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No. 8 Penn State Football’s Comeback Bid Falls Short In 28-17 Defeat To No. 2 Ohio State

No. 8 Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) dropped its highly-anticipated contest against No. 2 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) in Columbus on Saturday.

The Buckeyes clinched the Big Ten East with their victory, but the game didn’t end without Penn State putting up a serious fight at The Horseshoe. James Franklin’s team went down 21-0 early in the third quarter before storming back with 17 unanswered points.

Ryan Day’s side weathered the storm and finished the victory thanks to a beautiful touchdown grab by Chris Olave in the fourth quarter.

How It Happened

Penn State received the opening kickoff and KJ Hamler had a solid return to the Nittany Lions’ own 40-yard line. Sean Clifford and Co. picked up one first down but couldn’t do much of anything else on the first drive.

The Buckeyes responded by marching down the field with ease. Justin Fields and JK Dobbins combined for 87 rushing yards on a 13-play, 5:04 drive that Dobbins capped off with a four-yard touchdown on the ground. Ohio State took a 7-0 lead with 7:08 remaining in the first quarter.

Ohio State’s defense forced a three-and-out on Penn State’s next possession, took over at the Nittany Lions own 45-yard line, and nearly scored again. Fields rushed all the way down to the goal line on a five-yard carry, but Lamont Wade forced him to fumble just before he broke the plane and Cam Brown recovered it. The Nittany Lions took over at their own 20-yard line.

Ricky Rahne’s offense couldn’t capitalize off the turnover, but Penn State’s defense came up big and finally didn’t allow the Buckeyes to reach the red zone. Ohio State did score on its next possession, however, on a drive that included a 4th and 5 conversion on a 22-yard carry by Fields. Dobbins capped off the drive with a one-yard carry on 4th and goal, and the Buckeyes took a 14-0 lead with 2:00 remaining in the first half.

The Nittany Lion offense went on its third three-and-out of the first half on the ensuing possession, and Pry’s defense came up with a big stop thanks in large part Yetur Gross-Matos’ second sack of the game. After that, the Buckeyes ran out the clock to halftime.

Ohio State picked up right where it left off to open the second half. The Buckeyes went on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a 24-yard touchdown reception by KJ Hill. Ryan Day’s squad took a 21-0 lead with 11:31 remaining in the third quarter.

Penn State’s offense finally got some momentum going on its first possession of the half. After Clifford went down with what looked like an injury to his right leg, Will Levis checked in and picked up a huge first down on a third and five, and Brown capped off the possession a few plays later with a huge 18-yard touchdown run that included several broken tackles.

The Nittany Lions trailed 21-7 with 8:19 left in the third.

The Nittany Lion defense bounced back with a massive play, as Micah Parsons forced a fumble by Fields and Wade fell on it. Penn State took over at Ohio State’s own 12-yard line, and Levis punched it in for a one-yard touchdown two plays later. The Nittany Lions suddenly trailed by a score of just 21-14.

The same duo stepped up once again on Penn State’s next defensive possession, as Wade forced yet another Fields fumble that was recovered by Parsons. Levis remained at quarterback and the Nittany Lions couldn’t fully take advantage of the once-again fantastic field position. But, Jake Pinegar nailed the 42-yard field goal and Ohio State’s lead dwindled to 21-17 with 4:22 left in the third quarter.

The Buckeyes forced the Nittany Lions to punt from their own end zone on their next possession, and Ohio State took over on Penn State’s own 44-yard line to open the fourth quarter. The Nittany Lions’ 17-point scoring run was put to a close when Fields found Chris Olave for an unbelievable 28-yard touchdown reception. Day’s team took a 28-17 lead with 13:18 remaining.

After putting together an impressive drive, Levis made a dangerous throw intended for Pat Freiermuth that was intercepted by Justin Hilliard. After a couple of first downs, Penn State’s defense got a stop and the offense took over with 5:44 left.

The Nittany Lions couldn’t do much on their final possession, as several penalties and miscues forced them in to a 4th and 12 that they failed to convert.

Penn State got another chance at pulling within a score, but Ohio State got the ball back and ran the clock out, and the Buckeye fans in attendance stormed the field to celebrate the win.


  • Will Levis checked into the game during the third quarter after Sean Clifford’s injury, and he completely turned the tide of the contest. Levis led three consecutive scoring drives — including one touchdown of his own — to bring Penn State within four points. Clifford’s status going forward is currently unclear, but the Nittany Lions battled in his absence.
  • Lamont Wade played like a man possessed on the defensive side of the ball. He forced three(!!) fumbles, recovered one, and helped the Nittany Lions nearly tie the game in the third quarter. Penn State’s secondary has gotten lots of criticism, but Wade has consistently improved over the course of the 2019 season.
  • Ohio State’s running game had itself a field day against Penn State, which entered the game on top of the country with an average of 75 yards allowed per contest. JK Dobbins dotted up the Nittany Lions for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries, and he led the way for a unit that totaled 229 yards on the ground.

What’s Next

Penn State will head back to Beaver Stadium for its final game of the regular season against Rutgers. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]


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