Quotebook: Penn State

By Kyle Rowland on October 28, 2012 at 10:30a

The doubt finally crept in. Ohio State, in a season filled with many storylines, had been the favorite in almost every game this season. When the Buckeyes traveled to Michigan State, a smattering of people thought the Spartans could win, but Ohio State was the popular pick. 

Penn State had early momentum, but it was short-lived.

That wasn’t the case last week. Penn State entered the game on a five-game winning streak and became a national media darling. The Nittany Lions would be the team to end Ohio State’s dream season. But the Buckeyes came prepared.

With a defense that is rounding into the Silver Bullets of old, Penn State’s run offense was irrelevant and Matt McGloin’s pick-six was one of the turning points of the game. For the third consecutive time, Ohio State won at Penn State – and did so decisively.

Braxton Miller was in the midseason form, giving Buckeye Nation a giant sigh of relief. The Heisman campaign is back on, and the Urban Express continues to chug full steam ahead.

Two plays in the game stuck out: Ohio State snuffing out Penn State’s fake punt and Ryan Shazier’s interception return for a touchdown.

“We saw it at the last second,” Meyer said of the fake. “Zach Smith did a nice job with that. That group blocks punts, they return punts, and we had a block on, and they showed it right at the last second. We saw it, but we couldn't control it. The guy had to make a play and (Adam Griffin) made a great play. I think that was the turning point of the game.”

Shazier’s heroics came on the first drive of the second half. The game was tied at seven, but his touchdown gave Ohio State the lead for good.

“At that point in the game, it was unbelievable,” defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “We needed momentum and you can never account for those kind of things. Those are the things that just break the back of the other team.”

“I was focusing on the calls, and the offense ran the play exactly how we practiced it,” Shazier said. “The third down we ran the coverage, and he threw it right to me.”

Shazier’s outing – seven tackles, two sacks and a pick-six – was even more meaningful as he wore the No. 48 to honor a friend who had passed away from complications of muscular dystrophy.

“I was thinking about (Gary Curtis) the whole game,” Shaizer said. “I knew I had his number on and I felt like he was playing through me and he had my back.”

The defense had its best game of the season. Penn State was held to 35 rushing yards and two offensive touchdowns. McGloin had a career high passing yardage performance, but a lot of the yards came after the game had been decided.

“We’re getting more comfortable together as a staff and a defensive unit,” Fickell said. “Everything is starting to click.”

“Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel did a great job of getting their guys ready to go,” Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien said.

“They’re a good team, definitely the best team we’ve played so far this season,” running back Zach Zwinak said. “We went into this game realizing it was going to be tough one up front. They’re a great front seven.”

“They were playing tough defense,” running back Bill Belton said. “They weren’t giving up the big plays that we usually get.

“Their front seven is very good. They’re real physical with you. Upfront, that was the best front seven that we probably will see all year.”

Miller’s health was a topic of conversation throughout the week. Despite his Heisman-worthy numbers eight games into the season, people doubted him against Penn State because of the neck injury he suffered against Purdue. But it was clear Miller was 100 percent from the moment the game started.

“I think he’s an excellent player,” O’Brien said. “He’s one of the top five players in the country.”

“He’s a dual threat,” Penn State cornerback Stephen Morris said. “You got to worry about the pass, you got to worry about the run, obviously. It’s definitely hard. You got to make sure you detain. It’s hard to prepare for something like that. Malik (Golden) did a really good job (on the scout team). We got the real thing today. Braxton Miller – he’s a good player.”

“He had that look in his eye,” Meyer said. “There’s twice (Nebraska) this year that I’ve seen that look. He’s such a competitive guy. Our challenge is to get that out of a noon game. I saw the same thing.”

As he tends to do every game, Miller added to his highlight reel with a run that left the Penn State defense shaking its head. From the one-yard line, Miller was back to almost the 10-yard line, put it in reserve, then forward, then turned the wheel to the left and ran, and scored a touchdown.

“We have a drill,” Meyer said joking. “Make seven people miss and dive across. No, I really didn’t see it. But basically the conversation on the headsets was, ‘Oh, my God.’”

