Maybe it was the black uniforms under the lights that did the trick. For the second straight week, Ohio State got the offense rolling after a relatively tame start to the game. A flat first quarter saw Penn State take a 3-0 lead before J.T. Barrett got the red zone offense going in the second. Two TD runs by Barrett bookended a scoring effort from Ezekiel Elliott, and the Buckeyes took a 21-3 lead into halftime.
From there, it was pretty much all Ohio State. The Buckeyes limped through the third quarter, what has been their strong suit all season, and the only points scored came in the form of a DaeSean Hamilton touchdown for the Nittany Lions. But the offense, led solely by Barrett, posted 17 points in the final 15 minutes to seal a 38-10 victory over a Penn State team boasting a stout defense and a competent rushing attack.
In any game like this, there are always plenty of people to pin a gold star on. Let's take a look at who's responsible for Saturday's convincing Ohio State victory in the Horseshoe:
Blue Chip Stocks
J.T. Barrett, QB: What started as a red zone experiment could very well turn into a full-time gig after Saturday's performance. Cardale Jones wasn't terrible, but he still seemed to be missing the spark that carried the Buckeyes to a national championship last season, and part of the way through this one, Urban Meyer decided to go with Barrett for the duration. Safe to say the move paid off. Barrett finished with four total scores, two each on the ground and in the air.
On the day, J.T. went 4/4 passing for 30 yards and carried 11 times for 102 yards, plus his touchdowns. Those aren't world-beating numbers, but they're a sight more efficient than anything the Buckeyes have mustered outside of the Virginia Tech and Maryland games. Barrett looked, by and large, like the guy that we saw so often last season: unflappable, confident, and dangerous. He showed off everything from a killer ability to read defenses in option looks to a jump pass(!). Stop us if you've heard this one before, but Urban Meyer is going to have a tough decision to make this week regarding his team's signal-caller.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB: Leonard Fournette might be the biggest name in college football backfields this season, but that doesn't take anything away from the monster streak of performances that Zeke has been on since midway through last season. Saturday saw No. 15 rack up his twelfth straight 100-yard game; no small feat, given some of the defenses that the Buckeyes have faced along the way. Elliott finished with 153 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. He added another impossible hurdle to his trophy case, and as is often the case, looked stronger and stronger as the game went on. This man simply doesn't get tired.
Zeke also went over 3,00 career rushing yards during this game. He became just the ninth Buckeye to hit that mark in the school's history.
Cameron Johnston, P: Rare is the occasion that fans of a football team get excited to see their punter take the field. To see that particular specialist come into play evokes feelings of failure and frustration at the drive that was, the drive that could have been. Not so -- at least, not as much so -- with Ohio State's Cam Johnston. The Aussie punter was kicking from another plane of existence on Saturday night, recording 208 yards on five boots. Those aren't earth-shattering numbers on their own, but Johnston kept the Nittany Lions pinned inside their own fifteen yard-line all night. Having a guy who can flip the field for you that consistently is a blessing, one that certainly helped turn the tide in favor of the Buckeyes in this contest.
Joey Bosa, DE: Now, this felt like the kind of Joey Bosa game we've been waiting for. Bosa was in vintage form on Saturday, leading a pass rush that limited QB Christian Hackenberg to 7/13 passing and a 6.1 QBR. He wreaked havoc all night, driving back guards like they were JV players, blowing up run plays behind the line of scrimmage, and laying hits on the quarterback (when he wasn't being egregiously held). Seriously, look at this man:
Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) October 18, 2015
Adolphus Washington, DT: Helping Bosa mop up all night was Washington, the Buckeyes' massive interior presence. Ohio State looked pretty miserable against the run, but Washington did his part to clog up running lanes, blow up plays in the backfield, and make Christian Hackenberg as uncomfortable as possible. He also forced a huge fumble on the play following Cam Williams' controversial ejection for doing the same with his head rather than his hand, a play that helped seal things for good for the Buckeyes.
Michael Thomas, WR: We'd be remiss not to mention the Herculean efforts of the man who can't be guarded on Ohio State's final touchdown of the day. It might not have been quite as cool as the back-catch from Thursday's UCLA-Stanford shootout, but the degree of difficulty was plenty high on this one, too. Thomas fought off a defender long enough to make a one-handed TD grab while falling backwards to put the finishing touch on a solid home win for the Buckeyes.
Gareon Conley, CB: Conley, the youngest member of Ohio State's starting secondary, has by and large been rock solid this season, contributing to a pass defense that's become a force to be reckoned with. I'm guessing he'd probably like to have this game back, though. Over the course of the game, Conley racked up a pass interference penalty and a late hit, good for 30 free Penn State yards. He also missed a tackle on the Nittany Lions' only score of the day, in which DaeSean Hamilton got around the edge and took a short pass in for six. Not Conley's best performance.
Buy: The Slobs. It's hard to overstate the importance of good -- even competent -- offensive line play, and the Buckeyes got it in a big way on Saturday. A much-maligned unit, especially given their excellence a year ago, the offensive line had a lot of work to do, given that they were tasked with containing Carl Nassib, the nation's sack leader. Cardale and J.T. still took their lumps, but this felt like the best game the o-line has played all season. They opened up lanes for Zeke, gave Barrett and Jones time to do what they needed to do, and showed good speed and flexibility in the read-option game. Shouts out to them.
Buy: Braxton Miller, wide receiver. Remember when you were a kid, and you found some spare bottle rockets laying around, and decided to see what would happen if you poked holes in tin cans and put the bottle rockets in there? And the cans went, like, 75 feet in the air, or maybe 100, and you knew that all was right with the world? That's what it feels like when Braxton Miller is clicking with whoever happens to be throwing the ball for the Buckeyes. Braxton had a résumé-boosting first-down grab to go with a touchdown catch on a J.T. Barrett jump pass, and we got another tantalizing glimpse of just how good the former QB can be in his new role. Miller finished with 63 yards on eight touches, flexing his muscles as both a runner and receiver. This is only going to get more fun.
Sell: Ohio State's ability to stop the run. It's a minor miracle that freshman phenom Saquon Barkley didn't find paydirt against the Buckeyes in this game. Barkley rushed for 194 yards on 26 carries, with a long of 56. He seemed to find gaps where there were none, to break tackles when tackles seemed all but assured. It's a testament to the bend-but-don't-break nature of this defense that Barkley himself never crossed the goal line, but we've got a troubling pattern on our hands as far as the Buckeyes giving up big yardage to opponents on the ground. Maryland and Indiana both feasted on this defense with the ground game; should Ohio State be without Josh Perry for any length of time, they might be in serious trouble. And even with Perry, what happens when the Tide or Tigers -- they of Derrick Henry and Leonard Fournette -- come calling?
Buy: Improving on the little things. For all of the frustrating things that Ohio State did early in this game, there was a major one missing from the list: turning the ball over. The Buckeyes protected the rock, and although Cardale Jones had some passing miscues, he avoided chucking up the kind of head-scratchers that have given freebies to inferior opponents that we've seen off and on this year. The team also didn't put the ball on the turf once. Winning the turnover battle tends to go a long way towards winning the game itself, and that was a bright spot for the Buckeyes against Penn State.