EAST LANSING - Braxton Miller threw for 179 yards and ran for 136, and No. 14 Ohio State held off No. 20 Michigan State 17-16 on Saturday, giving Urban Meyer a win in his first Big Ten game as Buckeyes coach.
Miller put Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) ahead 17-13 with a 63-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith in the third quarter, and the Buckeyes' maligned defense held Le'Veon Bell and the Michigan State running game in check. Meyer becomes the third coach to start 5-0 in his first season at Ohio State. Carol Widdoes and Earle Bruce also did it in 1944 and 1979.
Michigan State (3-2, 0-1) has lost four home games in a row against Ohio State.
"I thought our guys played extremely hard and I'm proud of them," said Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. "When you lose a game 17-16 you have a tendency to say what if a lot and look at single plays and how they would have made a difference. But I was very proud of our football team. We have to stay balanced as a team and run the ball more effectively. I was impressed with Andrew Maxwell today throwing the football.
"They (Ohio State) scored on the opening series and on a long touchdown pass. Braxton Miller is a very exciting player as we knew coming into the game, and he took a lot of bad plays and made them good ones. He got out of trouble quite often and is a very good player as we knew."
Michigan State took a 13-10 advantage in the third on a terrific individual effort by Keith Mumphery. With the ball on the Ohio State 29 after a personal foul call on the Buckeyes, Mumphery took Andrew Maxwell's short pass and eluded four tacklers before dragging a couple more Buckeyes into the end zone.
The lead didn't last long. Miller barely picked up a first down with a run on third-and-1, then lofted a deep pass on the next play to Smith, who beat Johnny Adams along the right sideline to put Ohio State ahead to stay.
Miller turned the ball over three times in Michigan State territory, including a fumble early in the fourth -- but the Buckeyes actually caught a break on that play. The ball bounced right to Kurtis Drummond of the Spartans, who began running down the right sideline before the play was blown dead and Miller was ruled down.
The call was reversed after a review, giving Michigan State the ball at its own 32 -- but the Buckeyes were saved from a big return that would have almost surely have followed if the call had been correct to begin with.
The Buckeyes then appeared to have stopped the Spartans when Maxwell underthrew a pass on fourth-and-1 from the Ohio State 44, but Travis Howard was called for defensive holding on the opposite side of the field, keeping the drive alive.
Dan Conroy's 48-yard field goal pulled Michigan State within a point with 7:07 remaining.
Miller remained down holding his left knee after his fumble but was able to come back the next time Ohio State had the ball. The Spartans forced a three-and-out anyway and took over at their own 20 with 5:39 left, down 17-16.
They could manage only one first down before having to punt, and they never got the ball back.
"When you lose by one point it's a big failure," Dantonio said. "I can handle the mistakes if our guys play hard, compete, and play with energy. All of our goals are still in front of us. We still have to grow as a football team but I thought we played better. Even with a loss I thought we played very competitively and we played a good football team with some playmakers."
Miller was 16 of 23 with an interception. Maxwell went 22 of 42 for 269 yards.
Bell ran for only 45 yards on 17 carries for the Spartans.
Ohio State drove 75 yards in eight plays to open the game, taking a 7-0 lead on Jordan Hall's 1-yard scoring run. Miller had runs of 20 and 13 yards on the drive, but he was hit along the sideline at the end of the latter one and was shaken up.
He had to leave the game but was back for his team's next possession.
The Spartans answered immediately with a 34-yard field goal by Conroy, and that was all the scoring for the half. Miller threw an interception and lost a fumble in second quarter, but Conroy missed a 42-yard attempt in the final minute.