The one change in Miller’s game was the sliding and running out of bounds. The coaches finally convinced him to take care of his body, though a near run-in with a serious injury will also contribute to that line of play.

“I was taking unnecessary hits and I learned from that,” Miller said. “I watched film and I was like, ‘I don’t know why I'm standing up, so I’ll just slide.’”

He ran the ball 21 times and was sacked an additional four, but Miller was noticeably fresher and less hobbled after the game due to his avoidance of hits.

“I’m good,” he said. “My body's good.”

Miller’s best throw of the night was a 72-yard catch-and-run to Jake Stoneburner. The senior tight end ran some 40 yards, turning the after burners on to get away from the pursuing defense.

“At first I was only thinking that I cannot get caught,” Stoneburner said. “It was surreal. I have never had that long of a touchdown in this big of a game.”

Meyer had never been to a game at Beaver Stadium. The Ohio State head coach enjoyed his first trip to Happy Valley, obviously because the Buckeyes came away with a victory, but also because he’s a fan of college football in general.

“First time I experienced this stadium and their crowd,” he said. “This is a big-league atmosphere.”

Talk of O’Brien being national coach of the year ratcheted up the past few weeks, but the coach put the blame squarely on himself for Saturday night’s loss.

“I didn’t do a very good job tonight as the head football coach,” O’Brien said. “I need to do a much better job for this football team.”

It was Penn State’s biggest game of the season – and possibly its biggest for years to come. With a five-game winning streak, the team had found newfound confidence, so a loss stung extra hard.

“Everyone is a little heartbroken right now,” defensive tackle Glen Carson said.

It looked like Penn State had seized the early momentum – in fact, they did – but it was short-lived. In the second quarter, the Nittany Lions blocked a punt and landed on the ball in the end zone. Special teams loomed large all night.

“They say that special teams can make some of the most explosive plays in a game,” said Michel Yancich, who scored the touchdown on the punt. “I think it really boosted us and got the crowd into it. It got our offense going, and it got our defense going as well.”



LouGroza's picture

Buchanan seems to take an extra half step in his punt stride at times. Whatever it is he is very slow getting the ball out of there. Boren slid outside which didn't help on the block as well.

RBuck's picture

I was wondering what's up with the semi-rugby style. He seemed to step right into the block.

Long live the southend.

Golden Buckeye's picture

He takes so long to punt the ball, even if its not that rugby-style kick.  People say you can never blame a block on the punter, but every single punt he has scares me because of how much time he takes.

SaintTressel's picture

I'm starting to think he's taught to slow his motion down until he feels pressure. Theoretically it gives the gunners an extra split second to get down the field and cover.

Bolt's picture

Buchanan has always been seemingly very slow getting off his punts. I have to close my eyes every time he kicks because whenever a team comes after him it's either a block or a very close call.

Scott K's picture

It doesn't matter how many steps Buchanan takes (although I do agree he sometimes seems to take forever0) when the guy who gets there is unblocked.
I believe on all the blocks this year the man who got to the punter was unblocked...which makes Meyer urging his players to get dowonfield on the play even more infuriating...make sure you block someone first boys!

"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

cplunk's picture

^ this
the punt blocks this year are about 5 percent on Buchanan and 95 percent on poor blocking schemes or decisions.

Bolt's picture

Well yeah, I mean the guy who came through last night for the block came through untouched...but that's not always the case. He still seems to take a long time. He has so many close calls on a lot of punts that don't get blocked. Sure blocking has more to do with it but those guys are taught to only momentarily stop or hold off the oncoming rush and then to release and get downfield on the returner. If you have a very slow punter this can be problematic for the timing of that. I wouldn't say it's just 5% on Buchanan...however last night the guy did come through untouched.

d5k's picture

I'm pretty sure this was the case on all 3 blocks.  On 1 of them there were like 3 guys unblocked who could've blocked the punt.  We are also talking about 1.9 seconds vs. 1.7 seconds for a quick punter or something along those lines.  We obviously are having scheme and communication breakdowns in the blocking scheme in an effort to cover the punt.  Buchanan's timing might make it slightly more likely to be blocked but not blocking dudes is like 5000 times more important.

osu07asu10's picture

@Lou (lol though I feel weird talking the kicking game with a legend...)

