Ohio State finds offense in rout of Spartans
Terrelle Pryor became the first player to tell Ohio State coach Jim Tressel to bench him if he didn’t produce.
Then, the Buckeyes’ quarterback made the request moot against Michigan State.
Pryor turned some of his potential into production, running for a score and throwing for another in the first quarter to help the 12th-ranked Buckeyes build a four-touchdown lead en route to a 45-7 win Saturday over the 20th-ranked Spartans.
‘‘He stopped in my office right before we left Friday and said, ‘If I don’t move the ball down the field, you should bench me,’’’ Tressel recalled. ‘‘That’s just the way he is.’’
The freshman finished 7-of-11 for 116 yards and a TD and had 72 yards rushing on 12 carries, including an 18-yarder for a score early in the game.
Pryor showed poise and touch when he threw before sitting on the big lead with handoffs.
When he ran, Pryor displayed speed and power by running past defenders and stiff-arming some to the ground.
‘‘It’s just like high school,’’ said Pryor, who became a YouTube sensation as a prep star in Pennsylvania.
The Buckeyes (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) stayed in first place atop the conference as did Penn State, setting up a marquee matchup Saturday night at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State’s Chris ‘‘Beanie’’ Wells had season highs with 31 carries, 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
‘‘Pryor played an excellent game and Wells was dominant,’’ Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. ‘‘They came together today and had zero turnovers.’’
Meanwhile, the Spartans had three fumbles and two interceptions after losing the ball just six times in their first seven games.
‘‘Five turnovers? That’s a loss. Missed tackles? That’s a loss,’’ Dantonio said. ‘‘But we’re a 6-2 football team. We have to move on.’’
Wells’ second TD put Ohio State ahead 28-0 midway through the second quarter.
A big play on defense early in the fourth ended Michigan State’s comeback hopes.
After allowing backup quarterback Kirk Cousins to drive the Spartans down the field for a TD to open the second half, Malcolm Jenkins’ sack forced Cousins to fumble and defensive end Thaddeus Gibson scooped up the football and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown.
‘‘We were working to at least try and be respectable,’’ Dantonio said. ‘‘You can’t snap your fingers and say, ‘It’s 28-all.’ You have to claw your way back. If we could’ve gotten to 14 and been down 14, the whole complexion of the sideline changes.’’
The Buckeyes added a field goal and returned another fumble for a TD to finish the rout of Michigan State, which hadn’t lost by 38 points to match the combined total from Dantonio’s seven previous setbacks.
The Spartans were off to their best start since 2003, but seemed to show they’re not ready to be a contender in a conference dominated recently by the Buckeyes.
‘‘I didn’t expect to get beat like that,’’ Javon Ringer said.
Michigan State was handed its most lopsided loss at home since Nick Saban’s debut in 1995, when they by 40 to Nebraska.
‘‘I thought we did a good job in warmups today,’’ Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said sarcastically when asked what his unit did well on defense.
Ringer was held to season lows with 67 yards rushing and 16 attempts a day after the school launched a Web site to tout him as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
‘‘Our D-line did a great job of letting us fly around and make plays,’’ linebacker James Laurinaitis said.
Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer didn’t start the second half against because of an injured right hand, but returned in the fourth quarter. Hoyer was scheduled for a concussion test Sunday.
Hoyer finished 5-of-13 for 27 yards and an interception. Cousins was 18-of-25 for 161 yards with a TD, interception and fumble.
Michigan State will get a chance to bounce back next week at Michigan Stadium, where the Spartans haven’t won since 1990.
Ohio State is shooting for its fourth straight Big Ten title and perhaps a third straight appearance in the BCS national championship game, winning five straight since getting blown out at USC.
Pryor helped the Buckeyes score 21 points in the first quarter against a team that hadn’t allowed a point in its first four home games this season and was giving up less than 17 points a game overall.
He was 5-for-5 for 86 yards in the first quarter and ran for 62 yards on four carries, including a 32-yard gain on the opening drive, that made Pryor smile when recalling what he told Tressel the previous day.
‘‘I wanted to let him know if I don’t take us down the field, bench me,’’ Pryor said. ‘‘I love when I have to challenge myself.’’