Trailing 26-14 with 8:00 left in the fourth quarter in the loudest venue in college football, Ohio State and quarterback Dwayne Haskins somehow managed to put it all together with two touchdowns down the stretch – with an assist from Penn State – to escape State College with a miraculous 27-26 victory.
Ohio State receivers Ben Victor and K.J. Hill turned in clutch plays, taking advantage of outstanding downfield blocking to find the end zone on 47-yard and 24-yard jaunts for six in the closing minutes and Chase Young and Dre'Mont Jones were absolutely unstoppable in leading the defense to stops with the game hanging in the balance.
It truly wasn't pretty for about 45 of the 60 minutes but in the end Urban Meyer's crew earned the biggest win of any team through the first month of the season and gave itself the inside track in the Big Ten East which is job one on the way to a possible berth in the college football playoff.
The win was Ohio State's third in the last four tries against James Franklin's outfit and moved Meyer to 48-3 in Big Ten games since 2012.
With that, here are Five Things from last night's thriller in Beaver Stadium.
"YOU POKING THE WRONG LION BUDDY.."
Penn State defensive lineman Shareef Miller's pregame bulletin board material suggesting Haskins would fold if hit enough times looked like it might ring true as the signal-caller completed just 7-of-16 passes for 62 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the face of constant first half pressure but to his credit, the redshirt sophomore responded to the challenge over the final 30 minutes of game time.
With his team trailing 13-7 at the break and 26-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Haskins was spectacular down the stretch completing 15-of-23 throws for 208 yards and two touchdowns in the second half including a masterful 7-of-10 tosses for 138 and both of those touchdowns in the final quarter of action.
The fourth quarter domination included leading a 96-yard scoring drive by completing 3-of-5 throws for 73 yards, the final 24 coming via the game-winning hook-up with Hill.
After a first half in which Haskins couldn't lead Ohio State to more than 25 yards on any of its nine possessions, he engineered touchdown drives of 75, 75 and 96 yards in the second half.
Haskins was far from perfect – looking completely shook in the first half – but he stepped up before it was too late and this experience should serve him well down the road.
FLAGS, ERRORS AND GAFFES
Despite picking up the win, Ohio State made more than enough mistakes to lose and probably should have.
Penalties continued to be a ridiculous issue as the Buckeyes posted 10 accepted penalties tallying 105 yards. Entering the game as the nation's 105th-most penalized team averaging 8.0 per game, the Buckeyes upped the ante Saturday night, dropping their ranking to No. 113 with 8.4 flags per game.
It looked like the costliest of them all might be a Luke Farrell facemask that wiped out a Sean Nuernberger 33-yard field goal putting OSU in front 17-13 with 6:17 left in the third quarter. Naturally, Nuernberger missed a 48-yard reboot.
Fellow tight end Rashod Berry, who came in to the game unofficially leading the Buckeyes in penalties, continued shooting his team in the foot with a dropped pass that fell into the arms of Penn State's Garrett Taylor for an interception leading directly to a field goal. (He did have a nice block on Victor's TD scamper.)
For all the hype heaped upon Ohio State's collective tight ends in preseason – I know I was guilty of thinking Berry could be a breakout player – the group has failed to deliver. Through five games, the trio of Berry, Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert has four catches for 38 yards and two touchdowns along with at least five penalties.
The defense also made its share of mistakes, the biggest coming on the second 93-yard touchdown given up this year as Shaun Wade got beat on a slant and Isaiah Pryor, among others, took a fatal angle on Penn State burner K.J. Hamler. The Silver Bullets' penchant for giving up big plays rolled on as they surrendered three pass plays of 30+ yards and 10 rushing plays of 10+ yards, eight of which came from quarterback Trace McSorley.
Obviously, everyone will take a 5-0 record but constant flags and defensive lapses will eventually bite this team if not addressed.
RUSH TO JUDGMENT
Ohio State's rushing attack hasn't been its usual dominant self this season but many thought that would change against a Penn State defense ranked just No. 82 against the run yielding nearly 173 yards per game.
Instead, the Buckeyes put up a fourth-straight game of declining yards per carry – this time finishing at 3.2 yards per tote – and their 119 total rushing yards served as the fewest in a game since the 88 yards gained as Clemson doled out a 31-0 suffocation in the 2016 Orange Bowl. And even in that spanking the Buckeyes averaged 3.8 per carry.
|OPPONENT||RUSH ATT||RUSH YARDS||YARDS PER CARRY||TOUCHDOWNS|
Yes, Penn State was a blitz-happy defense most of the night but I'm confident the film will show the interior of the Buckeye offensive line, in particular, struggled to pick up and execute its assignments.
The Buckeyes managed only four rushing plays of 10+ yards on 37 attempts with a long of 13 by a running back (Parris Campbell had an 18 yarder).
J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber both ran hard but could never get to the second-level clean as Dobbins posted a 17-for-57 line, good for 3.4 per carry with a long of eight while Weber was a little better going 9-for-51, a 5.7 yard average with a long of 13.
Not great, Bob.
SHOWING SOME LEG
|PUNT||YARDS||PSU FIELD POS|
I'm guessing Jim Tressel slept well after watching Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman turn in an outstanding performance as he averaged 47.9 yards on nine boots.
Consistency was Chrisman's biggest contribution last night as his shortest punt still went a respectable 42 yards while he launched three over 50 yards including a 58-yarder pinning Penn State at its own 2-yard line (though PSU did score a TD about a minute later).
Chrisman also put three efforts inside the 20 and now ranks 15th-nationally with 44.6 yards per attempt.
On the road in a nasty environment, there were much sexier storylines but Chrisman fielded all the snaps cleanly, got kicks off smoothly and turned in a very consistent performance.
WITHOUT A TRACE
Trace McSorley is a damn ball player. He'll end his career with a 1-2 record against Ohio State but I offer respect to a dude that just kept coming.
McSorley only completed 16-of-32 throws but a handful of them were huge connections as he amassed 286 yards through the air with a pair of touchdowns.
Of course, McSorley did his best work with his feet, consistently punishing Ohio State for either failing to account for him in man coverage or simply roasting the spy on the way to 25 carries for 175 yards including jaunts of 19, 23 and 51 yards.
Subtract McSorley from the running game and Penn State went for just 31 yards on 19 carries.
The reality is that Ohio State caught a break when James Franklin and company took two timeouts before dialing up a draw play on 4th-and-5 to effectively end the game. I have no idea how you don't dance with who brought you in that scenario but Buckeye fans will take it. At the same time, I tip my cap to the kid.