State, you cannot afford to put yourself in a hole," Dantonio said. "We couldn't move the ball on offense because they made us one-dimensional.

"Defensively, we had opportunities. We just gave up a little too much early on. You have to give Ohio State credit for the way they played, but I was impressed by the fight in our guys and how they kept playing and making good things happen."