Fireworks, a bit of an eerie-looking sky and black-clad fans welcomed Ohio State to the Horseshoe Saturday.
Penn State and its traditional all white uniforms waited in the wings, too, and the Nittany Lions even scored the first points of the game when Joey Julius connected on a 33-yard field goal not even four minutes in. That came on the heels of a quick three-and-out by the Buckeye offense, which was largely stagnant in the opening frame.
"We knew going into this game, top to bottom it’s probably going to be one of the best defensive lines that we’ve faced so far this season," Ohio State left tackle Taylor Decker said. "Good players, slippery, they can get off blocks, but if we can get our double teams going we were able to move them."
It took a while, but Urban Meyer's inclusion of J.T. Barrett first in Ohio State's red zone offensive package and then later the entire offense led to the team's 20th consecutive victory, a 38-10 shoving away of James Franklin and the Nittany Lions.
"(Ezekiel Elliott) and the offensive line took control of the game, and I though J.T. came in and played great," Meyer said. "Ran for 100 yards, and he obviously gives you that dual threat, which is when you're bogged down a little bit, he did a great job."
Barrett finished the night with 102 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns and also threw a pair of scores to help the Buckeyes put the game away late.
"I felt good," Barrett said. "I liked what we had game planned for them, we just had to execute the game plan. I felt good out there."
"When J.T. came in there we knew that the zone reads were going to work really well," Elliott added. "His ability to attack them on the ground worked to our advantage."
Ohio State's junior running back finished with 153 yards and a touchdown himself, driving past four defenders as he bounced it outside from 10 yards out to give Ohio State a double digit lead it would never relinquish. It was the 12th consecutive game Elliott eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
"If the O-line plays like that, it’s not going to be hard (to keep the streak alive)," Elliott said. "I was watching that Michigan State-Team Up North game and both of those are really good defenses. Looking at the stats those running backs only had 30 yards. If the O-line plays the way that it played today, I don’t think there’s a team in the country."
The nation tuned into Michigan's baffling defeat to Michigan State in Ann Arbor before flipping the channel to the Ohio State-Penn State affair. Meyer took notice, too.
"I heard about it. I saw there was a fumbled punt or something like that as time ran out. This league is tough. The East Division, Big Ten, lot of respect for those teams."
Meyer's club remains on a collision course with the Spartans, both unbeaten and set to face off at Ohio Stadium Nov. 21. It could very well decide who pays a visit to Indianapolis and the Big Ten Championship Game the first weekend in December, especially after the Buckeyes put away the Nittany Lions.
Saturday wasn't always a sure bet, though, at least early and with Penn State freshman running back Saquon Barkley tallying 194 rushing yards on 26 carries.
"He's a special player," senior defensive tackle Tommy Schutt said. "I'm glad I didn't have to see him in the open field, because he'll make you miss. I wish him the best of luck the rest of this season."
Barkley kept Penn State close, but a hobbled Christian Hackenberg provided hardly any support in the passing game and succumbed to five sacks while completing just seven passes. Any time Penn State was in a passing situation, Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington, Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard made his life miserable.
"After we got after him a couple times, you could see that he had happy feet and was quicker to get the ball away or run," Schutt said.
"We had a lot of keys and tips on when we knew they would pass the ball, so we just tried to take advantage of those the best we could," added Washington. "Our thing was to get them to pass the ball, because we know they struggled in the pass game a little bit."
Barrett and Meyer dialed up a trick from deep in the playbook to deliver the knockout blow midway through the fourth quarter when Ohio State led 24-10. The quarterback took a shotgun snap and faked like he was running from the 5-yard line, only to hop up and toss a pass to Braxton Miller for a touchdown.
The jump pass Tim Tebow perfected at Florida under Meyer lives on in earnest in Columbus.
"That's Coach Meyer's play," offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. "It's just not a score play unless you're on the 5, and J.T. happens to be the guy we're going to in the red zone now. It happened to be his call. It's one of those plays, plus it was to Braxton and gave us Braxton another scoring opportunity."
Barrett was the guy in the red zone again for Ohio State when the day began, but by the end of it, he was the guy everywhere else for the Buckeye offense to get the top-ranked team in the country win No. 7 for 2015.
"We'll let this game settle over night, sleep on it and then we'll make some assessments. I don't anticipate any changes, but we'll see how it goes," Warinner said of the quarterback situation. "It's too early to make any decisions right now. It's the head coach's decision first of all, second of all we'll have a consult about it, but there's a reason we had Cardale starting and we just have to assess where we're at right now."
Added Meyer: "Just let me evaluate it, and I'll let you guys know on Monday and go from there."
The Ohio State world waits with bated breath for the man with four winning streaks of at least 20 games to make a decision on whether or not to pull the plug on Jones and go two feet in with Barrett, but one thing remains the same. Barrett's mindset will not change.
"I do what I can and do what I can control, focus on that, being that I will play the best I can and if that puts me in the starting position, that's fine. If it doesn't, then I'll do what I can when I'm in the red zone. Just focusing on what I can control. That's the main thing I try to do.
"It's Coach Meyer's call, but at the end of the day I'm just trying to help the team win. Maybe I go into the red zone or elsewhere, I don't think it matters. When I'm in there, just trying to do the best I can to not let the team down."