Ohio State was doomed. After taking the ball with bad field position, they ran a 2nd down play out of the Wildcat formation where running back Jordan Hall took the snap, and went to hand off to senior running back Daniel Herron. The hand off was mishandled, the ball hit the ground, a Penn State defensive linemen fell on the ball, and Penn State suddenly had possession of the ball on the OSU 11 yard line.
“Ohio State is doomed,” I found myself thinking. There was 8:07 left in the third quarter, the offense had struggled, and Penn State led 20-14. One more score, and the Bucks were going to be hard pressed to get themselves back into the game.
It had seemed like OSU was trying to get cute on offense when they had Hall hand off to Herron, and now they were paying the price. Penn State took over at the 11, and before the ball was even snapped, Ohio State had a defensive penalty and gave up 5 more yards. Two plays later, as defensive pressure forced Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin out of the pocket, and he threw a short pass, Ohio State would be penalized for defensive holding. Automatic first down, and half the distance to the goal.
First down, second down, third down, Ohio State stuffed Penn State’s running attack. It was unbelievable, but the Buckeye defense was standing on their heads. On 4th down, I was stunned to see Penn State going for it. They were up by six, a field goal would make it a two score game. On fourth and 1 from the 1, Penn State handed off to the running back who tried to jump over the surge from the offensive line into the end zone. He was again stuffed by the defense.
Ohio State took the ball back at their own 1 yard line with the euphoria of the defensive stand. Miller ran up the middle, to get a little bit more breathing room. On second down, Herron scooted around the end and picked up a first down. Herron picked up another chunk of yards on the following play, and the offense suddenly had life as they neared midfield. Carlos Hyde punished the defense up the middle to pickup another first down, but on the following play, the Buckeye offense would have their second fumble of the quarter as Hyde coughed the ball up and the Penn State defense recovered.
Penn State would have to punt, and on the Buckeye’s next series, the third quarter ended. After picking up a couple of first downs, on third and 8, freshman quarterback Braxton Miller was pressured out of the pocket and threw up a perfect pass to freshman wide receiver Corey Brown. The ball hit Brown’s hands, but he dropped it. It would have been a first down, putting the Buckeye offense deep into Penn State territory. Instead, they were forced to punt back to Penn State.
Once again, the OSU defense played tough and forced a punt. After another series in which the Buckeye offense saw some movement, and gained a couple of first downs, Miller received a bad snap from senior center Mike Brewster. After bobbling the snap, Miller took the ball and was able to improvise a brilliant run through the Penn State defense to pick up a first down. But two plays later, another Brewster snap would go awry as the ball hit the ground. Miller was able to keep possession but it put Ohio State into a third and 12 situation.
The game was the 47th start for Brewster, and while he’s had a solid career at Ohio State, he had four bad snaps out of shotgun today.
On fourth and 5, senior offensive linemen JB Shugarts had his obligatory weekly false start and caused the offenses to be moved back another five yards. Late in the game, Ohio State went for it on fourth down. Miller would be pressured out of the pocket. It was a pl.ay that was – as it was unfolding – had a similar look to the setup for the Miller touchdown pass in the Wisconsin game, but he would cross the line of scrimmage this time and be forced to run with the ball. He did everything he could, and tried to dive forward as he was tackled. it was a great effort by Miller but he was short of the first down.
Penn State took the ball back late. OSU had just two time outs left. The offense got conservative and would have to end up punting back to Ohio State with less than forty seconds left in the game.
With a passing game that has struggled all season, and had picked up just 83 yards on the day, there was little that they could do without time outs , separated from the end zone by almost 70 yards. After an intentional grounding call, they would have a couple of desperation throws that didn’t materialize into gains and the game ended.
Senior day. Second straight loss. Another close, tough defeat for the Buckeyes. It was a day rich in storylines.
Obviously there is the Penn State scandal and the question of how they would respond in a tough road game following a loss.
It was the first game back for senior wide receiver DeVier Posey who had been suspended for NCAA rules violations. I was curious to see what his reception would be, and was pleased to see a warm ovation from the crowd. Posey had 4 catches on the day.
It was the final game for Ohio State Band Director John Woods today. He was honored at halftime and was able to dot the I in Script Ohio. It is believed that this is the first game ever in which the marching band performed Script Ohio Twice.
Before the game started, the two teams met at midfield to shake hands. It almost looked like a scene from Braveheart, but I thought that it was a nice moment and a good display of sportsmanship.
The Ohio State defense came out slow today, giving up nearly 250 yards in the first half. Running between the tackles, passing to wide open wide receivers, gashing through the defense in the wildcat, it looked as if there was nothing that the Bucks could do to contain the Nittany Lions. On one scoring drive in the first half, Penn State picked up first downs on three consecutive plays before scoring a touchdown on the fourth play. They kicked a field goal on the last play of the first half to go up by six.
As poorly as they played in the first half, the Buckeye defense was much more competitive in the second, holding Penn State to less than 70 total yards for the two periods.
Turnovers were Ohio State’s downfall today, and the inability to keep promising drives going.
This loss stings a lot, but it’s Michigan week and there’s no time to dwell on the past.