EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Urban Meyer and his team could only breathe a sigh of relief after barely escaping a trap game.
With their annual showdown against arch-rival Michigan looming next Saturday, No. 2 Ohio State nearly got taken down by the other Michigan team in the Big Ten. Michigan State failed on a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter and the Buckeyes hung on for a 17-16 victory on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.
"Tough day at the office right there," Meyer said.
Linebacker Chris Worley picked off Tyler O'Connor's pass on the two-point attempt with 4:41 remaining after Spartans coach Mark Dantonio gambled with his team down a point.
"We didn't play our best ball at all," said Worley, who also had a first-half interception. "We had a lot of mistakes and missed a lot of tackles. We usually don't miss a lot of tackles. We do have some things we need to work on but that's what we have a whole week for (to prepare)."
Freshman running back Mike Weber rushed for 111 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Weber atoned for his first-half fumble deep in Michigan State territory.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett gained 105 yards on 24 carries for the Buckeyes (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten). Barrett also had a passing touchdown but completed just 10 of 22 attempts for 86 yards under chilly, blustery conditions.
"We are a balanced football team and when we're not balanced, it's tough," Meyer said. "They had the same problem. It was just real difficult to execute the (passing) game."
Sophomore running back LJ Scott rushed for a career-high 160 yards and a touchdown but the Spartans (3-8, 1-7) lost for the eighth time in nine games. Scott also scored on a 64-yard screen pass on the second play from scrimmage.
"We had a fumble and (gave up) two big plays in the first half," Meyer said. "That's not us. That can't be us. We'll lose next week if we play like that."
Weber's 4-yard run up the middle with 5:33 remaining in the third quarter gave Ohio State a 17-10 lead. His 52-yard scamper at the start of the drive set up the touchdown.
Chris Frey's 25-yard run on a fake punt placed the Spartans in Ohio State territory early in the fourth but a holding penalty derailed that drive.
The Spartans' scoring drive later in the quarter was all Scott, all the time. He carried eight times for 56 yards, including his 1-yard touchdown run.
"LJ's a powerful back," Dantonio said. "He's got good feet and good speed, and we did a nice job blocking for him. He made things happen."
Dantonio then opted against a tying point after try and a possible overtime. That decision proved costly.
"I was somewhat surprised but I've been in that situation before," Meyer said. "You've got all kinds of momentum, so you go swing and try to have the knockout punch."
The Spartans got the ball back with 2:04 remaining but cornerback Gareon Conley intercepted an O'Connor pass to clinch the victory.
Dantonio was happy the way his team, which is playing many freshmen and sophomores, hung tough.
"It does mean something but we can't evaluate that and be happy with that," he said. "It's just like that old adage. You're not as far as you think you are, or you're not as good as you think you are. Other times, you're not as bad as you think you are. The inches separate the two. That's the story of our season. The inches have separated us."
The game was knotted at 10 at halftime.
NOTES: Buckeyes RB Mike Weber is the third freshman in school history to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark. He joins Robert Smith (1990) and Maurice Clarett (2002). ... Michigan State DT Malik McDowell, the team's top draft prospect, missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury. ... The road team has won each regular-season matchup between the clubs since 2008. ... Spartans coach Mark Dantonio is one of only four coaches with multiple wins against Ohio State's Urban Meyer. Nick Saban, Tommy Tuberville and Les Miles are the others. ... Meyer has an 18-1 record in November as Ohio State's coach. ... Michigan State has used a different lineup on offense and defense in each game this season. ... The Buckeyes' 465 points through 10 games is the fifth-most in school history.