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No. 4 Ohio State rallies from two double-digit deficits to beat No. 9 Penn State

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On a night when its offense struggled to get going and its defense lacked for answers, No. 4 Ohio State overcame a record crowd and a record night from Trace McSorley to rally back from two double-digit deficits to stun No. 9 Penn State, 27-26.

The Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) were out-gained by 100 yards and trailed 26-14 midway through the second quarter, but Dwayne Haskins tossed two late touchdown passes, engineering a 96-yard game-winning touchdown drive, to give Ohio State a crucial win in the Big Ten East race and the inside track to returning to the College Football Playoff.

After trading punts to open the game, Penn State struck the first blow of the game when McSorley found Juwan Johnson for a spectacular 31-yard gain, taking the ball from the Ohio State 48 to the 17.

But a gadget play to backup quarterback Tommy Stevens lost 13 yards on the next snap, and so the Nittany Lions (4-1, 2-1 Big Ten) settled for a 34-yard Jake Pinegar field goal.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State was moved in prime territory to take control of the game when McSorley dashed for a career-long 51-yard gain on the first play of the drive, but the march sputtered and Pinegar’s 46-yard field goal hooked wide left.

The teams traded three and outs after that, until Garrett Taylor intercepted a Haskins pass and returned it 45 yards to the Ohio State 28. Once again with a great chance to take control of the game, Penn State again couldn’t muster anything more than a glancing blow. The Nittany Lions could not gain a first down, and Pinegar’s 39-yard field goal pushed the lead to 6-0.

Though the offense couldn’t get anything going, Drue Chrisman tilted the game to Ohio State’s advantage with a pair of booming punts — a 44-yarder to pin the Nittany Lions to their own 12, and then a 58-yarder to the 2.

Pinned near their own end zone, it appeared Penn State was ready to give Ohio State good field position when facing a 3rd-and-5 from their own 7, but it was then that the Nittany Lions finally landed a knockdown punch — a slant to freshman K.J. Hamler who outraced the Buckeyes’ defense and raced it 93 yards for a touchdown. It was Penn State’s first third down conversion of the night.

Penn State forced Ohio State into a third consecutive three-and-out with 2:32 to go before the break, but a critical mistake allowed the Buckeyes back in the game. Miles Sanders coughed up the ball after being hit by Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland, and the Buckeyes’ Dre’Mont Jones hopped on the ball at the Penn State 25.

The Buckeyes finally got on the board two plays later when Haskins hit J.K. Dobbins on a screen pass, who carried it 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:50 to go before the break.

Ohio State took the ball to open the second half and sliced down the field, moving 75 yards in 13 plays to grab the lead, and it seemed like Haskins and company were finally back on track. It especially seemed that way on the following drive when Ohio State penetrated to the Penn State 16, but the Nittany Lions forced a Sean Nuernberger 33-yard field goal, but that score was wiped off the board due to a face mask call and Nuernberger’s ensuing 48-yard try was no good.

The teams traded three-and-outs over their next two possessions until Penn State moved from its own 38 to the Ohio State 24, when Franklin eschewed another Pinegar field goal to try a 4th-and-1, but Chase Young batted down McSorley’s pass, and Ohio State’s 14-13 lead held heading into the fourth quarter.

But Penn State forced a three-and-out and McSorley then found Hamler again for a 36-yard gain on a 3rd-and-13 from the Ohio State 30 — and a targeting call on Isaiah Pryor tacked on another 15 yards, moving the Nittany Lions into the red zone. McSorley covered the final 15 yards, first on a 13-yard keeper and then a 2-yard toss to tight end Pat Freiermuth, see-sawing Penn State back in front 20-14 with 12:22 remaining.

Ohio State moved near midfield on the ensuing possession, and Urban Meyer elected to go for a 4th-and-1 at the Penn State 48, and a Haskins keeper was stuffed. McSorley then covered 49 of the required 51 yards to put the Lions on the doorstep, and a 1-yard Sanders rush put Penn State back up two scores with eight minutes to play.

That 12-point lead was short-lived, though, as two Haskins completions and a pass interference penalty put Ohio State back at midfield and then Binjimen Victor, normally a possession receiver, bobbed and weaved through the Penn State secondary for a 47-yard score, pulling the Buckeyes within five with 6:42 to play.

McSorley again scrambled Penn State into Ohio State territory, but the drive stalled and Penn State punted, pinning Ohio State at its own 4 with 4:35 to play. That field position was short lived; a Dobbins screen for 35 yards put Ohio State near the 40, and gains of 11 and 14 yards pushed the Buckeyes near the 30, setting up a go-head scoring toss from Haskins to K.J. Hill from 24 yards out. Haskins’s 2-point try sailed high, and Ohio State led 27-26 with 2:03 to go.

Armed with three timeouts, Penn State moved to the Ohio State 43, when, after a sack, McSorley gained nine yards on a 3rd-and-14 to set up a decisive 4th-and-5 with 1:22 to play. A total of three timeouts were called before the play, and Greg Schiano won the chess match when the Buckeyes baited McSorley, who set a school record with 461 yards of total offense, into handing the ball off to Sanders, who was stuffed behind the line by Young to complete the comeback.

