One too many mistakes
Penn State came into this game as 18.5 point underdogs. The Nittany Lions knew they could not afford to have very many mistakes and still beat the Buckeyes. In the end, the Nittany Lions just made too many mistakes.
On a second quarter possession Sean Clifford failed to step into a throw which led to him under-throwing Theo Johnson. If Clifford steps into the throw it is, at worst, a first down, if not a touchdown. The following play KeAndre Lambert-Smith was victim fo poor field awareness as he stepped out of bounds without a defender close to him before coming back in to catch the ball for illegal touching.
There was the Clifford strip sack scoop and score late in the second quarter. A Brenton Strange drop on a third down in the middle of the third quarter. The Clifford interception in the 4th quarter when he should have either thrown the ball away or ate it, which led to a Buckeye field goal.
In the end the Nittany Lions made one too many mistakes and it cost them against the Buckeyes.
The team battled throughout the night
Entering the game a lot of people, including yours truly, expected Penn State to roll over and get blown out after last week’s loss. At multiple times in the game the Nittany Lions were down by double digits and could have laid down and died. Instead, the Nittany Lions kept coming out swinging after being backed into a corner.
Throughout the night the Nittany Lions battled. After Ohio State ran off 17 straight points to go up 17-7, the Nittany Lions scored 10 unanswered to tie to the game. Ohio State then ran off 10 straight again to go up 27-17 and the Nittany Lions answered with a touchdown drive to cut the score to 27-24.
This group of Nittany Lions showed a lot of fight, desire and passion on Saturday night in Columbus. They showed a lot of resilience and both the coaching staff and players deserve a ton of credit for that. This effort certainly paints a prettier picture for the month of November than fans were expecting entering the night.
Red zone defense steps up again
Ohio State reached the red zone six times on Saturday night. Entering the game the Buckeye offense was the best in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country in the red zone. To the credit of Brent Pry and his defense they continued to be one of the best red zone defenses in the country.
On their six red zone possessions the Buckeyes scored just one touchdown. The Nittany Lions held them to four field goals and forced a turnvoer on downs. Penn State’s defenses battled throughout the night and kept one of the best offenses in the country mostly in check.
Frustrating officiating calls
On the final play of the first quarter Ohio State appeared to snap the ball past CJ Stroud with the Nittany Lions falling on it. This would have given Penn State the ball inside the Ohio State 20 while leading 7-3.
With a little over 6:00 minutes remaining in the game Ohio State linebacker Cody Simon appeared to force John Lovett out of bounds who then came back in bounds, established himself, and caught a Clifford pass that he then raced to the end zone with. It appeared the Nittany Lions had tied the game and were an extra point away from taking the lead.
Well, the officials ruled that Lovett stepped out of bounds on his own. Upon further review it certainly seemed that Simon extended his arms, making contact with Lovett and contributing to him going out of bounds. Was it light contact from Simon? Sure. But it was contact nonetheless and the refs easily could have held onto the flag.
November looks brighter
I will not lie... entering Saturday night I was worried the Nittany Lions would struggle to finish the season 7-5. After what we saw in Columbus the team appears to be closer to the team we saw through the first 5 and half games of the season, not the team we had seen in the previous 6 quarters... plus 9 overtimes.
If Penn State plays through the month of November the way they did on Saturday night they will beat Maryland and Rutgers. They will also likely split the Michigan schools, at worst, if not sweep them. If Penn State brings the effort they had in Columbus on Saturday night a 9-3 finish and a New Year’s Day Bowl is still very much in play.