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Shorthanded Buckeyes handle Spartans

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Buckeyes came into this game shorthanded and with plenty to prove as pundits are already punching holes in their CFP candidacy. With no Ryan Day, a reshaped offensive line and 23 players unavailable, the Buckeyes went back to what worked and were too much for Michigan State in a 52-12 contest.

Max Wray, Matt Jones, Dawand Jones were all in the same lineup with guys like Justin Fields, Garrett Wilson and Shaun Wade. Day said earlier this week that the team would need to get contributions from everyone, and it happened in a big way.

MORE: Who was unavailable for the game?

It was a historic day as Larry Johnson filled in as head coach for the Buckeyes, making him the first African American head coach in Ohio State football history. The Buckeyes were also without Greg Mattison, Matt Barnes and Corey Dennis from the coaching staff, but just like with the players, it was a next man up call.

Justin Fields would lead the short-handed Buckeyes over Michigan State
Justin Fields would lead the short-handed Buckeyes over Michigan State (Scott Stuart)

Ohio State fans were worried about Fields' status leading up to the game but were let off the hook on Friday night when Buckeyes social media tweeted out an image of the Ohio State signal caller boarding the charter flight to East Lansing. Fields would go 17-24 for 199 yards and two touchdowns in the passing game, he would also have 13 carries for 104 yards and two scores on the ground.

The Buckeyes made an effort to make this a ground game and it worked with 322 yards on 48 carries. Along with Fields' two rushing TDs, Trey Sermon would have one (that Fields would throw a block after sprinting down the field) and one for back-up quarterback CJ Stroud.

Ohio State's defensive line got into the scoring fun in this one as well with Haskell Garrett tipping a Rocky Lombardi pass to himself in the end zone for a touchdown. In a strange twist, offensive guard Wyatt Davis would have offensive stats as well as he would haul in a Justin Fields pass for his first career reception, even if it was for minus-two yards.

Lombardi would get knocked out of the game for Michigan State late in the first half. His day would end at 5-11 passing for 33 yards and the one pick. Payton Thorne would step in and spark some offense, including a 55-yard pass to Jayden Reed and then followed up by a 20-yard run of his own to lead to Michigan State's first points of the game after being shut out for almost three quarters of the game.

Of course, the questions were brought up about Ohio State's secondary as well as Ohio State's second half issues.

Ohio State held Michigan State to just 80 yards in the first half, but for whatever reason, the second half continues to be an issue. Michigan State would score 12 points in the second frame along with picking up 181 yards. This was nowhere near the level of direness that Ohio State saw in its last game against Indiana, but it continues to be an issue and it almost seems to be a certain that it will eventually catch up to them.

The already thin Buckeyes dealt with some bumps and bruises in this one as Wyatt Davis had to be helped off the field in the 4th quarter, Fields had to leave the field for a play after being tended to with Stroud coming in as his understudy. Both Stroud and Jack Miller would see time in this one.

Needless to say, Ohio State fans are concerned about razor-thin depth at some spots with 23 players on the unavailable list this week and anyone with a positive COVID test will miss next week's game.

The Buckeyes are scheduled to wrap up the "regular season" next week against Michigan but that game is in a bit of jeopardy as the Wolverines cancelled their game against Maryland on Saturday due to their own COVID outbreak. The status of next weeks' game is still on, but time will tell if that game will be against the Wolverines or someone else as the Buckeyes need to get to six games played to be part of the Big Ten Championship game under currently Big Ten rules.

Keep it locked in here this week as a lot of things can change in a hurry.