Photo courtesy of Michigan State athletics
Ohio State has won eight straight games over rival Michigan.
But that’s not the case for every school in the Wolverine State. On this day five years, shorthanded Michigan State used a late field goal to stun the reigning national champion Buckeyes and end their 23-game winning streak, 17-14.
Setting the Stage
Ohio State was ranked No. 3 in the country and riding a 23-game winning streak as it arrived at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 21, 2015. The Buckeyes were reigning national champions and had not played a game decided by fewer than seven points all season.
Michigan State was ranked ninth and two weeks removed from an unthinkable upset loss to Nebraska as it arrived at “The Horseshoe”. Without quarterback Connor Cook, a tall task had gotten even taller, but the Spartans found a way.
The Final Moments
Throughout the day, the contest was dominated by Michigan State’s defense. The Spartans held Ohio State to just 132 total yards, but entering the final quarter, they were on the short end of a 14-7 score.
With Cook out, Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry took turns at quarterback. Despite their strong arms, the two quarterbacks used their legs to help Michigan State draw even. The Spartans completed a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a touchdown with more than 12 minutes to play.
Thanks to a fourth down conversion and a third down conversion on runs by O’Connor, Gerald Holmes scored from two yards out to even the game. After an exchange of punts, the Michigan State defense made its biggest stop of the day.
With the Buckeyes pinned inside their own 10-yard-line with less than six minutes to play, Michigan State forced a timely 3-and-out. Following a punt, the Spartans began their final drive at the Ohio State 48 with more than four minutes remaining.
O’Connor and running back LJ Scott each converted big third downs with their legs. With just seconds remaining and the ball on the 24-yard-line, kicker Michael Geiger was sent onto the field to try to win the game.
With three seconds to go and the ball on the right hash mark, Geiger made the most of his opportunity. As time expired, he tucked his kick inside the left upright. Michigan State had slayed the giant, 17-14.
Prior to the game’s final snap, Ohio State never trailed. Ezekiel Elliott scored early in the second quarter to make it 7-0.
Michigan State answered less than five minutes later when O’Connor threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Trevon Pendleton. After a muffed punt late in the third quarter, the Buckeyes regained the lead on J.T. Barrett’s 6-yard touchdown toss to Jalin Marshall.
Michigan State possessed the ball for more than 38 minutes. Ohio State managed just five first downs.
The loss for Ohio State would be its lone blemish all season, but it did prevent the Buckeyes from a College Football Playoff berth and a chance at defending their national title. They closed the year with a 12-1 record, Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame and No. 4 national ranking.
Michigan State would go on blast Penn State and then edge Iowa in the Big Ten Championship. The Spartans would fall to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff, 38-0. A playoff berth however, would never have been in the equation without the upset in Columbus that took place on this day five years ago.