Like Scott said, at least this block last night, the guy ran through unblocked/untouched on his way to getting to Buchanan, and it looked to me that he almost didn't make it.
+1 to Scott on the unit getting downfield, Bryce Haynes made first contact with their reutrn man last night at least once. Don't know if that is an issue of one responsibility vs. the other but definitely happens.


partisan's picture

It's hard to blame Buchanan for getting that punt blocked becuase it was clearly a blown assignment.  But I think how slow he is at getting the ball out is why we see so many teams sell out to block the punt.  It's like defenders ripping at the ball when Rod Smith carries, the fumbles end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the other teams increased focus/awareness of the weakness.

LouGroza's picture

Not blaming, just pointing out a flaw. Partisan you are right when you say that is why teams go after him to block punts. The deliberate delivery invites them in. Many close calls as well throughout the season. More games to come with more attempts to block punts. Hope we shore it up.

Norwalk's picture

Did Urb comment at all about the play of Roby?  It seemed like he had a hell of a game jamming his receiver on the line then playing the run or peeling off to make a tackle on players that were other DB's or LB's responsibility.  I love the bump and run and look forward to seeing this kid continue to get better.

fansince1968's picture

Roby was awesome, IMHO

SPreston2001's picture

Roby had a good game only because he was able to recover from his mistakes with his speed. He got beat a few times but got bailed out by bad throws and his speed.

Bolt's picture

I only really saw the one time he bit and got burned...and he still made an unbelievable play to make up for it and break up the pass. Otherwise he was all over his man on every play. Their stud #8 has burned everyone this year including Travis Howard but he couldn't get the best of Roby all night. The one catch I recall him having when Roby specifically was covering him he made a heck of a strong catch for just like 5 yards because Roby made contact with perfect timing and got a hand on the ball too. Roby was all over him (or whoever else he was matched up against throughout the game).

biggy84's picture

I can't help but like o'brien. I think he has handled all the adversity with grace. I despise the program, but he is clearly an upgrade over the Bielima's of the coaching world. 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

 Meyer had never been to a gam at Beaver Stadium. 

The gams in Beaver Stadium can be kinda rough and hairy, but at least that makes it easier for the Buckeyes to focus on the game.  
[oops, too late! Good catch, Kyle]. 

Maceyko's picture

O'Brien does come across as somewhat likeable especially when compared to some of the other coaches we all love out there.  As for the punt block it's obviously not a scheme thing as much as an execution issue.  Did you see Meyer's reaction to the block?  I have coached enough to know exactly what that reaction was!

M Man's picture

I never understood the Happy Valley "White Out" phenomenon.  White is essentially the away-team's color, when visiting Beaver Stadium.  Right?  The photos of your game look a lot like they are all OSU supporters...
btw; while the whole universe realizes that Michigan's classic home unis are the best in college football, I have always thought that the Ohio State Buckeyes were the best looking road unis in the Big Ten, and (I'd say) in the nation.

Bolt's picture

I'd have to say white pops out much more than navy would. They could throw us all for a loop and run a pink out for their old school colors of yester-year

CowCat's picture

Mman has a good point.
I'm generally against all of the manufactured crowd phenomena like white outs -- it makes the home crowd look really silly when they're losing.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

buckeyedude's picture

I suppose you're against pom-poms too?



JakeBuckeye's picture

But it was clear Miller was 100 percent from the moment the game started.

I would disagree. It took me until late until the 2nd quarter to be convinced. Thank God Miller is the boss that he is.

cal3713's picture

I actually blamed his poor throwing performance on the injury... not too surprising to see throwing issues if he had a neck injury.

jestertcf's picture

“I was thinking about (Gary Curtis) the whole game,” Shaizer said. “I knew I had his number on and I felt like he was playing through me and he had my back.”
This is a powerful quote. I am glad he was able to show out and beast mode with is friends number on.

~Because we couldn't go for three~

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

No kidding - I think he needs to channel that every game

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Northbrook's picture

Lots of kudos for our guys but I have to say O'Brien is a good coach and a class guy.

osubuckeye4life's picture

Great win in a very hostile environment. Good job guys!