For the first time all season, Ohio State entered the fourth quarter needing to make plays on both sides of the ball to secure a win in Saturday’s 11th game of the season against Penn State.
A 17-point third-quarter run by Penn State cut Ohio State’s lead to four points after a 21-0 start, but the Buckeyes stepped up and made the plays they needed to make in the final 15 minutes to escape their first close game of the year with a 28-17 win. The victory secured the Big Ten East and moved Ohio State to a perfect 11-0 on the season.
|#2 OHIO STATE
|#8 PENN STATE
Ohio State’s offense made an immediate statement on its first possession of the game with a 12-play, 91-yard touchdown drive – in which every single yard came on the ground – against a Nittany Lions defense that had allowed just 75.9 rushing yards per game entering Saturday. J.K. Dobbins ran for 56 of those yards on eight carries, including the drive-capping 4-yard touchdown run, while Justin Fields ran for 35 yards on four carries, including 14- and 17-yard runs for convert third downs.
From there, however, the pace slowed down for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State got the ball on Penn State’s 45-yard line to start its second possession after Chase Young, in his first game back from a two-game suspension for an NCAA violation, recorded back-to-back tackles, including a combined sack with Baron Browning for his 14th sack of the year, tying Vernon Gholston’s single-season school record. The Buckeyes’ possession ended in a touchback for Penn State, however, after Fields fumbled the ball before crossing the goal line and Nittany Lions linebacker Cam Brown recovered on what would have been a 5-yard touchdown run.
Following the opening touchdown drive by the Buckeyes, neither team would score again until the two-minute mark of the second quarter, when Dobbins ran the ball into the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Ohio State went for it on fourth down twice on that possession, with Fields running for a 22-yard gain on 4th-and-goal one set of downs earlier to get the Buckeyes inside Penn State’s 5-yard line.
Ohio State forced a 3-and-out and called timeout to get the ball back one more time before halftime, but ended up letting the clock run out and took a 14-0 lead into the break after Fields was sacked to bring up 3rd-and-25 near midfield.
The Buckeyes finished the first half with 255 total yards, while Penn State had just 64 yards in the first two quarters.
Rain started to fall at Ohio Stadium just before the second half began, but that didn’t slow the Buckeyes down on their opening possession of the third quarter. They drove 75 yards down the field in 10 plays, capped by a perfect pass from Fields to K.J. Hill for a 24-yard touchdown, to take a 21-0 lead just three-and-a-half minutes after the break.
Penn State responded for its first points of the game on its subsequent possession, though, driving 75 yards in nine plays, capped by an 18-yard touchdown run by Journey Brown. The touchdown came after starting quarterback Sean Clifford was knocked out of the game by an injury and was replaced by Will Levis, who had a 10-yard run on 3rd-and-4 to set up the touchdown.
|NET TOTAL YARDS
|AVERAGE PER RUSH
|AVERAGE PER COMPLETION
|RUSHING 1st DOWNS
|PASSING 1st DOWNS
|PENALTY 1st DOWNS
|YARDS PER PLAY
|TURNOVERS (DEF PTS OFF)
Dobbins fumbled on the first play of the Buckeyes’ next possession and Penn State’s Lamont Wade recovered the loose ball at the 12-yard line; two plays later, Levis ran for a 1-yard touchdown to cut Ohio State’s lead to seven points.
Fields fumbled the ball on the Buckeyes’ next possession to give Penn State the ball at the 35-yard line and a chance to tie the game. Ohio State’s defense came up with a huge stop, though, when Jashon Cornell and Young combined to sack Will Levis on third-and-long – with Young breaking Gholston’s single-season school sack record in the process – to force the Nittany Lions to settle for a 42-yard Jake Pinegar field goal.
Ohio State was forced to punt on its next possession, giving Penn State a chance to take the lead. But the Buckeyes pinned the Nittany Lions inside their own 5-yard line to force them to punt from their own end zone, giving Ohio State the ball back at Penn State’s 44-yard line.
The Buckeyes took a two-score lead with 13:18 to play when Chris Olave made a spectacular spinning catch on a pass to the right side of the end zone from Fields for a 28-yard touchdown.
Penn State drove all the way to Ohio State’s 27-yard line on its subsequent possession, giving the Nittany Lions a chance to cut the Buckeyes’ lead back to one score, but fifth-year linebacker Justin Hilliard snuffed out that opportunity when he intercepted a pass – the first interception of his Ohio State career – that Levis threw into traffic.
After punting on its next possession, Ohio State snuffed out Penn State’s final chance to keep the game alive with just over three minutes to play when Shaun Wade broke up a pass by Levis on 4th-and-12, following a pair of false starts.
Ohio State suffered a massive scare at the end of its next possession, when Fields was sacked on a fourth-down attempt and stayed down on the field for an extended period of time with an apparent injury. He was ultimately able to jog off the field, though, and was able to return to the game. Day said after the game that Fields was fine.
Baron Browning had a fourth-down sack on Penn State’s final possession, giving the Buckeyes the ball back with one minute to play and allowing them to run out the clock.
Saturday’s win was Ohio State’s third straight win against Penn State and its largest win over the Nittany Lions since 2015, as the Buckeyes’ 2017 and 2018 wins over the Nittany Lions were both by just one point after fourth-quarter comebacks.
Ohio State finishes the season with 20 straight wins at Ohio Stadium, dating back to its 31-16 loss in its 2017 home opener against Oklahoma.
Fields finished the day with 16 completions on 22 passing attempts for 188 yards and two touchdowns and 21 carries for 68 yards. Dobbins finished the day with 36 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Young finished the day with nine total tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
The Buckeyes will look to finish their regular season undefeated next Saturday when they travel to Ann Arbor to play Michigan in their annual rivalry game. Kickoff is scheduled for noon, and the game will be televised on Fox.
- The game captains for Saturday's coin toss were Young, Dobbins, K.J. Hill and Jordan Fuller.
- With Jonathon Cooper opting to take a redshirt this year, Tyreke Smith started opposite Young at defensive end. Smith left the game in the third quarter, however, with an apparent hand/wrist injury.
- Defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, who was listed as a game-time decision, did not play due to a foot injury. Backup right guard Gavin Cupp, who was unavailable for Saturday's game, was on a scooter pregame and had a walking boot on his foot.
- 25 Ohio State seniors were honored in senior day festivities before the game: Amari McMahon, Jake Metzer, Derrick Malone, Brock Davin, Owen Fankhauser, Logan Hittle, Noah Donald, Brandon Pahl, Kevin Woidke, Liam McCullough, Chris Chugunov, Jonah Jackson, Rashod Berry, Joshua Alabi, Jashon Cornell, Branden Bowen, Binjimen Victor, DaVon Hamilton, Robert “BB” Landers, Austin Mack, Malik Harrison, Damon Arnette, K.J. Hill and Jordan Fuller and C.J. Saunders.
- ESPN's College GameDay, Fox's Big Noon Kickoff and BTN Tailgate all did live pregame shows from campus on Saturday. GameDay broadcast from in front of St. John Arena and Big Noon Kickoff and BTN Tailgate broadcast in front of the RPAC, with both GameDay and Big Noon Kickoff moving inside to sets inside Ohio Stadium for the final hour before the game.
- Walk-on linebacker Cade Kacherski was among the players on Ohio State's kickoff team for Saturday's game.
- The Buckeyes have now held their opponents under 300 yards of offense in all 11 games this season, the longest such streak in program history.