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Penn State Hampered By Lack Of ‘Complimentary Football’ Against Ohio State

Even while No. 18 Penn State’s offense mounted a bit of a comeback effort against No. 3 Ohio State Saturday night, it was quickly shutdown by a seemingly unstoppable Buckeyes’ attack.

Despite putting up just 75 total yards in the first half (four yards in the second quarter), the Nittany Lions looked as if they might pick up some momentum thanks to a huge score to open the third quarter. Sean Clifford led a 75-yard drive that took eight plays and nearly four minutes, and capped it off with a pretty touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson.

Penn State was finally within just one possession of the Buckeyes, and a stop from the defense could seriously change the tides. The Nittany Lions didn’t get that stop then, however, and struggled to make big plays when it needed throughout the night.

In fact, two of Penn State’s second-half scores were followed by Ohio State touchdowns. No matter what the Nittany Lions did on offense, they didn’t stand much of a chance as Justin Fields marched his group down the field with ease.

“When we would get going on offense, the defense would have an opportunity to close the gap from a scoring perspective,” James Franklin said postgame. “We started to get a little momentum there, and then [Ohio State] was able to go the length of the field and get a touchdown.”

Penn State’s defense allowed 526 total yards to the Buckeyes, including 318 yards through the air to Fields. Outside of the pass game, Ohio State managed 208 yards on the ground, 110 of them coming from Master Teague III.

“What happened tonight was we made too many mistakes against a team whose offensive is very, very talented,” Antonio Shelton said. “They got a great quarterback, great running back, great offensive line, and great wide receivers. You can’t make mistakes against a great team and expect them not to make plays.”

It’s hard to argue with Shelton’s sentiment there. There’s essentially no weak spots for the Buckeyes on that side of the ball, and they clearly proved that tonight. However, Penn State’s defense didn’t get much of any help from the offense throughout the first half.

“Early on in the game I thought our defense was doing some pretty good things and our offense couldn’t get it going,” Franklin said. “I think we had a couple schemes that worked in the first half and we went back to them…Not being able to have a running game with a d-line that can just tee off on you in the passing game, you gotta be able to be balanced.”

The Nittany Lions managed just six points in the first half, while Sean Clifford completed just two passes for seven yards. Kirk Ciarrocca’s offensive scheme once again had a slow start this week, something it can’t afford to do against top-tier Big Ten talent.

“I was disappointed with how we executed in the first half. Starting with me,” Clifford said. “We can’t do that, we gotta jump out early and often.”

As the offense sputtered through the first two quarters other than a few big plays, the defense was left helpless against one of the top teams in all of college football.

As Penn State will now try to put it together this week in preparing for a contest with Maryland at home, it will rely on its leaders to set an example. That starts with QB1. While Clifford hasn’t had a dream start to this 2020 season, he’s as motivated as ever to bounce back from the 0-2 start.

“If you’re not motivated right now, then I don’t really want you on the team,” Clifford said. “0-2 was not in our thought process going into this year, but I’m not just gonna turn down and pack it up. Blame it on COVID, blame it on this, blame it on that, that’s not how I operate. We’re gonna get back on track, work even harder this week.

“I don’t think we’re gonna have anyone that’s gonna have that [unmotivated] mentality,” Clifford added.

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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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