Ohio State and Penn State met for the 29th time in their illustrious histories. The game was anything but illustrious for Penn State, who found themselves on the wrong end of a 63-14 beatdown that extended OSU’s winning streak to 20 wins. Braxton Miller had a spectacular day in all phases of the game today: he threw 18/24 for 252 yards and three touchdowns, while running 11 times for 68 yards and 2 touchdowns. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg had a very pedestrian day throwing 23 passes for only 12 completions, 112 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Carlos Hyde continued to dominate on the ground, dropping 147 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 carries. Devin Smith’s 5 receptions for 50 yards led the Buckeyes in the air, while Corey “Philly” Brown continued his solid play with 4 receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. For Penn State, Bill Belton picked up 98 yards on 22 carries, while Allen Robinson picked up 9 receptions for 99 yards.
Ohio State started with the ball and immediately began to attack the edges of the Penn State defense. Braxton Miller threw three straight passes in the flat spread around to Carlos Hyde and Evan Spencer in an obvious attempt to exploit a weakness in the PSU defense. The strategy netted nearly 10 yards per play and quickly moved the Buckeyes down the field, setting up a long pass play to a wide open Devin Smith that came within a half yard of scoring. It was no big deal for Carlos Hyde to power the ball into the endzone to give the Buckeyes the first points of the day.
Bill O’Brien’s offense immediately came to work on the next possession. Using a balanced attack of throwing and running, the Nittany Lions moved the ball 64 yards into the redzone. OSU’s defense looked as if they were already back on their heels and that it was only a matter of time for a PSU score. However, PSU QB Christian Hackenberg tossed a pass to the endzone that was underthrown. Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown reached up and intercepted the pass in the endzone for a touchback.
The Penn State defense stood tall following the turnover. They caught Braxton in the backfield on first down after a bad zone-read play. That eventually led to a third and 16 that saw Braxton scramble out for a 12 yard gain. Things weren’t much more successful on the other end of the field for the PSU offense. The Buckeye defense stiffened enough to force a three and out of their own.
Starting with the ball on their own 13, the Buckeyes looked like they were going to spin their wheels for another drive. Carlos Hyde took off for two 10 yard carries, however, to get the drive moving in a big way. But it was Braxton Miller taking off on a designed QB draw that finished the drive. With the offense unbalanced to the left, Miller found lots of space to the right, and Devin Smith blocking the only defender between him and the endzone. Braxton managed to leap into the endzone following the 39 yard run to bolster the lead.
Things were starting to unravel for Penn State in a hurry. Hackenberg threw another pick to a safety on only the second play of the next possession. It didn’t take long for the Buckeye offense to make the most of it again. While continuing to attack the edge with the pass, Miller and Hyde found plenty of success running the football up the gut. That was especially true when Miller went untouched up the middle for his second touchdown of the game. That was followed by another Nittany Lion three and out and Buckeye touchdown – this time through the air to Chris Fields from inside the five.
Finding themselves on the ropes down four touchdowns, the Nittany Lions went back to basics with their offense. They settled down into their blocks, focused on running the football and executing patiently. The adjustments allowed the team to start gaining yardage again and they soon found themselves in scoring range. After a beneficial horsecollar tackle call on Ryan Shazier, Hackenberg found WR Brandon Felder crossing over the middle for the 12 yard touchdown.
The Bucks weren’t going to let it rest with that. Dontre Wilson returned the kick-off past the 50 yard line with some great speed and a nice spin move. Three plays later, Carlos Hyde busted a 39 yard touchdown run to retake a 28 point lead. The game was quickly turning into a scoring frenzy, with neither defense able to get much traction to slow down the opposing offense. That was particularly evident when the Buckeyes were able to regain control the ball before the half and score again in their two minute offense. Miller hit Corey “Philly” Brown over the middle from 25 yards out for his second passing touchdown in the game.
This was a half of dominance that we haven’t seen from a Buckeye team since they manhandled Michigan State in East Lansing 45-7 back in 2008. That MSU team ended the season 9-4, but found themselves completely overmatched by Tressel’s Buckeyes. This Penn State team found themselves in a similar position, unable to react to what Ohio State wanted to do. Miller had no trouble distributing the ball, and Carlos Hyde was a man-beast between the tackles. It’s worth noting that the 2008 MSU could have turned out this badly had Tressel had more of a killer instinct like Urban seems to possess.
After the spectacular fireworks show in the first half, neither offense was amazingly successful to start the second. Both gained good yardage, but defensive adjustments kept the drives from advancing much past the 50. But it was a Zach Zwinak fumble that got the OSU offense going again. Getting the ball at the 33, it was a short 2 plays to put the ball into the endzone again, with Dontre Wilson scoring his first receiving touchdown of his career (his first touchdown was a rushing TD vs. San Diego State).
With the game mostly out of hand by the middle of the third, we started to see some of the names that had disappeared over the course of the season. Jordan Hall quickly reminded people that Carlos Hyde isn’t the only beast in the backfield – not that we needed the reminder. Smooth Jazz Kenny G came in for the last play of a drive with Braxton Miller set out as a wideout and scored a touchdown on a QB sneak from 2 yards out. Smooth Jazz eventually played a few possessions before being switched out for Cardale Jones. We also got to see Ezekiel Elliott and Rob Smith get a few carries at the tail end of the battle, running behind the backup offensive line.
This was the kind of signature win the Buckeyes have been looking for all season. It’s surprising that it came against a team like Penn State, but after Penn State’s 4 OT win over Michigan it came out as a very clear statement game. Obviously the transitive property is not applicable to football, but it’s hard to escape the difference in results, even accounting for the fact that Michigan had Penn State in Happy Valley.
Most importantly, the defense stood tall and played a solid game. Yes, they gave up yardage, but they covered well and made good tackles. It’s a nice step to see moving forward, and gives the offense a compliment that will make this team tough to stop. There’s still a lot of growing to do on both sides of the ball, but what we saw today was a Buckeye team that could have big things in their future.
The Buckeyes will next face the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette on Saturday, November 2nd. You’ll be able to see that game at Noon on the Big Ten Network.