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Where’s The Dotted Line? Penn State 24, Ohio State 21

An unexpected defensive battle in Happy Valley led to Franklin’s signature win.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll be honest with you. I wanted to pre-write a good portion of this post, mostly due to two things: 1) It was a night game, so I wanted to make sure the post was up as soon as possible. 2) Nobody reasonably expected Penn State to actually win this game. Everyone hoped the Nittany Lions would keep it close, avoid mistakes, and build on the past two games. Ohio State had too much talent to feel seriously threatened in this game, and Penn State had too much going against them.

And, if the disparities between the two teams weren’t enough, the weather conditions tonight certainly benefited Ohio State’s style of play. Ohio State hasn’t been exceptional through the air this season (although they’re efficient when they do pass), but they haven’t needed to due to their running game. The high winds and rain meant that both teams would have trouble through the air. Unlike the Buckeyes, however, Penn State doesn’t have an offensive line capable of sustaining a consistent rushing attack for four full quarters.

It wasn't not all bad news for the Lions, however. The Whiteout, one of the best college atmospheres in the nation, would prove to be effective as James Franklin decided to start on the offensive. The Lion’s opening drive went almost as good as you’d want, if not for the blocked field goal to end the drive (which snapped Tyler Davis’ perfect streak). In response, they kept Ohio State at bay for their first two possessions. Everything was going well for the Nittany Lions, until a muffed punt return by John Reid gave the Buckeyes their best field position of the game. The Penn State defense held Ohio State to a field goal, which broke another streak—this time Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes were held scoreless in a quarter for the first time this season.

A lot of the success the Nittany Lion defense had in the game was due to the return of Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell. Both linebackers were playing possessed, not allowing J.T. Barrett to get comfortable for too long, and limiting Ohio State’s vaunted running game. The defense looked more like what we’re accustomed to from the Nittany Lions. Ohio State had to work for every yard, and while Barrett wasn’t always contained, he was kept mostly in check. The times he got free, however, proved costly for Penn State.

This was a classic, old-school Penn State/Ohio State defensive battle. Field position, stops, and key plays were especially important. The Nittany Lions were able limit Ohio State’s production, allowing just one touchdown in the first half. A missed extra point by the Buckeyes made the score 9-0 early, and an untimely J.T. Barrett scramble led to another field goal to go up 12-0. Penn State would not end the half without a fight, however; McSorley connected with his wide receivers in three key plays with a little over a minute left. Clutch passes to Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton took Penn State from their own 27 to Ohio State’s redzone, where McSorley heaved another ball to Godwin for a score. It bears mentioning that key timeouts by Franklin were a big reason in keeping this drive alive.

The third quarter was not kind to the Nittany Lions. A 74 yard run from Curtis Samuel, as well as a bad snap that led to a safety, quickly turned a five-point game into a 14-point hole for Penn State. As dreadful as the third quarter was for Penn State, the fourth quarter was equally as beneficial. Penn State had a five-play, 90 yard drive to close in on the Buckeyes. A blocked punt in Ohio State’s ensuing drive led to another three, and the Lions crept closer and closer to the Buckeyes. And if that weren’t enough, a blocked field goal actually gave the Nittany Lions the lead on Ohio State’s next drive! A light suddenly went on, and these Nittany Lions would not be denied.

Ohio State had one last drive to try and tie the game or win, but Penn State was not giving them what the Buckeyes were looking for. The Nuts drove, getting a few yards at a time, but the clock became the Buckeyes’ enemy as they were not able to move the ball quickly enough to score. Faced with a third and ten from their own 42-yard line, J.T. Barrett got sacked by Jason Cabinda, putting Ohio State in hail mary mode on fourth and 23. You all know what happened after that.

Urban Meyer had won 20 straight road games at Ohio State. They would not get a 21st. Oh, yeah, and James Franklin’s got his signature win. Last, but not least: Penn State’s name will have a number next to it in about 24 hours. Let’s celebrate!

Three Key Takeaways

1) We can has defense? - Against a team averaging 49 points per game, Penn State decided they’ve had enough embarrassing games. They held the buckeyes to 12 points in the first half, their second lowest output of the season. Their lowest, of course, was last week against Wisconsin.

2) Special teams were not good - Botched snap for a safety, muffed punt for a field goal, blocked field goal of their own. So many mistakes on special teams made Ohio State’s job much easier, while digging Penn State deeper and deeper into a hole. Their saving grace? A blocked field goal when it mattered most.

3) Are you not entertained? - For the second straight [home] game, Penn State enters its Whiteout game against Ohio State as big underdogs, but ended up giving Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes all they can handle. This time, however, it didn’t work in the Buckeyes’ favor.

Looking Ahead

Penn State travels to West Lafayette to face Purdue. The Boilermakers just fired head coach Darrell Hazell last week, so expect some different looks next Saturday. The game will kick off at noon on BTN.