Penn State hung with the Buckeyes longer than anyone other team has this season, but it still wasn't quite enough as Ohio State hung on for a 28-17 win over the Nittany Lions.
In his postgame press conference, Penn State head coach James Franklin highlighted three aspects of the game that he said proved to be the difference – Justin Fields' running ability, Ohio State's ability to create explosive plays and limit them from Penn State, and crowd noise late in the game.
"The biggest difference in the game was the quarterback’s legs in the running game," Franklin said of Justin Fields' performance on the ground. "We were able to get them into third and long and he would take off for a run, some fourth-down conversions as well.”
Fields had two conversions on 3rd-and-long during Ohio State's first possession of the game on rushes of 15 and 17 yards, extending the drive before ultimately punching it in on the ground.
Late in the second quarter, Fields' legs hurt Penn State again on a 4th-and-5 as Fields broke a quarterback draw for 22 yards to give the Buckeyes a first down, setting up an eventual touchdown.
But it wasn't just Fields – four different Buckeye players had plays of 20 yards or greater. For Penn State, only KJ Hamler had a play of 20 or more yards.
“We weren’t able to be explosive enough," Franklin said "They had explosive plays, we did not.”
Still, Penn State was able to stay in the game as a result of a few costly Buckeye turnover. But when the score got close, Franklin said Ohio State's crowd became a factor, making communication impossible for redshirt freshman quarterback Will Levis, playing his first real action in relief of the usual starter Sean Clifford.
"The crowd noise at the end of the game, we work on that as much as anybody but obviously, Will (Levis) playing his first significant time in this stadium in front of 102,000, we were just in a position where the o-line could not hear him," Franklin said. "They were guessing the cadence and obviously that was an issue in the game.”
Ultimately, Franklin was proud of the way his team played, battling back from a 21-0 deficit on the road against a talented Buckeye team, which he was quick to compliment.
“You’ve gotta give them credit," Franklin said. "They’ve done a really good job. They’re well-coached, they’re talented.”