COLUMBUS — Tyler O’Connor has had athletic success in Ohio State arenas before, but nothing quite like what happened Saturday.
O’Connor, a junior quarterback from Lima Central Catholic High School, played most of the game when Michigan State knocked Ohio State from the ranks of the unbeaten and spoiled the Buckeyes’ chances of repeating as college football national champion with a 17-14 win over OSU.
When Michigan State’s three-year starting quarterback Connor Cook was unable to play because of a shoulder injury he suffered last week against Maryland, O’Connor got the first start of his career in probably MSU’s biggest game of the season.
O’Connor completed 7 of 12 passes for 89 yards and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Trevon Pendleton for the Spartans’ first touchdown. He also rushed for 25 yards on eight carries.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said he didn’t decide to start O’Connor until shortly before game time.
But O’Connor said he had an idea things were heading in that direction by Friday night.
“We kind of had an idea. It was never sure. Even this morning it wasn’t sure. Connor was going to try to give it a go. When I got the opportunity I texted my family and said, ‘You’re going to see a lot more of me tomorrow.’ It’s just a blessing to have an opportunity like this,” he said.
When he was a sophomore at LCC, O’Connor was a starter on the Thunderbirds’ boys basketball team that won the 2010 Division III state championship. And in his only other time on the field at Ohio Stadium, he was the Most Valuable Player in the Ohio North-South All-Star game after being a four-year starter at quarterback for LCC.
Beating Ohio State, ending the Buckeyes’ 23-game win streak, and helping Michigan State (10-1) get back into the College Football Playoff discussion now is at the top of his list of athletic achievements, O’Connor said.
“I think this tops that,” he said about winning a state championship. “The last time I was in this stadium was for an all-star game. I’m 2-0 in this stadium right now.
“I had so many friends here, family here. I think they were all Ohio State fans coming in but they said if I was playing they’d come over to the green side. It’s pretty surreal to look around the stadium at the end and give my parents a hug after the game, it’s why you come to Michigan State but little did I know it would happen right now,” he said.
Michigan State’s No. 3 quarterback Damion Terry also played and was 1 of 4 passing and rushed for 25 yards.
“Our two quarterbacks went in, did an excellent job and didn’t flinch,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.