That was a nail-biter.
Until it wasn't.
Facing their first fourth-quarter deficit of the season, Ohio State hung 28 points on No. 13 Penn State in the final stanza to walk out of Beaver Stadium with a 44-31 win.
What can you say about J.T. Tuimoloau's performance against the Nittany Lions? Well, we can start by saying Ohio State damn well could have lost that game had Tuimoloau not had his college football coming-out party.
Tuimoloau was responsible for four Penn State turnovers in one of the most dominant defensive performances that many of us will ever see.
On Penn State's first possession of the game, Tuimoloau deflected a Sean Clifford pass into the waiting hands of Zach Harrison for an interception.
On the Nittany Lions' second series, Tuimoloau victimized Clifford again, defending a pass like a cornerback for his first interception of the season. Three plays later, Miyan Williams punched it in from the four to give Ohio State a 10-0 lead.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter when this game was very much in doubt. After Ohio State scored to take a two-point lead in the game, Tuimoloau recorded a strip sack on Clifford, recovering his own forced fumble. One play later, C.J. Stroud found tight end Cade Stover over the middle to make it 30-23.
Later in the fourth, Tuimoloau punked Clifford again with a 14-yard pick-six for Ohio State's final points of the day.
Four turnovers. 21 points. The difference in this one.
3/4 on Fourth Down
Ohio State entered Saturday's game ranked No. 6 nationally in fourth-down defense, stopping offenses on 75% of their conversions (3/12 vs.). Penn State, however, was able to flip the script a little, going 3-for-4 on fourth downs for the day.
Two of those conversions came during a drive that spanned the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarters. The second of the two conversions saw Penn State running back Kaytron Allen punch it in from the one to give the Nittany Lions a 21-16 lead, punctuating the end of a red zone possession that saw Penn State miss two field goals and seemingly take about 40 minutes of real time.
The fourth-down conversions weren't consequential in the end, but they did seem to highlight how the first three and a half quarters of this game, every break went Penn State's way. Falling on their own fumbles, re-kick penalties, good spots – you name it.
79% of Passes
This was one of those games where you could easily walk away from it thinking C.J. Stroud wasn't at his best. He did finish with a season-low one touchdown pass and had some pressure read and clock management issues early on, but when you go back and look at his stats… wow.
Stroud's final numbers show he completed 79% of his passes (26-for-33) for 354 yards and the one touchdown to Stover, but most importantly, zero interceptions. When the game was on the line, Stroud was at his best, throwing dimes to Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Stover, and others. He finished the game, completing 10 of his final 12 throws, and he had a streak of 10-straight completions in the first half.
Sure, he could run more and do some other things fans complain about, but we are watching greatness as a pure thrower and we're all better off stopping to appreciate it a bit more.
Bonus Stats & Notes
Tuimoloau became just the third player over the last 15 seasons with two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception, and a touchdown in one game… Penn State (482) finished with more total yards than Ohio Sate (452), the first time since the 2019 Rose Bowl in which Ohio State has won a game while trailing in total yardage… The Buckeyes have now won six in a row against Penn State, the longest in the series, which dates to 1912… Ohio State has scored 40 or more points in seven-straight games, becoming the first Big Ten with a run like that since 1936… The Buckeyes have scored 20 or more points in 69 (nice) consecutive games, tying the all-time FBS record (Oklahoma 2016-21)… Ohio State saw its perfect red zone streak for the season end Saturday following a bizarre clock management debacle at the end of the first half. Ohio State went 4/5 in the red zone against Penn State… Saturday's win was the 950th in program history (officially, at least – if we count the vacated wins from 2010, Ohio State has 962 all-time)… The Buckeyes have recorded a pick-six in back-to-back games… Ohio State improved to 42–4 under Ryan Day.
- #2 Ohio State 44, # 13 Penn State 31
- • Buckeyes Survive Scare in Happy Valley
- • Offense Answers Bell in Crunch Time
- • An All-Time Great Performance
- • Tuimoloau is a Turnover Machine
- • Ohio State Postgame • Photos • Notebook • Quotebook • Debriefing
- • Penn State Postgame • Social Reax • 3 Key Stats • Five Things