Buckeyes offense comes to life in 33-23 win over Spartans

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 9, 2003

COLUMBUS (AP) - Craig Krenzel threw three touchdown passes and Lydell Ross ran for 125 yards to lead No. 7 Ohio State to a 33-23 victory over No. 14 Michigan State on Saturday.

The Buckeyes (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) turned the game around on Tyler Everett's second-quarter interception and 66-yard return.

Ohio State moved into a tie for the top spot in the conference heading into season-ending games against No. 16 Purdue and No. 8 Michigan.

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Jeff Smoker passed for 351 yards for the Spartans (7-3, 4-2), but 265 yards came in the opening half. Smoker was 35-of-55 for two touchdowns with two interceptions. The 55 attempts were one more than John Leister's 1980 school mark and Smoker's 35 completions were three more than the MSU mark he shared with Leister.

Ben Hartsock, Santonio Holmes and Ryan Hamby caught touchdown passes from Krenzel, who missed most of last week's 21-20 victory over Penn State because of a mild concussion.

Krenzel, now 22-2 as a starter, completed 12 of 23 passes for 213 yards with one interception and added 33 yards rushing on 14 attempts. He entered the game with only six TD passes this season, two in the last four games.

The Buckeyes won their 15th consecutive home game before a crowd of 105,194, the second largest ever at Ohio Stadium.

Ohio State took the second-half kickoff and needed just eight plays to cover 80 yards, with Krenzel hitting tight end Ryan Hamby on a 2-yard play-action pass for a 24-10 lead.

On the kickoff, however, the Spartans' DeAndra Cobb sped up the middle and then cut to the right sideline untouched for a 93-yard touchdown return - his third TD return of the season. It was the first kickoff return for a score against Ohio State since Michigan State's Larry Jackson also went 93 yards against the Buckeyes in 1984.

Ohio State's defense all but slammed the door shut the rest of the way, limiting the Spartans to Smoker's 19-yard scoring pass to Aaron Alexander with 3:21 remaining.

Mike Nugent kicked field goals of 44, 24, 42 and 18 for the Buckeyes, the latter three stretching the lead to 33-17 before the Spartans' final score.

Michigan State led 7-3 and was moving steadily downfield for another score early in the second period. On second down at the Ohio State 18, Smoker backpedaled and was pressured, underthrowing the ball down the left sideline. Everett picked off the pass at the 6 and streaked past the Buckeyes bench while teammates and coaches cheered him on and waved towels. He brought the ball back 66 yards to the Michigan State 28.

The Spartans had just one turnover in their first five Big Ten games but had two against Ohio State, with Donte Whitner intercepting an overthrown Smoker pass.

The momentum had abruptly changed.

Ohio State picked up one yard on the next two plays but then benefited from an offsides and a dead-ball personal-foul penalty to get a first down at the 11.

Michigan State - the most penalized team in the Big Ten - had 12 penalties for 89 yards, many killing drives or extending Ohio State possessions.

After Krenzel was sacked by Clifford Dukes on second down for a 7-yard loss, the Buckeyes faced a third and 16 at the 17. But Krenzel stepped up in the closing pocket to avoid trouble and whipped a pass to the left flat where tight end Ben Hartsock rumbled into the end zone for the score and a 10-7 lead.

Michigan State punted on its next possession and Ohio State wasted no time in making it 17-7.

Taking over at their own 40, the Buckeyes picked up 21 yards on Krenzel's pass to Michael Jenkins at the right sideline. Two plays later, Krenzel threw over the middle on a crossing pattern to Holmes, with Holmes stopping quickly to sidetrack safety Greg Cooper, then shifting back into high gear to coast in for the 37-yard touchdown.

The Spartans drew to 17-10 at the half on Dave Rayner's 48-yard field goal.

Michigan State had its fewest rushes ever - 17 for 5 net yards - against the nation's second stingiest defense against the run.

Michigan State offensive tackle Stefon Wheeler was regaining feeling after hitting his head in the third quarter. Wheeler, a 6-foot-5, 319-pound sophomore from Passaic, N.J., hit his head on a player or the ground as Smoker kept on a third-and-short situation.

After several minutes laying motionless face down on the field, Wheeler was taken off the field by gurney. His parents were at his side as he was strapped to a back board and his neck and head were immobilized. Wheeler went through tests that did not reveal any broken bones in his neck or back.