Joey Bosa has not-so-quietly established himself as one of the most talented and, at times, the most dominant defensive linemen in the country.
After using Penn State running back, Akeel Lynch to take down Christian Hackenberg on the final play of Saturday night's double-overtime victory, his highlight tapes have a new first scene. Exhibitions of such talent were on display all night in Beaver Stadium, as the sophomore tallied two and a half sacks as part of a six-tackle performance, the third-highest total on the team.
But after that fourth down in double-overtime, many wondered why a player that had already made such an impact on the game would be disregarded by the Penn State offensive line. In reality, Bosa was allowed to take such an easy path to the backfield thanks to the help of his fellow Buckeye defenders, as well as the coaching staff.
As both teams lined up for the final time, the Buckeyes showed a different look than what they'd shown throughout both overtime periods, flipping the script on what had been the story of the their season thus far. Fans have become very familiar with the 'Bear' front, seeing every opponent since Virginia Tech line up in the same scheme the Hokies used to shut down the Ohio State running game in their week-two matchup.
But this time, it was the Buckeyes lining up in the 'Bear,' with three defensive linemen lined up over the Penn State center and guards.
Much as they had throughout the game, the Buckeye defense was in 3-3-5 personnel, removing defensive tackle, Adolphus Washington in place of a third cornerback, Armani Reeves, to help in coverage. In Washington's place, linebacker Darron Lee would often line up as a defensive end, still giving Ohio State four pass rushers.
In this instance though, Josh Perry (#37) lined up at the end spot, and Lee lined up like an inside linebacker behind nose tackle Michael Bennett (#63). The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, have running back Akeel Lynch in the backfield to help account for all six potential rushers that could be coming from the OSU front.
Not only have the Buckeyes made it clear that pressure is coming from the inside, but there is a twist, literally. It appears that Bennett and Bosa had intended on running a stunt, meaning Bennett would attack the gap between the left guard and tackle, with Bosa coming behind him and rushing to the gap to the inside. Lee would split the two, blitzing in the gap between the center and left guard.
Bosa chops his feet at first, signaling his intention to wait until Bennett has engaged with the center before making a move of his own.
But Bennett gets such a quick first step that he must be picked up by left guard, Brandon Mahon (#70), who is immediately driven backward by the big man from Centerville.
Simultaneously, left tackle Andrew Nelson (#59) was so focused on picking up Perry on an outside speed rush that his first step is to the outside, creating a massive hole between he and Mahon. Instead of stunting behind Bennett, Bosa changes course, now heading straight though the gap toward the quarterback.
As he would note after the game, "It was actually a broken play, but the guard blocked down and the tackle blocked out, and the hole just opened up, so I took it."
The only Nittany Lion in position to help is Lynch, who saw additional playing time due to the injury suffered early on by Zach Zwinak. Lynch is listed at 18 pounds lighter than Zwinak, and he has far less experience in pass blocking situations than the senior.
Initially looking to the right side of the formation for incoming rushers, Lynch recognizes the incoming rush of Bosa, and does his best to change course. The rushing Buckeye covers ground so quickly though that Lynch isn't able to properly set his feet before contact, allowing the much stronger Buckeye to also get lower and thus, have more leverage.
Once engaged, Bosa simply used his power and leverage to push Lynch backward, admitting later, "I was tired of trying to work my way around the back, so I just ran him over."
Lynch never stood a chance in this matchup, but never should have had to in the first place. The combination of the Buckeye alignment, Bennett's quickness, Nelson's mistake, and Bosa's wherewithal created a unique situation that, unfortunately for Penn State, came at the worst possible time.
The Big Bear, himself weighed in to clarify the play that was originally called:
Whatever his intended responsibility, I think we can all agree he made the right decision.