Ohio State’s visit to Penn State was supposed to be a shootout between two play-making quarterbacks and their highly-regarded arsenals. Penn State came into Saturday leading the nation in scoring at 55.5 points per game, with Ohio State just one point behind.
But the first half was anything but. Penn State shutdown Ohio State’s offense through the first half, but a number of squandered opportunities and a crucial mistake see the Nittany Lions take just a 13-7 lead to the Beaver Stadium locker rom.
But it could have been more. Penn State out-gained Ohio State by nearly 200 yards but carries just a 6-point lead into the third quarter.
After trading punts to open the game, Penn State struck the first blow of the game when Trace 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 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 Dwayne 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. Even with that touchdown, Haskins suffered through by far his worst half of the season, hitting just 7-of-16 passes for 62 yards. The Buckeyes’ offensive line has been whipped by the Nittany front, and so four Buckeye ballcarriers combined to rush 13 times for just 34 yards.
Penn State has had no trouble moving the ball, thanks in large part two a pair of plays that covered 146 yards. McSorley completed 10-of-19 passes for 198 yards with a touchdown while rushing 10 times for a game-high 76 yards. Sanders has carried 10 times for 31 yards.
The teams are a combined 2-of-18 on third downs. Unless that changes, it’s hard to see either team putting a drive together.
Ohio State will receive to open the second half.