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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Free Press sports writer Chris Solari grades Michigan State football on an A to F scale following the Spartans’ 38-3 loss to No. 3 Ohio State.

Offense: D

Touchdowns win games and MSU continues to struggle to score them. With Katin Houser making his fifth straight start at quarterback, the Spartans failed to get past the Buckeyes’ 36-yard line and recorded just 11 first downs and 182 total yards of offense. Houser threw for 92 yards while completing 41.7 percent of his 24 throws; only half of his 10 completions went for more than 10 yards, the longest being a 20-yarder to Alante Brown on the Spartans’ first drive of the game. Not having top receivers Tre Mosley and Jaron Glover limited Houser’s targets, and Maliq Carr returned from injury but didn’t enter the game until the second half. Nate Carter (11 carries, 52 yards) was stifled by an OSU defense that is one of the best in the country, but he also had support from senior Jaren Mangham (nine carries, 35 yards). On a positive note, MSU did not turn the ball over for the second straight game.

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Defense: C-minus

Small wins count when a team is struggling to stay afloat, and limiting the Buckeyes to just one field goal and 170 yards in the second half should give the Spartans some good mojo heading into a much more beatable opponent in Indiana next week. But the bigger picture was much uglier, with Kyle McCord skewering the secondary for 335 yards and three touchdowns in the first half en route to a 35-3 halftime lead, and standout wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr .torching the one MSU had put on him for 149 yards. and two touchdowns on seven catches, plus a 19-yard touchdown. Losing cornerback Dillon Tatum for the remainder of the season will make the final two games difficult, especially since his absence was glaring on Saturday. The Spartans held TreVeyon Henderson to 63 yards, but the Buckeyes averaged 5.5 yards per carry as a team. The Spartans also didn’t record a sack or force a turnover.

Special teams: C

Jonathan Kim and Ryan Eckley remain MSU’s most consistent threats. Kim, MSU’s kicker, made a 53-yard field goal (after missing 56) and returned both of his kickoffs for touchbacks. Eckley landed four of his six punts inside the Buckeyes’ 20-yard line — including pinning them on their own 2-on-1 and their 8 on another — and sent two flying more than 50 meters. However, penalties continue to plague the units, with an inexcusable offside flag on a kickoff and another unsportsmanlike conduct call for Brown going out of bounds alone on a punt.

Coaching: C-minus

To be fair to interim coach Harlon Barnett and the rest of the remaining assistants, three of their seven losses since Mel Tucker left have come against top 10 opponents. The Spartans have the toughest schedule in the country after 10 games in, according to RealtimeRPI.com, and they were once again overwhelmed by a much better team. There remained questionable decisions – successful or not – like not going for it on fourth-and-5 before Kim’s 56-yard miss or calling a fake punt that worked or running a play late in the game. first half and almost turning the ball over. ball finished. There were also a few play calls that outright killed the drives. But the best practice Barnett and his team have done isn’t quantifiable with statistics — it’s that their players continue to fight despite the circumstances of a season that have thrown their way.

Contact Chris Solari: [email protected]. follow him @chrissolari.

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