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3 Up, 3 Down: Ohio State 17, MSU 16

9/30/2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A few things Ohio State will feel good about and some issues it will need to correct after opening Big Ten play with a 17-16 road win over Michigan State on Saturday.

THREE UP

1. Miller magic: After a week with a lighter workload, the ball was right back in Braxton Miller's hands and the weight was firmly on his shoulders. The sophomore quarterback can clearly still handle it, rushing for 136 yards on 23 carries and throwing for 179 more on 23 passing attempts with the game-winning touchdown toss thrown in for good measure. He was clearly sore when it was over, but Miller answered a stiff test against a hard-hitting defense.

2. Safety squeeze: Playing without starting safety C.J. Barnett for the second game in a row, the Buckeyes turned to Orhian Johnson and got another steady effort in the secondary. The senior was credited with five tackles and broke up three passes, though he might ultimately need to split the latter with fellow reserve safety Corey Brown after the two teamed up for a couple nice plays in coverage. Ohio State planned to put pressure on its defensive backs as it stopped the run, and they delivered.

3. Super seniors: One senior came into the season as a question mark because of injury, and another entered it as a full-time starter for the first time. The veterans put the experience they had to good use against the Spartans and gave the Buckeyes their only two sacks of the game, both of them critical third-down stops in the second half. Linebacker Etienne Sabino got his first at the end of the third quarter, and defensive end Nathan Williams followed that up with an intelligent read and athletic play to snuff a drive in the fourth.

THREE DOWN

1. Turnover trouble: The ball popped loose for two fumbles, and Miller also was guilty of firing a ball directly into coverage for an interception. The Buckeyes would have had a hard time winning without their quarterback, but it will be even more difficult for them to stay perfect if he continues to turn the ball over with that kind of regularity. Ohio State won't face many defenses as good as Michigan State's, and offensive coordinator Tom Herman indicated those problems could be fixed after the game -- and they'll need to be.

2. Variety show: Miller completed 16 passes, but there wasn't usually much mystery about where the ball was going. Corey "Philly" Brown was on the receiving end of 12 of those balls, and that might have contributed to the relatively low 7 yards per catch he posted as Michigan State swarmed to tackle him near the line of scrimmage. Devin Smith was productive on his two grabs, but the Buckeyes will need more targets moving forward.

3. Wrap up: The tackling problems that had plagued the Buckeyes for two weeks largely disappeared in a much more physical game, but the defense might still have one clip played for them over and over this week to reinforce the importance. At least four different players had a shot at bringing down Keith Mumphery on his 29-yard touchdown catch, with a couple guys not wrapping up and one failing to strip the ball and ultimately allowing the Michigan State receiver to plow into the end zone. That was the only trip to the end zone for the Spartans, but that won't make it palatable for the Buckeyes.