On a brisk but gorgeous Saturday afternoon, second-ranked Ohio State took care of business against the 13th-ranked Nittany Lions 44-31.
After Penn State won the toss and deferred their choice, the Buckeyes marched into Nittany Lion territory, keyed by a CJ Stroud’s deep ball to Marvin Harrison, Jr. for 37 yards on third and long. However, the Penn State defense stiffened at the 20-yard line, and Noah Ruggles’ 38-yard field goal made it 3-0 with 9:47 left in the opening quarter.
Sean Clifford and the offense started from their 25, and Kaytron Allen picked up six quick yards and Parker Washington took a swing pass for a first down. Washington grabbed the next ball over the middle to move the sticks again, but Clifford’s pass on third and long was tipped and eventually intercepted by Zach Harrison, giving the Buckeyes the ball in plus territory. Despite starting at the Penn State 39, the Buckeyes managed just four yards on the series. Ruggles’ 53-yard field goal was short and wide to the right, and the score remained 3-0.
Penn State started the next drive with an Allen seven-yard run and a short pass to Brenton Strange for no gain, but Clifford stared down Allen on a short pass and J.T. Tuimoloau made a great diving catch to take the ball away for the second time on Penn State’s side of the field. The Buckeyes took the ball 41 yards in three plays, as Marvin Harrison picked up 18 and 19 on back-to-back receptions and Miyan Williams pushed across the goal-line from four yards out to make it 10-0 with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
Nicholas Singleton made it the third straight Penn State drive to start with a gain of six or more on a run, and took a swing pass to move the sticks, but unfortunately Clifford could not connect deep downfield with Harrison Wallace, and Barney Amor was brought on for the first time. The first quarter ended with the score remaining 10-0 in favor of the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes failed to move the ball on the next drive, perhaps providing a little momentum for the home team. Parker Washington brought the ball back to the 26. He made a grab on first down, but Brenton Strange was flagged for a dead-ball unsportsmanlike conduct, effectively erasing the yardage. Clifford then hit Mitchell Tinsley on the swing, and the running game continued to move the ball in meaningful chunks towards midfield. On third down from the Penn State 42, Washington took a short pass on the far side, pinballed his way off two tacklers, and dashed the rest of the 58 yards down the sideline to cap the six-play, 73-yard drive, cutting the Ohio State lead to 10-7 with 11:13 left in the half.
After TreVeyon Henderson picked up eight on first down, D’Von Ellies smashed through the line to stuff Henderson for a three-yard loss, setting up third and five from the Buckeye 31. Kalen King stuffed Emeka Egbuka short of the line to gain, and the Nittany Lions had a chance to tie or take the lead. Washington made a spectacular diving grab for a first down at the 35, and Clifford avoided the rush to hit Theo Johnson down the sideline, and on the next play, threw a dart to KeAndre Lambert-Smith (Welcome back, by the way!), who took the 23-yard slant into the end zone, giving Penn State a 14-10 lead with 6:50 left in the half.
Jake Pinegar’s kick sailed out of bounds, and Joey Porter was called for pass interference, quickly giving the Buckeyes the ball at midfield. Julian Fleming took a wide-open pass over the middle to the Nittany Lion 32, and Henderson carried to the 14, but after an incompletion, a loss on a swing pass, and another Stroud errant pass, Ruggles was on yet again for a 37-yard try. His kick was true, and with 3:14 left in the half, Penn State had a one-point advantage.
Allen made it four first-half drives to start with a gain of at least six, and Singleton picked up the first down on third and short. Unfortunately, the drive stalled there, and Egbuka took the punt back to the Ohio State 31. Stroud hit Cade Stover to the Penn State 46. On second down, Abdul Carter broke through to bring down Stroud in the backfield for an eight-yard loss, but Stroud hit Xavier Johnson on fourth down and Harrison on the next play to set up a goal-to-go situation. However, Johnnie Dixon leveled Stroud in the backfield, forcing a fumble that ended the first half with the score Penn State 14, Ohio State 13.
