With all the hype surrounding two nationally ranked defenses, it was the Buckeye offense that stole the show in a 37-17 rout of Penn State. The offensive domination was paced by Todd Boeckman who had his best game as a Buckeye going 19/26 for a career high 253 yards and 3 TDs silencing the Beaver Stadium crowd with 4 touchdown drives of at least 78 yards. Boeckman's success through the air set up the rushing attack and Beanie Wells took full advantage with 25 punishing carries for 133 yards to eclipse the century mark for the 2nd straight game.
The offense set the tone early taking a 3-0 lead on Ryan Pretorius' 50 yard FG on their opening possession then answering PSU's opening TD drive by marching 80 yards for a TD as Boeckman hooked up with Brian Robiskie on a nice 9 yard out route to take a 10-7 lead with 5 minutes left in the 1st quarter. After the Buckeye defense forced a punt the offense came back on the field for the drive of the night. A game changing drive doesn't normally occur at the start of the 2nd quarter but it did tonight as Boeckman engineered a 15 play, 91 yard masterpiece chewing up over 6 minutes before hitting Brian Hartline on a perfectly executed WR screen on 3rd and 14 at the PSU 16 yard line. The drive silenced the 2nd largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history and the 17-7 lead at the break looked like it would be enough as the defense found its groove after surrendering the early touchdown.
The second half was more of the same as the Buckeye D came out and forced a punt setting up the OSU offense at its own 13 yard line. The Buckeyes promptly put the game out of reach with a backbreaking 13 play, 87 yard TD drive extended by a 4th and 1 conversion via a Boeckman sneak at the PSU 24 yard line. With the Wells brothers softening up the defense for 51 rushing yards on the drive, Boeckman continued a game long theme of getting the TE's involved hitting Rory Nicol for an 8 yard completion before finding Jake Ballard on a 15 yard TD giving the Bucks a 24-7 cushion against the nation's 9th ranked defense with under 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
The teams exchanged FG's before a desperate Anthony Morelli served up a 24 yard Pick-Six to Malcolm Jenkins giving the Bucks a 34-10 lead capping a solid, if not spectacular effort by the defense. As expected, the Silver Bullets shut down the mediocre Morelli holding him to just 12/21 and 111 yards before Joe Pa threw in the towel to get backup QB Daryll Clark some reps.
It remains to be scene if the pundits will again change their mind as to whether OSU has been tested, the result of the Buckeyes statisically dominating every foe to date. I can already hear the Mark May's of the world surmising that winning on the road, at night against PSU really wasn't that impressive. As I typed that last line, May is the background pounding his chest proclaiming Michigan will beat the Buckeyes. The good news is many of the doubters learned something tonight and the better news is that none of that chatter matters. The bottom line is the Buckeyes continued their evolution as a unit and control their destiny with three games to play in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Me likes.
Did you get the feeling the offense took a big step tonight? I did. While the unit has been impressive all year, it was exciting to see Boeckman play such a heady game (minus the INT) on the road against a Top 10 defense. He was on fire making some difficult throws over the middle including one to Brian Hartline in between 3 DB's and another in the face of pressure to Jake Ballard to convert a key 3rd down on the TD drive resulting in the 24-7 lead late in the 3rd quarter. Boeckman's growth has been the key to the undefeated start complementing a punishing rushing attack led by Beanie Wells.
Beanie put together another terrific night rushing for 133 yards on 25 bruising carries showing no ill effects from his gimpy ankle. His cuts were sharp as ever and he showed his usual patience at the line of scrimmage although he didn't have to wait long for holes to emerge behind an offensive line that had arguably its best game of the season. The line buoyed a balanced attack that rushed for 200 yards and passed for 253 surrending just one sack and possessing the ball for nearly 38 minutes. OSU converted 12-16 third downs to extend long scoring drives wearing out both the crowd and the PSU defense. Oh, and how many times did OSU punt tonight? Try zero.
I'm no offensive coordinator but I thought Tressel was much more agressive with his playcalling after seemingly letting off the gas a little early last week against his buddy Mark Dantonio before MSU got the two fluke turnover TDs. This week, Tressel continued to attack through the air as the Nittany Lion defense stacked the box with 8 men blitzing early and often. This strategy worked as the line held off the blitz and Boeckman stood poised in the pocket. I'm not a huge fan of making a big deal over a QB's height but Boeckman certainly benefited from the ability to see over the defensive line allowing him to focus downfield and go through his progressions in the face of pressure. The only blip on Boeckman's night was a poor INT toss giving him INT's in back to back games for the first time this season.
Forgiving the INT, you have to feel good about the state of the offense. Tressel's favorite month is on the horizon and the offensive attack is balanced and not reliant on one guy to do all the heavy lifting. The unit has also proven it can function on the road in a hostile environment which will increase in importance if OSU gets by Wisconsin and Illinois before the showdown up north.
The defense started a little shaky giving up a 78 yard TD drive to start the game but gave up just 185 yards the rest of the way forcing 4 straight punts and then two straight turnovers sandwiched between a 62 yard FG drive.
The secondary came up big again giving up just 124 pass yards while notching Jenkins' 24 yard interception return for a TD. The lockdown coverage also led to two sacks of Morelli on the night. Up front, the Buckeyes weren't as impressive allowing 139 yards on the ground, good for 6.0 yards per carry. That said, Penn State RB Rodney Kinlaw never really got loose carrying 14 times for 81 yards. Kinlaw proved fairly shifty and the blocking schemes kept James Laurinaitis from having much of impact, especially early in the game. This appeared to be aided by the lack of a blitz allowing the lead blocker to seal off #33 and he finished with just 2 tackles.
Like the offense, the Silver Bullets have a stable of weapons so Laurinaitis' off night was minimized by the solid efforts of Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Freeman, among others. Freeman had another monster night with 14 tackles, Jenkins had his INT return, and Cam Heyward and Vernon Gholston both stood out wreaking havoc from the outside. All in all, it was another game, another solid performance for the defense.
PSU kept punter A.J. Trapasso from showing off his punting skills since they couldn't force the Bucks to punt, but they did allow him to show his kickoff skills as he recorded 3 touchbacks. Trapasso also put the wood to a PSU return man.
More impressive was the night of placekicker Ryan Pretorius. On a windy night in Happy Valley, he went 3-3 on FG's including a 50 yarder to ensure OSU left with points on their opening drive to keep the crowd in check.
While it didn't have any bearing on the outcome, the only bad news for special teams came in the form of another kickoff return for a TD in the game's final minutes.
Penn State's 7-3 lead in the first quarter marked the first time in 311 game minutes that OSU trailed its opponent...The win made it 19 straight conference W's, tying the all-time conference record set by Michigan from 1990-92.