UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. – Braxton Miller answered any and all questions about his health a week after being rushed to a hospital by ambulance. Ohio State’s most valuable player rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns and connected with tight end Jake Stoneburner for a 72-yard touchdown to seal a victory over Penn State, 35-23, Saturday night in Beaver Stadium.
Penn State’s oft-maligned special teams controlled the game throughout the first half, with punter Alex Butterworth ensuring the Buckeyes started four separate drives from inside their own 20-yard line in the first half. Penn State’s special teams also put the first points on the scoreboard, with Michael Yancich pouncing on a blocked punt by Mike Hull midway through the second quarter. But Penn State’s offense could not recover from an aggressive Ohio State defense that had not been seen playing at this level since an earlier game at Michigan State.
Ohio State held Penn State to just 36 rushing yards on 28 rushing attempts. Penn State’s passing game could not get in sync with dropped passes and Buckeye defenders in Matt McGloin’s face much of the game.
Ohio State put together their first solid drive of the game just before halftime, moving 75 yards down the field on 12 plays just before halftime to tie the game at 7-7. Ohio State took their first lead of the game three plays in to the second half, when Penn State started the second half from their own 11-yard line and McGloin missed Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier in the middle of the field. Shazier picked off McGloin’s pass and returned it for a touchdown as flashes of 2010 were rekindled momentarily.
McGloin rebounded nicely on the ensuring drive, moving the offense right down field against the Buckeyes, but the Nittany Lions could manage nothing more than a Sam Ficken field goal. Still, the momentum seemed to be shifting back toward Penn State. Adrian Amos recorded his first interception of the season three plays later, after Miller was scrambling behind the line running frantically to elude Penn State linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. Miller launched an ill-advised pass weakly, allowing Amos to pick it off easily at the Ohio State 44-yard line.
This was the turning point of the entire game.
A one-yard run by Zach Zwinak was followed by an Ohio State sack and an incomplete pass, moving the football back to the Penn State 49-yard line. Penn State tried a fake punt and nearly pulled it off, but a pass from Butterworth fell incomplete to give Ohio State good field position for the first time all night. They took advantage of it.
A five-play, 57 yard drive was capped by an astounding one-yard touchdown run by Miller, who side stepped a defender and leaped over anyone else who stood in his way of the end zone. Miller simply would not be denied on the play as he stretched and hurdled in for the Ohio State touchdown to put the Buckeyes up 21-10. Ohio State scored touchdowns on their next two possessions, with Miller adding another one-yard touchdown and finally putting the game away with a third and four pass to Stoneburner, who had nobody in front of him with Penn State’s defense looking for a stuff at the line, allowing him to run freely for a 72-yard dagger of a touchdown. The score put Ohio State up 35-16 and sent many of the 107,818 fans in white heading to the parking lots.
While Ohio State found something to work with, Penn State had a number of miscues to stall anything they may have had going on both sides of the football. Key dropped passes from the start of the game and a number of penalties for a usually disciplined Penn State team became a factor as well. Penn State was charged for a penalty nine times for 85 yards, nearly double their season average in both categories heading in to the game. The Buckeyes were called for a number of penalties as well, getting a yellow flag seven times for 75 yards.
Player of the Game
Braxton Miller, Ohio State Quarterback
Penn State had a decent approach to Miller, but could not keep him down for long. Miller came alive in the second half of the game, wearing down Penn State’s defense along the way. Miller ended his day with 143 passing yards and a touchdown, but did most of his damage with his legs. Miller ended the game with 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
What Does It Mean?
Ohio State now controls their fate as far as the Big Ten’s Leaders Division race is concerned. While Penn State and Ohio State are both ineligible for postseason play, the Big Ten has allowed both schools to be eligible to claim a division championship and trophy. Ohio State is now the only undefeated team in Big Ten play in the Leaders Division, ensuring that they now determine their own fate through the rest of the regular season.
With Wisconsin also losing at home to Michigan State on Saturday, the path to the division title for the Buckeyes has become pretty clear. Ohio State can also continue making a run for an undefeated season.
Penn State still sits in second place in the Big Ten Leaders Division and can still manage to earn a split division crown, but Ohio State would have to lose at least one game before the end of the regular season. Penn State was awarded a Leaders Division championship last season despite losing the tiebreaker with a head-to-head loss at Wisconsin in the final week of the regular season.
Penn State takes to the road next week to play Purdue. The Boilermakers lost at Minnesota on Saturday, 44-28. Purdue will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak
Ohio State will return home to host Illinois. The Illini were defeated at home on Saturday by Indiana, by a score of 31-17. The Hoosiers win snapped an 11-game losing streak in Big Ten conference play.
Kevin is a national college football writer for quadrust.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Submit your mailbag questions via Tumblr. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.