Penn State averted disaster to start the second half, after Daequan Hardy fumbled the kick, and then made a questionable decision to go for it on fourth down from their own 32, but Clifford’s sneak was just enough to move the chains. On third and five from the 38, Clifford rifled it to Washington while moving backwards, and then hit a wide-open Parker down the middle to the Buckeye 27. Omari Evans had a catch-and-run setting up another fourth and short from the 19, but the T-formation hand-off to Singleton was stopped in the backfield, ending a promising drive with no points. Marvin Harrison extended the Ohio State drive with a nice grab on their first third and long, but Stroud’s pass to Harrison on the ensuing third down was just over his outstretched arms, forcing a Buckeye punt.
On the next drive, Clifford avoided the rush and scrambled for a first down on third and short, but the offense stalled on the next set of downs and Amor’s punt was downed at the Buckeye 33.
Stroud started the next drive with...you’ll never guess...a completion to Marvin Harrison. He later hit Mitch Rossi for another first down to the Penn State 30, but Joey Porter and PJ Mustipher prevented Egbuka and then Henderson from reaching the first down marker. Ruggles hit his third field goal, and Ohio State re-took the lead 16-14. That was the score as the third quarter came to a close.
Starting the fourth, Clifford and the offense benefited from a pass interference call on third and 16, resulting in an automatic first down to the 34. Two plays later, Allen shook and stiff-armed his way into Buckeye territory, and Clifford hit a leaping Washington to the 22. On third and one from the 13, Clifford overthrew Allen in the end zone, bringing on Jake Pinegar for a 35-yard field goal try. His kick was no good, but a Buckeye illegal formation penalty gave the team another shot. After shifting out of the T-formation, Tyler Warren grabbed the short pass from Clifford, setting up first and goal from the nine. On second and goal, Tinsley caught a pass, and fumbled as he stretched toward the end zone, but Brenton Strange pounced on the ball, setting up third and goal from inside the one. Clifford’s sneak was unsuccessful, but Allen broke a tackle in the backfield and muscled his way into the end zone on fourth and goal to make it 21-16 Penn State with 9:26 left.
Stroud to Harrison opened the next drive, and another pass to Egbuka brought the Buckeyes across midfield, before Henderson finally broke through for a 41-yard touchdown run off the left side. Ruggles knocked through the extra point, and with 8:51 to go, Ohio State led 23-21.
Allen picked up six yet again to start the Lions’ next drive, but Clifford was stripped as he dropped back to pass at the 24, giving Ohio State the turnover they needed. Stroud hit an open Stover who broke three tackles en route to the end zone, making it 30-21 with 8:17 to go.
On the ensuing drive, Allen reversed field and gained 27 on first down, and Clifford hit Washington to the Ohio State 39 and Strange to the 34. On third and nine from the 33, Singleton ran forward for six, setting up Pinegar for a 44-yard field goal. His kick was true, and with 5:49 left, it was once again a one-score game. The Buckeyes drove into Penn State territory, and on second and seven from the 44, Egbuka got open around the two, putting the Buckeyes in position to ice the game with another score. After a delay of game, Henderson went around left end for the game-clinching score with 2:52 remaining. Tuimoloau added a pick-six late to give the Buckeyes the cover at 44-24.
It was a valiant effort by the Nittany Lions, but they couldn’t overcome the turnovers and several missed conversions. Sean Clifford was 32 of 47 for 371 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, with two coming in the first quarter and then the late pick-six. Kaytron Allen led the team in rushing with 12 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown, and Parker Washington had a fantastic day, with 11 catches for 179 yards and a score. The Buckeyes were paced by Marvin Harrison, Jr., who had 10 catches for 185 yards, and TreVeyon Henderson added two fourth quarter touchdown runs. Overall, the Nittany Lions out-gained the Buckeyes and had more first downs, but three interceptions and a strip-sack make it very difficult to win, especially against the second-ranked team in the country.
On to Indiana next week!