Great googly-moogly! I feel like I aged a decade last night, yet (somehow) the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0) came back to defeat the No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1) by the score of 27-26 in front of an amped up White Out crowd in Happy Valley.
The game wasn’t always pretty— in fact, it was rarely pretty— but in the end, the Buckeyes did just enough to escape Beaver Stadium undefeated, with their playoff destiny still solely in their hands.
As has been the case throughout the season, Ohio State relied on a whole host of offensive and defensive players to step up throughout the game, rather than relying on a single individual to dominate. However, at times on Saturday night, it felt like OSU’s athletes were fighting against their own play-calling on both sides of the ball in order to be able to make plays.
Whether that was on offense refusing to adjust to the waves of pressure that Penn State was sending, or continuing to leave the middle of the field open for quarterback Trace McSorley to gash the Buckeye defense for 175 yards on the ground (461 combined), the OSU coaches seemed oddly slow to make adjustments.
Fortunately, adjustments were eventually made and a number of Buckeyes stepped up in key situations and turned the tide just in time. So, without further ado, the Land-Grant Holy Land Week 5 MVPs.
Week 5 Offensive MVP: J.K. Dobbins
Rushing: 17 carries, 57 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: 2 catches, 61 yards, 1 touchdown
His yards per carry number (3.4) was surprisingly low compared to what he’d been doing the rest of the season, but despite the offensive coach staff’s insistence on running him into eight-man box after eight-man box, J.K. Dobbins still felt like the best option at running back for Ohio State.
Dobbins got the Buckeyes on the board for the first time on the night not on a carry, but via a screen, which was the team’s most successful offensive play all night. With time running out on the first half, Dobbins showed two traits that have made him such a valuable runner, his ability to fit through tight windows and then to make defenders miss. Not only was he patient in allowing the play to develop, but he hit the right hole in his downfield blocking, and then added in a juke to secure his path to the end zone.
After halftime, Dobbins gave the Buckeyes the lead for the first time with what proved to be OSU’s only rushing TD of the game. Like on the screen before, Dobbins makes the right read and slipped through a hole into the end zone. Despite the right side of the line collapsing around him, the back was able to allude pressure and get the score without being touched.
There is no doubt that Ohio State has two capable and valuable running backs, and Mike Weber performed well against PSU with 51 yards on 9 carries, but it is becoming increasingly apparent— at least to me— that Dobbins should be the primary focus at running back with a healthy dose of Weber... on the side.
Week 5 Defensive MVP: Chase Young
6 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 pass break-ups, 2 QB hurries
It’s never a good thing when you lose arguably the best defensive player in the country. However, most in Buckeye Nation knew that the Ohio State defensive line had plenty of studs ready to fill the Nick Bosa-shaped hole on the end.
While you would much rather have the Bosa, Chase Young, Jonathon Cooper rotation flanking the OSU defensive line, Young filled in admirably for Bosa full-time on Saturday night. While he still needs to get his penchant for penalties under control, Young looked like he might some day join Bosa as a top-10 NFL Draft pick.
At the end of both the third and fourth quarters, Penn State was forced to turn the ball over on downs, and both times Young was the reason why. First, with time running out in the third quarter, Penn State was on the edge of the red zone, and as McSorley looked to dump it off the tight end Pat Freiermuth, Young’s big paw got in the way, knocking the ball to the ground, and preserving the Buckeye lead for the time being.
About 14 minutes of game time later, Young again came up huge for the Buckeyes on a fourth down call. After dueling timeouts, still trailing by a point, James Franklin made the call to run an inside zone-read on a 4th-and-5 from the OSU 43. However, instead of running for huge chunks like McSorley had all game, running back Miles Sanders ran right into the massive arms of Young for a stuff that effectively ended the game.
The word this past week was that Bosa would be out until at least November, and— now that the Buckeyes have gotten past Penn State— I think that’s ok. Assuming Bosa comes back at all this season, it is far more importan to have him at 100 percent at the end of the year, than it is to get him back early at 70 percent and risk another injury— both for the Buckeyes and his pro prospects.
With Chase Young showing that he has the ability to disrupt offenses like Bosa, there should be little concern about the OSU defensive line. Now, the linebackers and secondary... that’s a whole other story.