NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The spread offense Urban Meyer used at his previous coaching stops isn’t totally clicking right now at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes are winning anyway.
“We’ve got to score more points on offense,” Meyer said. “I like a 70 every once in a while. We’re happy to be 5-0 and a chance to go 6-0.”
Relying on quarterback Braxton Miller’s mobility and a suddenly-stingy defense, the Buckeyes edged Michigan State 17-16 on Saturday, giving Meyer a victory in his first Big Ten game as Ohio State’s coach. The Buckeyes moved up two spots to No. 12 in the AP poll Sunday, and the Spartans fell out of the Top 25.
Miller hurt Michigan State with his arm and his feet, and it was his 63-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith in the third quarter that put Ohio State ahead to stay. He also turned the ball over three times in opposing territory, but Meyer wasn’t sweating that too much after his team slugged it out with a tough Michigan State team.
“That was a great game. This ranks as one of the great ones I’ve (ever coached),” Meyer said. “I’m very lucky to have been around some great players, some great teams. … This ranks as one of the top wins. This is fantastic.”
The Buckeyes aren’t eligible for the Big Ten title because of sanctions, but they can certainly send a message by rolling through the conference schedule. Michigan State, meanwhile, has a small hole to climb out of. The Spartans (3-2) play at Indiana next weekend after dropping their conference opener.
Running back Le’Veon Bell, a workhouse so far this season, was held to 45 yards on 17 carries Saturday. Michigan State could take some solace in a polished performance from Andrew Maxwell, who is in his first year as the starting quarterback. Maxwell threw for 269 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought Maxwell played well enough to win. He threw the ball very effectively,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “I can handle the mistakes if our guys play hard, compete, and play with energy. All of our goals are still in front of us. We still have to grow as a football team but I thought we played better. Even with a loss I thought we played very competitively and we played a good football team with some playmakers.”
Miller was chief among those playmakers. He threw for 179 yards and ran for 136 in a performance that had to be at least a little unnerving for Ohio State’s future opponents. And the defense, which entered the game ranked last in the Big Ten, rose to the occasion.
“We knew that they wanted to run the ball so that is what we were focused on,” Ohio State cornerback Ravis Howard said. “We had to make them one dimensional and shut down the run and make the quarterback beat us by throwing the ball.”
Ohio State returns home and will have a chance next weekend to hand a loss to another conference title contender when the Buckeyes face Nebraska.
“I thought our defense was good enough to play better the first four games — that’s how much confidence I’ve got in our players and coaches,” Meyer said. “I think we’ve got really, really good players. Do we have great players? We have a few of them.”
Against the Spartans, Miller contributed a couple nice runs, but the only really big play by the Buckeyes was his long pass up the right sideline to Smith. In a bruising, defense-first struggle, that was enough.
“I think it gave a little light to the team,” Smith said. “Once I made that play everyone on the sideline knew the game wasn’t over. It helped us push through the game and get the win.”
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