COLUMBUS, Ohio – Troy Smith threw three long touchdown passes and Ashton Youboty returned a blocked field-goal attempt 72 yards for a score to lead No. 15 Ohio State to a 35-24 win over No. 16 Michigan State on Saturday in a game in which the Buckeyes didn’t run a play in Spartans territory until just over 5 minutes remained.

Ohio State’s first play in Michigan State territory was Smith’s 46-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes that gave the Buckeyes (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) the lead for good with 4:56 left. Holmes caught the short pass, then shed a tackle by cornerback Jaren Hayes before racing down the left sideline and dive into the end zone.

Ohio State’s defense set a school record by sacking Spartans quarterback Drew Stanton 12 times for 58 yards in losses. Bobby Carpenter led the way with four sacks and 27 yards in losses, with David Patterson adding three sacks. All-American linebacker A.J. Hawk finished with 19 tackles.

Smith, booed several times by a crowd of 105,122 because of the Buckeyes’ offensive struggles, also hit Holmes on a 51-yard scoring pass and Ted Ginn Jr. on a 57-yard TD pass. Smith, who was 10-of-15 for 249 yards, secured the win with a 1-yard TD run with 1:39 left.

The defense helped set up that score when Stanton was sacked twice deep in Michigan State territory and the Spartans (4-2, 1-2) were forced to punt. Holmes, who had five receptions for 150 yards, returned the punt 22 yards to the MSU 19. Three plays later Smith added the clinching score.

The Buckeyes won despite losing four of their six fumbles – three in their own territory. But Michigan State was able to turn those turnovers into only seven points.

The game turned on the final play of the first half.

Michigan State had controlled the ball throughout and led 17-7 with 24 seconds remaining in the half. Faced with a second-and-12 at Ohio State’s 17 with no timeouts, Stanton was tackled for no gain by lineman Quinn Pitcock.

Rather than having Stanton spike the ball to stop the clock on third down, Michigan State’s coaches hustled the field-goal unit onto the field. In the chaos, offensive players were scrambling to the sideline while the kick unit was trying to beat the clock for a 35-yard attempt. The Spartans snapped the ball with only 10 players on the field.

Ohio State’s Nate Salley broke through to block the kick, which was picked up by cornerback Youboty and returned as time expired to cut the lead to 17-14.

“That’s a dang coaching mistake,” Michigan State coach John L. Smith said as he ran off the field. “The kids are playing their tail off and the coaches are screwing it up.”

The defense, although giving up yardage in bunches to Stanton, continually came up with big plays. With Michigan State ahead 24-21 and just under 9 minutes left, Smith was hit by MSU’s Michael Bazemore and fumbled the ball away at his own 22, Clifton Ryan recovering for the Spartans.

But Michigan State, which had 456 total yards, gained just three yards on three plays before John Goss’ 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Youboty.

Stanton, leading the nation in pass efficiency, completed 26-of-36 passes for 340 yards and a touchdown.

But Ohio State’s defense came up big when needed. The Spartans finished with 27 first downs and 456 total yards, but mustered just four first downs and 70 yards in the fourth quarter.

Coach Jim Tressel said few people had noticed how well his offense had been controlling the ball, leading the Big Ten in time of possession even though it ranked last in total offense. But the Spartans kept the ball for 41 minutes to Ohio State’s 19.

AP-ES-10-15-05 1636EDT

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