Goliath Usually Wins Anyway: Ohio State 38, Penn State 10
We knew deep down what was coming. Ohio State, the nation’s No. 1 team, simply has better players and better coaches. Penn State’s strong showing last week was a reason for optimism compared to Ohio State playing flatly over its last two games, but offensive line struggles and questionable play-calling at key moments of the game came back to bite the Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes were too much, and earned the big win.
How It Happened
Penn State won the opening coin toss and let Ohio State receive, trusting its defense to get a stop. It came up huge, forcing a three-and-out on the Buckeyes’ first offensive possession. After the punt, a healthy Akeel Lynch ran for a first down, then a bomb from Christian Hackenberg to Chris Godwin brought Penn State deep into Ohio State’s territory after two plays. Ohio State held strong there, leading to a Joey Julius field goal and a 3-0 lead for the good guys.
The Buckeyes’ next drive featured a lot of Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the biggest threat to Penn State’s chances in the game. Still, Bob Shoop’s defense was able to contain him, forcing a punt on the second set of downs. The Nittany Lions followed that up with a three-and-out that started on the eight yard line, giving Ohio State comfortable field position to start with. Penn State forced a three-and-out and a third (!) punt, but that punt landed at the two yard line. From there, the team marched down the field on the back of Saquon Barkley, before Hackenberg found a wide-open Mike Gesicki 30 yards down the sideline…who as usual, dropped it on a sure-fire big play. That drop killed momentum, forcing a punt. Ohio State’s next drive featured a lot of highlight-reel machine Braxton Miller, who juked his way through multiple Penn State defenders on multiple plays.
J.T. Barrett, the hero of last year’s double overtime thriller, wasted no time in giving the Buckeyes a three point lead after being inserted into the lineup to start the second quarter in relief of a struggling Cardale Jones. The Lions took over looking to answer right back, led by yet another Barkley hurdle. The electric freshman was engulfed in the backfield, and a Chris Gulla punt gone awry gave the Buckeyes the ball in Penn State territory.
Braxton Miller made his return to quarterback, if only for a play. A keeper put the Buckeyes deep in Penn State territory, and Ezekiel Elliott capped off a stunning drive with a Heisman-esque 10 yard touchdown run along the right edge. The traditionally stout Penn State defense was listless, unable to contain the outside edge, allowing Ohio State to march down and score in only 1:59 seconds of game time.
Saquon Barkley returned to his usual form on the next drive, darting left on a power run, subsequently picking up 14 on his next carry. Brandon Polk mishandled the ensuing jet sweep, but had enough awareness to promptly scoop up the ball. A failed third down conversion led to a crucial fourth down in Buckeye territory. The offense remained on the field, but Hackenberg couldn’t convert on a broken play and gifted the Buckeyes with possession and time on the clock.
The trio of Barrett, Miller, and Elliott went at it again after the failed fourth down conversion, again marching down the field and scoring off a Barrett keeper. It was a familiar script that began to replay, as the Buckeyes seemed increasingly dangerous with each possession. But while the Buckeyes have their threatening trio, Penn State has Barkley. The freshman gave Penn State life with a quick 23-yard pickup, but the offense stagnated after a series of short gains and an egregiously high throw by Hackenberg on third down.
A Christian Hackenberg-led touchdown drive seemed to instill some life, but the good feelings were erased after a deep Ohio State drive. A stop, paired with a 29-yard punt, gave Ohio State optimal field position. Cardale Jones, who was erratic throughout, missed a wide-open Elliott on third and long, giving Penn State another chance to erase the deficit.
Saquon Barkley sparked the drive with a five-yard run, but the officiating crew tacked on 15 more after a late hit out of bounds. A few more called runs later, and the Lions were unable to convert. With time dwindling, Penn State needed to take advantage of every single opportunity. Meyer, clearly fed up with Jones’ inaccuracies, opted to stick with Barrett for the remainder of the game.
The fourth quarter started with Ohio State continuing its long drive and capping it off with a field goal to go ahead 24-10. Saquon Barkley kicked off his team’s next drive with a career-long 56-yard rush to reach the red zone, then three rushes were stuffed to bring up fourth down — where John Donovan called a passing play, and Hackenberg was sacked. Ohio State’s next drive was a casual clock-eater, as it marched down for a casual Barrett-to-Miller touchdown. After a fruitless Penn State drive, Ohio State reclaimed the ball and scored again late in the game, because a 21-point lead…wasn’t enough?
Player Of The Game
Saquon Barkley — in equal parts because of his standout play and because there weren’t many other candidates, save for Carl Nassib. The true freshman had his third 100-yard game of the season, tying the school’s freshman record, despite missing the last two games and have five more to play.
Tweet Of The Game
Throw it to the freakin back!!!!!!
— Ki-Jana Carter (@mastakey32) October 18, 2015
On the late 4th and 2 where Hackenberg was sacked, he had a wide open Saquon Barkley. Ki-Jana Carter noticed, and was not happy.
Penn State hits the road again next weekend for a neutral-site matchup with Maryland in the Baltimore Ravens’ stadium at 3:30 p.m.