Ohio State Buckeyes: 5 things to know about a 33-24 win over Penn State

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State scored 10 points off turnovers to outlast Penn State 33-24 on Saturday night.

The fifth-ranked Buckeyes (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) entered as big favorites but had to overcome some struggles on both sides of the ball to hold off the 20th-ranked Nittany Lions (5-3, 2-3) in front of 102,951 fans.

Here are five things to know about the game:

1. Noah Ruggles came up big for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State has not had to rely on its kicker much over the last decade, but coach Ryan Day’s Buckeyes did Saturday night as they struggled to finish drives.

The Buckeyes scored on four of their five trips inside the Penn State 20, but three of them were field goals by Ruggles, the senior transfer from North Carolina. He is 11 for 11 on field goals this season and also had a 35-yarder in the first quarter to start the scoring.

“I’m proud of our guys for working through a gritty game like this,” Day said. “It’s not untypical of a Penn State game. It’s not what we didn’t except. I thought it would be very much like it happened. Certainly frustrating. We’re going to go back on this film and look at it, learn a lot from it, grow from it and pull our hair out from it, but we kept swinging away.”

2. The quarterbacks traded shots.

Penn State’s Sean Clifford entered with questions about his health but looked to be 100 percent. He completed 35 of 52 passes for 361 yards and a touchdown.

Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud started slowly but finished 22-for-34 passing for 305 yards and a touchdown.

The difference? Clifford committed two turnovers Ohio State turned into 10 points.

“The turnovers are making it difficult against this type of opponent on the road, especially when one of the turnovers is for a touchdown,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “The turnovers really kind of caught us. Give them a bunch of credit, they’re a good football team. We weren’t able to do it consistently the way needed to on the road to get this win.”

3. The Ohio State running game was inefficient, but TreVeyon Henderson was huge again.

The true freshman running back had a hard time getting untracked in the first half, but he got loose for a 68-yard run in the third quarter and finished with 152 yards on 28 carries.

He appeared to get banged up in the second half but was still in the game at the end.

“It was tough,” he said. “That was a physical game, but we stayed the course and sooner or later the run game ended up, we got it going.”

Overall, the Buckeyes tried to run for it on third- or fourth-and-short eight times and converted only once. They also had nine carries stopped for no gain or a loss.

“That’s one of the best defenses we played all year, but I needed it to prove to myself I’m tough.”

4. The Ohio State defense struggled on third downs.

The Buckeyes allowed Penn State to convert 11 of 18 third downs, efficiency that allowed the Nittany Lions to string together drives and hang tough until the closing minutes.

Not all of them were easy, either.

Though PSU did not convert any of its third-and-longs (nine or more yards), the Nittany Lions were six for eight when needing 5-8 yards and five of six on third-and-4 or less.

Ohio State converted 5 of 15 third downs on offense.

5. The Buckeyes made enough plays to offset those breakdowns.

Senior defensive tackle Jerron Cage’s 57-yard fumble return for a touchdown gave Ohio State a 10-point lead late in the second quarter despite the offense spinning its wheels most of the half.

That opportunity came on one of four sacks by the Buckeye defense.

Clifford was under pressure much of the night, including on his fourth-quarter interception that led to a field goal, and Ohio State had eight tackles for loss.

“We did some good things on offense, but defense won this game in my opinion,” Day said of a unit that gave up 394 yards but only 4.9 per play. “They got two turnovers. If our defense can play like they did tonight, we’ve got a chance to be really good.”

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