Penn State Uses Wildcat to Beat Ohio State, 20-14
Wide receiver Curtis Drake headed on to the field like any other play. This was not any normal play, however. Drake lined up at quarterback and handed the ball off to Stephfon Green, who ran for a touchdown.
That play was just one of many in a new-look Penn State wildcat formation. Drake and Bill Belton split time at quarterback when the Nittany Lions ran the wildcat. The new formation helped Penn State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) to a 20-14 victory in Columbus, Ohio, over Ohio State (6-5, 3-4 Big Ten).
“It was a nice wrinkle that we needed,” Penn State head coach Tom Bradley said. “We were going to do it no matter what.”
Penn State started off strong with a 5-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Drake lined up at quarterback and handed off to Green, who ran for a 40-yard touchdown to put Penn State up 7-0 early in the game.
On the ensuing drive, a botched snap put Ohio State out of field goal range, forcing the Buckeyes to punt. The Nittany Lions got the ball back and converted three 3rd-down conversions en route to a field goal attempt. Anthony Fera converted the 43-yard try to put Penn State up 10-0.
Ohio State finally got on the board in the second quarter when quarterback Braxton Miller ran for a 24-yard touchdown to make it 10-7. Miller got the job down both on the ground and in the air on the 77-yard drive. To go along with his touchdown, Miller threw an 18-yard pass on a third down to keep the drive alive.
The Nittany Lions immediately responded with a 5-play, 81-yard touchdown drive of its own to go up 17-7 with 10:05 remaining in the first half. Silas Redd broke a 42-yard run, and the Nittany Lions effectively used the wildcat formation again to get close to scoring. Green recorded his second touchdown of the game, this time from four yards out.
Penn State made its first big mistake of the game when Matt McGloin tried to force a pass into coverage. The ball was tipped and intercepted. Ohio State drove the ball 37 yards for a touchdown to make it a 17-14 game with 5:22 left in the half. Miller capped off the drive with a 7-yard pass to Jake Stoneburner. However, Penn State was able to score once more, with Fera kicking a 46-yard field goal to put the Nittany Lions up 20-14 at the half. It was the longest made field goal of Fera’s career.
The Nittany Lions showed an efficiency on offense in the first half that has not been typical of the season. The new-look wildcat formation was a big part of that efficiency. Penn State ran for 92 yards out of the wildcat. Green had 40 yards, Drake had 38, and Belton had 14. Part of Penn State’s success was due to being familiar with the wildcat.
“I had Belton run it as the Nebraska scout team quarterback,” Bradley said. “Curtis [Drake] ran the same stuff too in high school.”
Whereas the first half was typified by strong offensive football, the third quarter was an exercise in futility. Both defenses made adjustments, and yardage was harder to come by. Ohio State fumbled the ball at its 11-yard line, only to stop Penn State four times at the goal line. After breaking several big runs, the Buckeyes fumbled again, this time at their 46-yard line. The third quarter came to an end with the score still at 20-14 in Penn State’s favor.
Neither team was able to make much headway in the fourth quarter either. Ohio State drove down the field late in the quarter, but the Buckeyes stalled when they reached Penn State territory.
Green led the Nittany Lions with 94 yards rushing. As a team, Penn State ran for 241 yards at a rate of 6.1 yards per carry. The passing game was, for the most part, held in check, although McGloin did finish with 88 yards on 10-18 passing. For Ohio State, Miller had 122 yards rushing to go along with 83 yards passing. Dan Herron ran for 81 yards, and DeVier Posey caught four balls for 66 yards.
Penn State will play No. 17 Wisconsin in the regular season finale next Saturday in Madison. On the line is the Big Ten Leaders Division title and a berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game.