Ohio State took down No. 8 Penn State, 28-17, yesterday in the Shoe to improve to 11-0 on the season and capture the B1G East crown.
Defensive end Chase Young returned from a two-game suspension and was a complete mad man racking up nine tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles. The three sacks gave him 16.5 on the year, breaking Vernon Gholston's school-record of 14.0 set back in 2007. Young's effort, if voters are sober, should secure an invite to New York to attend next month's Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Justin Fields accumulated 256 total yards and a pair of scores though he also had two costly fumbles as Ohio State faced a bit of adversity for the first time since the Buckeyes led Wisconsin 10-7 early in the third quarter of what eventually became a blowout victory.
The win improved the Buckeyes to 15-3 in their last 18 contests against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 10.
All eyes now focus on Ann Arbor where the Buckeyes will face Michigan next Saturday but here's one last glance at Five Things from yesterday's win over the Nittany Lions.
Outside linebacker Pete Werner has been sneaky good all year.
Yesterday might've been his finest game as a Buckeye as the junior out of Indianapolis tied a career-high and led the team with 10 stops along with two pass breakups.
Coming into the game, especially with KJ Hamler less than 100%, it was expected the Nittany Lions would go to their elite tight end, Pat Freiermuth, early and often.
Quarterbacks Sean Clifford and Will Levis did exactly that targeting Freiermuth eight different times with nearly all of those featuring Werner in coverage.
Freiermuth logged six catches for just 40 yards with a modest long of 11 yards. Only two of his six grabs moved the chains and one came on third down.
Werner wasn't flashy but his disciplined play helped keep Penn State's offense from ever gaining any consistent traction.
Middle linebacker Baron Browning didn't play in two of the last four games and logged just one snap in another as he battled a core muscle strain.
Yesterday, Browning was back with a vengeance registering seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a career-high 1.5 sacks.
Browning welcomed himself back into the fold with a sack on 3rd-and-10 of Penn State's second possession and he later added a sack on a 2nd-and-18 play as the Nittany Lions clung to life.
Six of his seven stops held Penn State offenders to four yards or less.
Browning's return for the stretch run against stronger opponents is critical as he is the perfect complement to Tuf Borland's skill-set, giving the Buckeyes a strong 1-2 punch in the middle of the defense.
GROUND AND POUND
Penn State came into the matchup with the nation's No.1 yards per carry allowed defense at 2.19 per try.
J.K. Dobbins gave nay damns rushing 36 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns, or 4.4 per carry.
Overall, Ohio State ball carriers ran for 229 yards on a modest 3.8 per try with a sack-adjusted mark of 4.4.
Those numbers don't sound Ohio State-like this season but the fact is Penn State's front seven is actually pretty good and the Buckeye offense was fairly predictable, rushing it 61 times compared to 22 pass attempts.
Center Josh Myers, left guard Jonah Jackson and right tackle Branden Bowen stuck out as consistently mauling dudes up front.
STEADY AS HE GOES
Chris Olave is rightfully the team's most-celebrated receiver – and Fields' go-to guy in the receiving corps – but man is slot receiver K.J. Hill a steady contributor.
Hill led Ohio State with four catches (on four targets) for 46 yards and a touchdown on a day when Ohio State completed just 16 passes which stands as the third-lowest single-game output this season.
The headliner on Hill's day was a 24-yard touchdown on a perfectly executed corner route giving the Buckeyes a 21-0 lead with 11:31 left in the third quarter.
Earlier in the game, Fields also hit Hill for a 10-yard completion setting up 1st-and-Goal but the quarterback would fumble just before the goal line two plays later for a touchback.
Through 11 games, Hill leads the team with 42 receptions and his 469 yards slot third behind Olave (637) and Binjimen Victor (480). Hill's seven touchdown grabs trail only Olave's 10.
Leading 21-0 early in the third quarter, the game was shaping up to be another largely adversity-free game for the good guys.
From there however, Penn State would score 17 straight points over a four minute stretch cutting Ohio State's lead to 21-17 with 4:22 left in the quarter.
The adversity started innocently enough as the Nittany Lions marched 75 yards in nine plays for a touchdown after Clifford was knocked out of the game. The drive saw a whole bunch of bad tackling but hey it happens.
The real trouble started on the ensuing drive as Dobbins fumbled on the first play giving Penn State the ball at the OSU 12. Two plays later, Levis found the end zone cutting Ohio State's lead to 21-14.
Following Penn State's kick off, Fields fumbled on Ohio State's third play of the possession and the Nittany Lions would capitalize once more with a field goal cutting the Buckeyes' lead to 21-17.
The defense would take over from there however, ending three of Penn State's final four possessions yielding 16 yards or less. Two of those saw the Nittany Lions register -7 and -9 yards respectively.
Young killed one drive with a 10-yard tackle for loss and Justin Hilliard ended another with a clutch interception with Penn State threatening Ohio State's red zone.
Shaun Wade stopped the next possession with a big pass breakup on fourth down and the combo of Young and Browning recorded sacks on the final possession to ensure Ohio State remained unbeaten.
While the second half wasn't always easy on the eyes, it might have provided some valuable experience the Buckeyes can lean on as they face increased chances of having to perform in tight spots down the stretch.