COLUMBUS – Foreboding skies blanketed Central Ohio Saturday afternoon, but as darkness descended upon Ohio Stadium the Buckeyes emerged from a week filled with BCS cacophony and made an emphatic statement.
On the same day, No. 5 Missouri lost in double overtime and No. 7 Miami eked out a win over lowly Wake Forest, fourth-ranked Ohio State dominated from start to finish in a 63-14 win against overmatched Penn State. The margin of victory is the second-worst in school history for the Nittany Lions.
It’s the first time in the 126-year history of Penn State football that it’s given up 40-plus points in three consecutive games. Ohio State’s 63 points marked the first time Penn State has surrendered 50 in game since losing 51-30 to West Virginia in 1988 and the most since allowing 64 to Duquesne in 1899.
Braxton Miller played like a Heisman front-runner, a maligned defense thumbed its nose at critics and the Buckeyes said loudly, “Look at us, voters!” Ohio State scored four touchdowns and forced two freshman mistakes from Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the game’s first 23 minutes en route to a 28-0 lead that swelled to 42-7 at halftime.
“I like where we’re at right now as a team,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “The most impressive part of the game to me was we caused turnovers and we hit the quarterback a little bit. We haven’t been doing that.”
In the most complete game of his career, Miller totaled 320 yards of offense – 252 passing and 68 rushing. He completed 18 of 24 passes for three touchdowns and zero interceptions, running for two additional scores.
“Yes, [this is the most confident I’ve been],” Miller said. “Through the year with Coach Meyer and the offense, learning every game, I just improve myself and show what I have.”
Carlos Hyde’s outing wasn’t far behind Miller’s in the “wow” category. He finished with 147 yards rushing and two touchdowns and didn’t play beyond the midway point of the third quarter.
Fireworks erupted from atop the scoreboard when the Buckeyes took the field prior to kickoff. Little did the 105,889 people in the stadium know it was a symbol for what was to come. Urban Meyer predicted a street fight, but it turned out to be a savage beating.
Ohio State’s quick-strike offense overwhelmed Penn State and forced them into submission before halftime. Miller delivered a virtuoso performance, and that was well before the first half ended. By that time, the Buckeyes led 42-7 and some blue-and-white-clad fans had already begun their five-hour drive back to State College.
Hackenberg wasn’t far behind. But he didn’t throw in the white towel. Instead, an injury to his throwing hand cut Hackenberg’s night short.
Ohio State racked up 414 yards of offense in the first half on its way to 686 for the game, the most ever allowed by Penn State. The sheer dominance drew comparisons to the Nittany Lions’ win over Ohio State by the same score in 1994.
“I take full responsibility for this loss,” Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien said. “We didn’t prepare them enough as a coaching staff and we did not play well enough. We have great kids and they never quit and we’ll put this one behind us, learn from it and get ready for Illinois.”
The Buckeyes led 28-0 when Penn State finally scored after an 11-play drive. There were rumblings that the Nittany Lions scored too soon, giving Ohio State more than four minutes to work with before halftime. It turns out those thoughts were justified after the Buckeyes scored not once but twice in just over three minutes.
Mr, Hype, Dontre Wilson who’s since become Mr. Invisible, made a timely appearance with a 49-yard kick return to put the Ohio State on the short side of the 50. Two plays later, Hyde rumbled 39 yards to paydirt.
The ensuing Penn State drive stalled and Miller went to work with 55 seconds left. He engineered a six-play, 84-yard drive that lasted 52 seconds, culminating with a 25-yard bullet that hit Philly Brown in stride in the end zone.
A quarter century ago, West Virginia ran a 50-yard draw play late in the first half to take a 41-8 halftime lead over Penn State. Mountaineers’ head coach Don Nehlen was asked about running the score up and gave a defensive response.
“In the first half?” he said. “You’ve got to be joking me. Holy criminy! We run a draw play for 50 yards, and I’ve gotta apologize?”
O’Brien was asked Saturday night about the score getting out of control and didn’t deliver much comment. Meyer said that wasn’t the goal.
“It helps [the national perception],” he said. “That was not certainly our mindset. Our mindset was to find a way to win this game against a very talented team that we have a lot of respect for that had a lot of momentum coming into this game.”
The Buckeyes scored on six of their first seven possessions using a wide array of weapons – long runs, deep passes, an up-tempo offense. It didn’t matter what Ohio State threw at the Nittany Lions, because they weren’t stopping it.
Ohio State 63, Penn State 14
Miller completed all four passes on the opening drive, which ended with Hyde scoring from two yards out. It appeared that Penn State would answer with points, but Hackenberg got greedy on third down from the 12-yard line and was intercepted by Pittsburgh Brown. The Nittany Lions went down the field using three tight ends and powering through Ohio State’s defensive line. But it would be the only drive Penn State had consistent success moving the football.
The Buckeyes limited Penn State to 357 yards and 20 first downs.
“They’re a good football team. No doubt about it,” O'Brien said. “Ohio State has good speed, good athletes and coached better than us. Miller causes trouble when you let him get on the perimeter of the defense.”
In 2009, USC brought its true freshman, Matt Barkley, into the vaunted Horseshoe at night and came away with a victory. The thriller was capped off with a 14-play, 82-yard game-winning drive in the closing minutes that thrust Barkley into Trojan lore in just the second game of his career.
Hackenberg suffered a far different fate in his first trip to one of college football’s grand cathedrals: 12-of-23 passing, 112 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and minus-21 rushing yards after four sacks.
If Ohio State wins this coming week at Purdue, the Buckeyes will be going for win No. 22 in a row at Illinois Nov. 16 to tie the school record for most consecutive victories.
Said Miller: “We’ve got to keep our foot on the pedal.”
[Photo: Kirk Irwin Photography]