STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The offense and the defense picked each other up for Ohio State on Saturday afternoon as the Buckeyes outslugged Penn State 44-31.
“When we go into these games, the expectation is just to win,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “I know that’s not everybody’s expectation, and that’s all right. Do you want to play perfect? Yeah. Do you want to win by four touchdowns? Yeah, but the expectation coming in here has to be to win. And that’s what we did.”
Here are four things to know about the game:
1. Ohio State struggled on offense early.
The Buckeyes had 13 points on 209 yards in the first half, when they averaged 2.1 yards per rush and were 1 for 7 on third downs.
“I felt like we could have done a better job on first down to stay on schedule,” Day said. “They do a good job of taking away a lot of the easy stuff.”
2. The Buckeyes made up for it in the fourth quarter.
Ohio State scored 28 points (including a defensive touchdown) in the fourth quarter while gaining 189 yards. They averaged 8.7 yards per run and only faced two third downs but converted both.
Stroud completed 6 of 8 passes for 128 yards in the fourth quarter to finish 26-for-33 passing for 354 yards.
“I guess at the end of the day when you’re playing these types of games, I think you’d have to look at the body work in the fourth quarters,” Day said. “And I think we’re all used to saying, ‘Alright, what did we do in the first half?’ And it’s like, okay, but it’s four quarters. And so when we’re playing a matchup game like this, it’s it’s the whole story and it finally clicked.”
3. Penn State won the rushing battle but lost the war.
The Nittany Lions outrushed Ohio State 111-98, and the hosts’ ground game was far more efficient.
Only three of PSU’s 33 runs (not counting sacks) went for no gain or loss while Ohio State suffered 10 such plays.
Ohio State’s stuff rate was a staggering 38 percent, the same as its success rate, but TreVeyon Henderson’s 41-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter gave him a decent statistical day (78 yards on 16 carries).
Freshmen Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton churned out 121 yards on 26 carries and helped the Nittany Lions stay on schedule offensively by averaging 5.4 yards per carry on first down.
4. The Ohio State defense suffered several untimely breakdowns but countered with big plays of its own.
Penn State had seven explosive plays, including a 58-yard catch-and-run by Parker Washington when defensive coordinator Jim Knowles dialed up a blitz with no free safety. Washington spun away from Tanner McCalister and JK Johnson before racing to the end zone.
A 42-yard pass set up a 23-yard score for Penn State’s second touchdown, and Allen’s go-ahead touchdown run in the fourth quarter was set up by a pass interference call against Johnson and a 26-yard connection between Sean Clifford and Washington.
But the Ohio State defense forced a pair of turnovers after that to lead to a pair of Ohio State touchdowns and give the Buckeyes breathing room.
J.T. Tuimoloau had perhaps the best individual defensive performance ever by someone in an Ohio State uniform. The sophomore defensive end was credited with six tackles, including three for loss, and two sacks. He forced and recovered a fumble, tipped a pass that was intercepted by teammate Zach Harrison then had a pair of interceptions himself. Tuimoloau returned the second one for a back-breaking touchdown with 2:42 left and Ohio State up 13.
STAT OF THE GAME
Marvin Harrison Jr. became the go-to guy late in the game with Jaxon Smith-Njigba again sidelined by injury. The sophomore from Philadelphia caught three passes for 49 yards in the fourth quarter and finished with 10 catches for 185 yards.
Ohio State at Northwestern, Noon, ABC, 1410
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