Penn State fans breathed a sigh of relief to see KJ Hamler back deep to receive the opening kickoff. He looked like his usual self, giving the Nittany Lions solid field position with a return to the 36. Penn State picked up a first down, but was forced to punt soon after.
The Buckeyes would then march straight down the field to pick up a 7-0 lead, powered by several Justin Fields runs to produce third down conversions. Each time Penn State put itself in decent position with a stop, the Buckeyes would have an answer. It was a common theme of the afternoon thanks to a slew of Buckeye playmakers.
After a quick three-and-out, the Buckeyes were in the midst of another march straight to the end zone. However, as Fields was set to cross the end zone to give the Buckeyes a 14-0 led, Lamont Wade met him just in time, jarring the ball out that was recovered by Cam Brown for a touchback. The Nittany Lions had new life.
The first quarter would end with a first-and-10 for Penn State at the Buckeyes 39, but the momentum of that drive would not carry over to the second quarter. The Buckeyes would get a drive going, but eventually were forced to punt thanks to a holding penalty and a sack by Yetur Gross-Matos.
Another three-and-out deep in Buckeye territory led to Ohio State starting with excellent position on the Penn State side of the field. Another clutch Fields run, this time on a fourth-and-five, eventually led to a JK Dobbins one-yard touchdown run to give Ohio State a 14-0 lead with two minutes left before the half.
Penn State failed to make things interesting with a score prior to halftime, instead punting away after yet another three-and-out.
The Buckeyes opened the second half by marching down the field, taking a 21-0 lead on a touchdown catch by K.J. Hill. As valiantly as the Nittany Lions fought to maintain within striking distance, it appeared the dam was about to break for another Buckeyes blowout victory.
However, Penn State’s offense would finally be able to answer. Despite Sean CLifford being forced out of the game midway through the drive, the Nittany Lions finally hit paydirt with an 18-yard strike by Journey Brown. The Nittany Lions would pick up 51 rushing yards on the drive after only producing 11 in all of the first half.
The defense would then do its part to make it a ballgame. Micah Parsons stripped the ball out of Dobbins hands, with Wade eventually jumping on the ball at the 11. Will Levis remained in the game, hitting Pat Freiermuth at the one before bullying his way into the end zone on the next play. Suddenly, it was a game as the Nittany Lions pulled within 21-14.
Then, it happened again. The defense pounced on another fumble as Fields lost control of the ball going down. The replay would show an awfully close call as to if Fields’ knee was on the ground, but the lack of conclusive evidence would keep the ball with Penn State.
Levis again led the drive, but the Nittany Lions stalled thanks to a false start and a Chase Young sack on third down. Jake Pinegar would nail a 41-yard field goal to draw within 21-17.
The defense could not miraculously force three consecutive fumbles, but did manage a stop as the Buckeyes punted the ball away. Penn State’s offense would struggle to get anything going after a sack left them at the one yard line. Gillikin would punt the ball away from the back of the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes would take over at the Penn State 44. Fields would take advantage of the excellent field position, getting the Buckeyes back on the scoreboard with a 30-yard touchdown strike to Chris Olave, who made an outstanding play on the ball despite being closely covered by two Nittany Lions.
Levis was in the process of commanding another drive that seemed destined to pull the Nittany Lions withing a score before disaster struck. A pass over the middle in traffic led to the first turnover of the game, giving the Buckeyes the ball at the 20. They now had an 11-point lead with 10:10 standing in the way of staying unbeaten.
The Buckeyes would bleed some clock before punting the ball, giving the Nittany Lions some life with the ball at their own 16. Levis kept the chains moving with a miraculous escape from Young for a completion to Hamler to gain a first down. However, an incompletion on the next set of downs on 4th-and-12 would all but finalize the victory for the Buckeyes.
It was a gritty effort for the Nittany Lions in one of the toughest atmospheres, against the most complete, and easily arguably the most overall talented team in the nation. They fought and scrapped their way back in the third quarter, but just weren’t able to make the plays at the end to complete the comeback.
With the 28-17 loss, the Nittany Lions fall to 9-2 with Rutgers the only remaining game of the regular season. Ohio State clinch the Big Ten East Division as they move to 11-0 with a showdown against #13 Michigan looming.