Chase Complete: Ohio State Survives Penn State, Crossroads in Happy Valley

By Patrick Maks on January 31, 2015 at 3:45 pm
J.T. Barrett runs the ball in overtime.
Chase Complete: Recapping Ohio State's Improbable Title Run

On a beautiful October night in State College, Pa., where the din of Penn State’s famous White Out nearly swallowed Ohio State whole, the Buckeyes escaped 31-24, in double overtime in a game that wasn’t supposed to be close.

  1 2 3 4 OT 2OT F
#12 OHIO STATE 7 10 0 0 7 7 31
PENN STATE 0 0 7 10 7 0 24

After easily seizing a commanding 17-0 lead at halftime, Ohio State surrendered 24-straight points before the heroics of J.T. Barrett, who scored two rushing touchdowns in overtime, and Joey Bosa, who delivered a walkoff sack to end the wild contest, saved its season. 

The win was as dramatic as any for the Buckeyes, who won in spite of their lowest offensive output of 293 yards and a dismal second half where things started to fall apart. Ohio State's defense, however, was a force of nature on this night.

Player of the Game: Ohio State’s Defense

We’re breaking the rules a little bit, but it’s hard to overlook what the Buckeyes did defensively this night and harder to single out one player in what a relentless effort. While Ohio State's offense sputtered for much of the night, the defense was a tree shredder that ensured its championship hopes stayed afloat amidst an unruly crowd a Beaver Stadium.

"Defense really kept us in the game tonight," Barrett said. "Without them, it would’ve definitely been a whole lot worse.”

Darron Lee, the redshirt freshman linebacker, said “If the offense can’t convert on some stuff, we gotta go out there and stop them. That’s our job. That’s what Coach Meyer reiterates to us is to stop them."

"I felt like we did that for a long time," he continued. "I felt like we were dominating a lot of the game and then in overtime we had to finish.”

Ohio State held Penn State to a measly 240 yards on 81 plays (which is three yards a play if you’re good at math). In fact, by the start of the fourth quarter, James Franklin's crew had managed less than 90 yards in what was a spectacular display of offensive ineptitude.  And perhaps most of all, the Buckeyes shut down the Nittany Lions’ run game for 16 yards on 31 carries. 

Joshua Perry, the junior linebacker, led the team with 18 tackles (and also had two tackles-for-loss). Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell each intercepted quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Lee and Joey Bosa put on a hitting clinic, combining for five tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks.

Critical Play of the Game: Bosa’s Walk-Off Sack 

It was almost a sort of anticlimactic way for such a thrilling game to come to an end, but Bosa's walk-off sack to seal Ohio State's win might go down as one of the most memorable plays in the star defensive end's growing legacy. 

Joey Bosa's walk-off sack to win the game.

In double overtime, on 4th-and-5 with the game on the line, Bosa slammed into running back Akeel Lynch and quite literally pushed him into Hackenberg, who collapsed in the pocket without having the chance to at least throw one last desperation pass.

Words don't really do the play justice, so you can watch it from all angles here

What It Meant

In the hours and days after surviving Penn State, Ohio State pointed to the triumph as a sort of rallying point. The win, they said, was a celebration at a crossroads.

"I'll probably never forget that look when I saw our offense taking the field against that White Out in the student section," head coach Urban Meyer said of the overtime periods. 

Perhaps Kerry Coombs, the cornerbacks coach, said it best.

"That was a great character win. You’re not supposed to win in that situation. You get caught from behind in an environment like that and then go behind in overtime going into their student section,” he said. “You are not supposed to win that game.”

And the fact the Buckeyes did win seemed to give them a newfound confidence.

There was a lot to like about Ohio State's win, but it raised some questions, too. The offensive line, which had appeared to come of age, had trouble with Penn State's defensive front. The offense, which was rolling with Barrett, shut down in its first test against an above average defense since the Virginia Tech game.

And with a primetime bout against Michigan State looming in two weeks, these were things the Buckeyes would have to shore up before traveling to East Lansing. 

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