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‘Too Many Mistakes’ Cost Penn State’s Defense Against Ohio State

Penn State dropped its home opener to Ohio State Saturday night by a final score of 38-25.

The Nittany Lions battled throughout the game but were outplayed by the Buckeyes on both sides of the ball. Brent Pry’s defense struggled mightily tonight against Justin Fields yet again.

Penn State’s defense allowed 526 total yards and gave up five touchdowns to the Buckeyes. Head coach James Franklin admitted that Jesse Luketa’s absence in the first half made an impact, but it boiled down to not doing a good job of disrupting the Buckeyes’ offense.

“Defensively, we really couldn’t get them off schedule,” Franklin said. “They were in manageable down and distance situations pretty much the entire game. And with a quarterback like that and their offensive personnel, not getting them off schedule — it’s going to be challenging.”

Luketa missed the entirety of the first half due to a targeting penalty last week. Linebacker Ellis Brooks echoed Franklin’s sentiment about Luketa’s absence making an impact.

“Jesse [Luketa] is a great player,” Brooks said. “He’s a great communicator, so he helps echo calls to both sides of the formation, helping me out as the MIKE [linebacker]. He was definitely missed out there, but I do feel like the guys we have in our room stepped up and played hard in his absence and when he got back in the game he was able to show what he’s able to do.”

Defensive tackle Antonio Shelton spoke candidly after the game about the defense’s performance, highlighting the mistakes that the unit made throughout the game.

“What happened tonight was we made too many mistakes against a team and offense that is very very talented,” Shelton said. “It’s a great offense — they have a great quarterback, great running back, great oline, and great wide receivers. You can’t make mistakes against a great team and expect them not to make plays.”

Fields had himself a game, completing 82% of his passes, totaling 318 passing yards, and tossing four touchdowns.

Brooks was right in the middle of the defense all game, and saw the challenges that Fields presents a defense with.

“He’s a versatile player,” Brooks said. “Great legs, can scramble, can move around in the pocket. It was really just trying to get him as uncomfortable as possible….He’s a great player, played his heart out today.”

Ohio State complimented a dominant passing game with an effective running game as well. The Buckeyes totaled 208 yards on the ground, including 110 yards and a touchdown from running back Master Teague III. Teague was efficient on the ground, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

On the first play of the game, wideout Garrett Wilson took a reverse handoff 62 yards to set the Buckeyes up deep in Penn State territory. The slow start by Penn State’s defense was a key factor in its struggles Saturday night.

“I feel like we just didn’t get out to the right start,” Brooks said. “I feel that we just have to start faster, come out and play with that intensity that we had in the second half in the first half.”

Another category where Penn State’s defense struggled was on third down. The Buckeyes converted 10 out of 18 third downs, keeping the Nittany Lions’ defense on the field in key situations.

“[Ohio State] did a good job of getting the ball out fast against us,” Brooks said. “Obviously we got lead rushers up front, so I’m sure that was installed in the game plan.

“We gotta do a better job on first and second down — trying to make that third-down conversion as difficult as possible,” Brooks continued.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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