The Michigan State Spartans are without Connor Cook in their biggest game of the year but have been able to hold serve, as they are tied with the Buckeyes at seven at the half.
Arguably the biggest blow to MSU’s chances came before the game — when it was announced that Cook would not be starting for the first time in 37 games.
MSU’s offense got off to a slow start, totaling just 27 yards in the first quarter, putting the pressure on its defense.
MSU’s defense responded with arguably its best half of the year. Montae Nicholson led the Spartan defense with six first-half tackles to go alongside Jon Reschke who totaled five tackles and a sack.
The game’s first momentum-changer came late in the first quarter, when Damien Terry was stripped by Joey Bosa and OSU recovered deep in MSU territory.
On the ensuing Buckeye drive, MSU’s defense put up a front as long as they could, but ten plays and 32 yards later, Ezekiel Elliott punched in a one-yard run to put OSU on the board first.
No Cook, no problem.
Tyler O’Connor responded by leading a nine-play, 75-yard drive, capped off by a 12-yard play action pass to Trevon Pendleton who dove for the pylon — and with the help of a Michael Geiger extra point — tied the game at seven.
That’s where it remained, thanks to a throwback performance by the Michigan State defense.
The Spartans bottled up everything the Buckeyes tried in the first half, who finished the game’s first two quarters with just 75 total yards.
J.T. Barrett completed just five of nine pass attempts for 29 yards, and MSU contained Heisman candidate Ezekiel Elliott to just 30 rushing yards on 10 carries.
The rain was initially thought to be a burden to the Spartans, but so far, has turned into a blessing. The Buckeyes’ lethal offensive attack became somewhat one-dimensional, and MSU — who was going to need a potent rushing attack with the lack of Cook — rushed enough to take some pressure off of its two backup quarterbacks.
O’Connor, Terry and the Spartans will begin the second half with the ball.