Haskins closed the night hitting 22-of-39 passes for 270 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, while Dobbins and Weber combined to gain 174 yards on 29 total touches. McSorley, meanwhile, completed 16-of-32 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 25 times for 175 yards, a school record for a modern-day Penn State quarterback.

The Buckeyes will now be heavily favored in every game through the rest of the regular season, while Penn State will need Ohio State to lose twice to move atop the Big Ten East.

Lincoln Riley finalizes defensive staff for 2019

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Oklahoma’s defense was flat-out awful in 2018, as we know. The Sooners were 114th in total defense (453.8 yards per game), 102nd in yards per play (6.13) and 101st in scoring (33.3 points per game). Their ineptitude indirectly handed Kyler Murray the Heisman Trophy as the Sooners’ signal caller had to pull his rabbit out of a hat on a weekly basis throughout the fall, but without Murray’s exploits Oklahoma might’ve been a 7- or 8-win team in 2018.

Murray is gone, so the defense has to improve or Oklahoma will take a significant fall in 2019.

Lincoln Riley has spent the past three weeks reshaping his defensive staff, and on Sunday he finalized his staff and their assignments.

New hire Alex Grinch will coach safeties while coordinating the defense. He spent 2018 as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio State. (The Buckeyes’ pass efficiency defense slipped from 13th to 42nd in Grinch’s one season on staff, but Riley hired him for his success coordinating Mike Leach‘s defenses at Washington State.)

Assisting Grinch in the secondary will be cornerbacks coach Roy Manning. He spent 2018 as the outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at UCLA but worked with Grinch at Wazzu from 2015-17.

Brian Odom was hired away from Missouri to coach the Sooners’ inside linebackers, where he’ll team with new outside linebackers coach Ruffin McNeill. Riley’s mentor, McNeill is one of two holdovers from the 2018 staff. He was hired upon Riley’s promotion to head coach as assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach but took over the entire defense following Mike Stoops‘ midseason firing.

The only Oklahoma defensive coach to coach the same position from 2018 to ’19 will be defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux. The OU graduate has been on staff since 2016, when he returned to Norman as defensive ends coach.

Former South Carolina DE announces transfer to TCU

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TCU loses its top two sack artists from 2018 to 2019, but some help just arrived.

Shameik Blackshear (above, top) announced on Saturday he will spend his final year of college football in Fort Worth.

The Bluffton, S.C., native played his first three seasons at South Carolina, where collected 34 tackles and one sack. He appeared in all 13 of the Gamecocks’ games in 2018, including two starts.

He’ll have a chance to compete for an immediate starting role following the graduations of Ben Banogu and LJ Collier plus the departure of Michael Collier. Banogu and Collier combined for 14.5 sacks in 2018, more than 40 percent of the Frogs’ 35 total sacks.

Blackshear is the second Power 5 graduate transfer to pick TCU this week. The Frogs also secured the services of former Kansas State quarterback Alex Delton.

Penn State LB Jarvis Miller announces graduate transfer to UMass

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UMass signed one of its biggest recruits since joining FBS, four years after he left high school.

Penn State linebacker Jarvis Miller has announced he will leave State College to spend his final season in Amherst.

“After much prayer and consideration with my family I have decided to play my 5th year of eligibility at the University of Massachusetts (UMASS), Amherst will pursuing my Masters (sic) Degree,” Miller wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account. “To the Penn State fan base you are the best fans anyone could ask for ! It has been the most memorable 4 years of my life.”

A consensus 3-star recruit, Miller was viewed as a top-10 player in the state of Connecticut when he signed with the Nittany Lions out of Suffield.

Miller redshirted in 2015, then played in 33 career games as a special teams player and reserve linebacker. He collected 23 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack while in blue and white.

Florida State QB James Blackman reportedly not considering transfer after all

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It appears a bad debut season for Willie Taggart at Florida State is not going to get worse.

After it was reported Wednesday that Seminoles quarterback James Blackman had entered his name into the transfer portalWarchant reported that no such entry had been made as of the end of the business week.

Of course, entering one’s name into the transfer portal wouldn’t guarantee a transfer, but it’s simply not possible to transfer without putting your name in, so it appears that — as of this writing, at least — Blackman is intent on returning to Tallahassee for his junior season.

Starting quarterback Deondre Francois also dealt with a similar rumor last month. As of now, he remains a Seminole as well.

While playing for the injured Francois, Blackman completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 2,230 yards with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a true freshman in 2017. Francois returned to health and the starting lineup this past season, connecting on 57.3 percent of his passes for 2,731 yards with 15 scores against 12 picks. Blackman went 33-of-51 for 510 yards with five touchdowns and one interception as his backup.

As Francois’ numbers indicated, the Seminoles sputtered offensively in Taggart’s debut campaign. Florida State finished 110th nationally in yards per play, 93rd in passing efficiency and 113th in scoring. However, both signal callers would be wise to stick around. Taggart hired Kendal Briles to run his offense. In 1-season stints at Florida Atlantic and Houston, Briles pushed the Owls from 80th to eighth in scoring and the Cougars from 65th to fifth.