Michigan State 28, (1) Ohio State 24
November 7, 1998
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Top-ranked Ohio State lost its perfect season when sophomore cornerback Renaldo Hill intercepted Joe Germaine in the end zone with 72 seconds left to preserve Michigan State's stunning 28-24 triumph against the Big Ten Conference powerhouse.
The Buckeyes (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) had been ranked No. 1 since the preseason and made it to the top spot in the second week of the Bowl Championship Series standings. But they were knocked from that perch just as fast.
"Realistically, I don't think we have a chance of winning the national championship," Ohio State coach John Cooper said. "A lot of things would need to happen and I don't have a clue how far we'll drop."
Normally, Ohio State's season hangs in the balance when it finishes the regular season against Michigan. But the Buckeyes instead watched the less-heralded school from that state score 19 unanswered points to steal the win.
"Our team showed a lot of character, maturity on their part to get back into the game and play their way to finish strong," said coach Nick Saban of Michigan State (5-4, 3-2). "We had to come in today as the squirts who had to pick a fight with the bully. Not that we wanted to pick one, but it was on the schedule, so we had to do it. ... We played the game like we had nothing to lose."
"This one hurts. There's no question about it," Cooper continued. "But we can still have a good season. We still have a chance to win this league. We need to regroup, have a good week of practice and do something we haven't done in a while and that's beat Michigan."
Despite getting dominated in the second half in front of a neutralized crowd, Ohio State still had a chance to win. The Buckeyes took over at their own 49 after David Boston returned a punt 24 yards and Germaine completed passes of 16 and 20 yards to take the ball to the Michigan State 15.
After three incompletions, Hill stepped in front of Dee Miller in the front left corner of the end zone and tipped the ball with his right hand before corraling it and running out of bounds at the 2.
"I told the team it was going to be a 15-round fight and we needed to be Rocky in that 15th round," Saban said.
"We've been in positions like that before and we got close and we never doubted that we could do it. We just came up short," Germaine said. "All losses hurt, but this one especially. It was very quiet in the locker room and it should be. We had some high expectations for this team. We can still have a good season."
Ohio State had any momentum halted on its previous drive. The Buckeyes drove 55 yards in 12 plays -- all runs -- over 5:45 to the 26. But Joe Montgomery was stopped on 4th-and-1, as linebacker T.J. Turner shot the gap to make the first hit and the rest of the Spartans defense swarmed.
The Buckeyes' previous possession resulted in the field goal that made it a four-point game. Germaine was sacked at his own 40 by defensive end Julian Peterson, who jarred the ball loose for defensive tackle Josh Shaw to recover at the 18. That led to the last of Paul Edinger's record-tying five field goals, a 42-yarder that made it 28-24 with 9:26 left.
"The key play of the ball game, obviously, is when Joe Germaine fumbled the ball," Cooper said. "We're lucky they didn't score a touchdown.
"We let them in. Instead of putting them away, we let them beat us."
Edinger tied his own school record for field goals in a game, while Peterson, the replacement for All-America Robaire Smith, had nine tackles, including three for losses totaling 21 yards. Linebacker Josh Thornhill and safety Aric Morris combined for 27 tackles.
Bill Burke completed just 18-of-46 passes for 323 yards and one touchdown with one interception, hitting Plaxico Burress four times for 125 yards as Michigan State held a 377-353 advantage in total yards.
Sedrick Irvin gained 52 yards on 26 carries and Gari Scott caught six passes for 88 yards for the Spartans.
Germaine was 16-of-34 for 239 yards and an interception and Michael Wiley carried 22 times for 100 yards. Miller caught five passes for 74 yards and Boston was limited to five for 43. Miller is fourth all-time at Ohio State in receptions and has caught a pass in 24 straight games. Boston has receptions in 29 consecutive contests.
Michigan State trailed 24-18 heading into the final quarter but Irvin capped an eight-play, 92-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-1. Burke kept alive the drive with a 12-yard pass to Scott to the Michigan State 28 on 3rd-and-2.
Another of Ohio State's four fumbles led to a field goal by Edinger, a 49-yarder that closed the Spartans within 24-18 with 4:55 left in the third quarter. Wiley had the ball knocked out of his hands by Turner and recovered by defensive tackle Pete Govens at the Buckeyes 34.
Safety Scott Ernsberger saved a disaster, recovering a fumbled Ohio State punt for Michigan State at its own 49. Five plays and 51 yards later, the Spartans were in the end zone on Burke's 23-yard scoring pass to Lavailo Richardson with 6:02 left in the third quarter. Edinger's missed extra point left the Spartans within 24-15.
"Funny things happen in football and that's why we play these games," Saban said. "Because when a team plays possessed and are really inspired about what they can do, we have good football players, they have good football players, but ours played good enough to win."
Ohio State looked like it had the game in hand with 9:51 remaining in the third when safety Damon Moore stepped in front of tight end Chris Baker to intercept a pass by Burke and run it back untouched 73 yards down the sideline for a touchdown and a 24-9 lead.
Peterson sacked Germaine and jarred the ball loose for Shaw to recover at the Ohio State 28, setting up a 22-yard field goal by Edinger that brought the Spartans within 17-9 with 11:02 left in the second quarter. Edinger's 43-yarder on the previous possession made it 17-6.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield sacked Burke and took away the ball at the Michigan State 11. Wiley carried four straight times, including a one-yard touchdown that gave the Buckeyes a 17-3 lead with 39 seconds left in the first quarter.
Dan Stultz got Ohio State on the board 2:34 into the game with a 20-yard field goal and Edinger countered with a 33-yarder just over four minutes later. Germaine broke the tie with a 41-yard scoring pass to tight end John Lumpkin with 6:25 remaining in the first quarter.
NCAAF 1 2 3 4 F - - - - -- Michigan State 3 6 9 10 28 (1) Ohio State 17 0 7 0 24 FINAL Ohio St-FG Stultz 20 Michigan St-FG Edinger 33 Ohio St-Lumpkin 41 pass from J Germaine (Stultz kick) Ohio St-Wiley 1 run (Stultz kick) Michigan St-FG Edinger 43 Michigan St-FG Edinger 22 Ohio St-Moore 73 interception return (Stultz kick) Michigan St-Richardson 23 pass from Burke (kick failed) Michigan St-FG Edinger 49 Michigan St-Irvin 3 run (Edinger kick) Michigan St-FG Edinger 42 Michigan St Ohio St First downs 16 21 Rushed-yards 34-48 47-114 Passing yards 329 239 Sacked-yards lost 1-7 3-35 Return yards 62 124 Passes 19-47-1 16-34-1 Punts 6-38.0 7-38.6 Fumbles-lost 1-1 4-4 Penalties-yards 2-14 5-64 Time of possession 30:38 29:22 Individual Statistics RUSHING: Michigan St-Irvin 26-52, Clemons 2-3, Burke 6-minus 7 Ohio St-Wiley 22-100, Montgomery 11-41, Keller 4-7, Boston 1-7, J Germaine 9-minus 41. PASSING: Michigan St-Burke 18-46-1-323, Irvin 1-1-0-6. Ohio St-J Germaine 16-34-1-239. RECEIVING: Michigan St-Scott 6-88, Burress 4-125, Baker 4-59, Richardson 1-23, Haygood 1-18, Irvin 1-8, Burke 1-6, Clemons 1-2. Ohio St-Miller 5-74, Boston 5-43, Lumpkin 2-61, Wiley 2-43, Keller 2-18. Att: 93,595