EAST LANSING, Mich. - Earle Bruce always smiles when Ohio State wins a football game and anytime the coach he mentored, Urban Meyer, wins.
But he must have enjoyed OSU's 17-16 win over Michigan State more than most. Somewhere, Woody Hayes was probably smiling too.
The calendar said 2012 but this was definitely old-style football.
Ohio State's much-criticized defense rose to the challenge of stopping Michigan State's standout running back Le'Veon Bell and limited the Spartans to only one touchdown and three field goals.
Offensively, they put the ball in the hands of quarterback Braxton Miller, who ran for more than 100 yards for the third time in OSU's six games, for most of the afternoon.
And then when they got three first downs in the final four minutes to protect a one-point lead, they handed the ball to 235-pound running back Carlos Hyde to convert two of those opportunities.
"That was two sledge hammers going at each other," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said.
Meyer has always insisted his spread offense has many elements of power football in it. Saturday, his power offense had many elements of spread football in it.
Miller rushed for 145 yards on 23 carries and hit 16 of 23 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. Hyde gained 49 yards on 11 carries after missing the last two games with a sprained knee ligament.
Defensively, OSU took Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell out of the game, holding him to 47 yards on 17 carries. The 245-pound running back came into the game averaged 152 yards a game on the ground.
Michigan State did not get a first down running the ball in the game and had to rely on quarterback Andrew Maxwell (22 of 42 for 269 yards and a touchdown) for much of their offense.
The tackling problems OSU's defense has had all season appeared once in a big way when Michigan State's Keith Mumphery escaped four tackles and dragged two more defenders into the end zone on a 29-yard touchdown catch that put the Spartans up 13-10 with 4:49 left in the third quarter.
But other than that, No. 14 Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) was steady on defense.
"Our main focus this week was stopping their running game," linebacker Ryan Shazier said. "I knew our defense was good enough to do this."
Meyer said, "We found out something about our team today. To go on the road in a hostile environment against a quality football team and find a way to win and answer every drive with another drive, when it was time to go make a play, they did it."
It looked like the predictions of a low-scoring defensive battle might be wrong when both teams scored on their first possession. Ohio State marched 75 yards for a touchdown after taking the opening kickoff, with Jordan Hall going one yard for the score. Then No. 20 Michigan State (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) got a field goal on its first possession.
But then the defenses settled in, with the teams trading field goals. Drew Basil hit a 26-yarder to give Ohio State a 10-6 lead with 6:08 left in the third quarter, just before Mumphery's score gave Michigan State a 13-10 lead.
It was only three plays after that, though, when Miller found his favorite big-play receiver, Devin Smith, with a 63-yard touchdown pass to give Ohio State a 17-13 lead.
After a fumble by Miller his second of the game MSU's Dan Conroy hit a 48-yard field goal with 7:07 to play.
The only other time Michigan State had the ball after that, Ohio State's defense came up with big plays.
With the Spartans facing third down and seven yards to go at their own 39-yard line, linebacker Etienne Sabino sacked Maxwell for a 7-yard loss, forcing a punt. MSU never got the ball again.
The clincher came when Hyde went five yards on a third down and four yards to go situation with just over two minutes to play.
Michigan State was out of timeouts and OSU was able to run out the clock.
"The last timeout, Coach Meyer came over to the offense and said, 'This is the game right here. If you get this first down, the game's over. We knew what was at stake but that moment there just kind of exploded it for us," offensive tackle Reid Fragel said..