Well that was certainly something. I don’t know what it was, and have very few ways to even quantify it, but I’m pretty sure it was a football game. A very weird, very broken football game, between two teams that seem to play one of these nonsensical, bizarre football games every time they square off. When Ohio State and Penn State meet, football, at least in the way we know it, usually breaks.
That manifests itself in things like Penn State running an inside zone on 4th-and-5, one of the dumbest calls I’ve ever seen, to lose the game. Let’s stop and break that down for a second. Down by one near midfield, with five yards needed to keep their hopes alive, Penn State decided to run directly into Ohio State’s defensive line, the only competent part of their defense.
They decided to do this after their senior quarterback had spent the entire second half gashing Ohio State’s defense, both through the air and on the ground. Just moments earlier, he’d thrown a dart into the middle of the defense for a big gain. If Trace McSorley is built for anything, he’s built to make a play to extend a drive on 4th&5 from midfield against this Buckeye defense.
The breaking of football also manifests in Ohio State... winning this football game? In the joy of the win, it was easy to forget how utterly stupid it is that Ohio State managed to win a game that they trailed by 12 in with just eight minutes left, and they did it almost exclusively with screen passes. It makes no sense at all. It’s utterly baffling that Ohio State beat Penn State by throwing behind the line of scrimmage 20 times, and by giving the ball to Binjimen Victor and just getting out of his way. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a nonsensical football game, and that weirdness makes it very hard to put together a stock market report for it. Let’s try anyway!
Chase Young, DE: If you’re looking for a single person to declare the most important person for this Buckeye win, I think Chase Young fits that description. He had six total tackles, three for a loss, two sacks, and two deflections, both of which came in huge situations. He sacked Trace McSorley on the final drive that helped set up that final fourth down, and then stuff Miles Sanders to win the game on fourth down.
With no Nick Bosa, Chase Young filled the top five draft pick sized hole perfectly. He dominated Penn State’s tackles all day long, and even with a dumb facemask call, he was easily the best player on Ohio State’s defense today. He looked like a leader, and he looks ready to claim his throne in Bosa’s absence.
Binjimen Victor, WR: He only had two receptions, but it’s hard to underestimate how huge those receptions were. The first, an eight-yard grab, put Ohio State into a manageable 3rd-and-2 on their touchdown drive to start the second half, and his second was, well, you remember it. He snagged a ball thrown well over his head for a first down, broke a tackle, and maneuvered his way to a 47-yard touchdown.
If it wasn’t for that play, Ohio State probably doesn’t win this game. They needed a big play, and that was pretty much their only one of the night. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Binjimen is as talented as anyone on this team, and for him to be getting only a few snaps per game is ridiculous. He needs to be a starter from here out.
J.K. Dobbins, RB: If Chase Young was easily the best player on the defense, J.K. Dobbins was just as easily the best player on the offense. With Penn State loading the box and rushing Dwayne Haskins all night long, the Buckeyes needed a playmaker. Dobbins was just that. He fought for tough yards on the ground and picked up a few big first downs, but surprisingly, his running wasn’t what made him so important.
Dobbins starred as a receiver in this one. Ohio State correctly adjusted in the second half, switching to an offense centered nearly entirely around screens, and while Dobbins had just two catches, they went for 61 yards and a score. The first, the touchdown, was an excellent show of vision and elusiveness, and gave Ohio State the lead in the third quarter. The second may have been even more important, as he kicked the game-winning drive off with a 35 yarder on a screen, and put the Buckeyes in excellent position to score.
K.J. Hill, WR: For the fifth straight week, Ohio State’s most reliable receiver was number 14. Hill had an early drop, but once he settled into the game, he played a huge role in the offense, especially in the second half when the offense went to underneath passes and screens. He’s as sturdy a hand as a receiver can be, and it showed late in the game when he took a screen 24 yards for the game winning score.
Oh, and credit to Terry McLaurin for his beautiful blocking on this play.
OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! pic.twitter.com/JSqhJEMxjs— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 30, 2018
Drue Chrisman, P: It feels weird to dedicate a whole paragraph here to a punter, but Drue Chrisman deserves it. His nine punts averaged nearly 48 yards, he put Penn State inside their own 20 three times, and thanks to some excellent coverage, Ohio State’s punting in general was excellent. K.J. Hammler can turn into punt into a touchdown, and Ohio State contained him (on special teams).
The defensive back seven: I came into this game concerned about the linebackers, and left concerned about the linebackers and the secondary. The linebackers were destroyed all day long by Trace McSorley’s running, as they rarely spied him successfully. That was expected. What I didn’t expect was the ease with which McSorley threw down the field.
There were plays where receivers were left completely uncovered. There was little to no resistance in the middle of the defense. Safety Isaiah Pryor struggled all game long before being rightfully ejected for targeting on a completely unnecessary hit. Jordan Fuller, Damon Arnette and Shaun Wade were the only non-line defenders that I thought played well.
The offensive line: It was a really bad day for this young offensive line. With Dwayne Haskins unable to cover for their mistakes (because their mistakes had him under pressure all night), their weaknesses showed fully for the first time this year. They couldn’t pick up a blitz, they couldn’t give Haskins time to throw down field, and their struggles completely stopped the offense from moving in the first half.
This line has to get better before Ohio State plays Michigan State or Michigan, because those defenses will do the exact same thing. The Buckeyes may not be so lucky to survive those games.
Sell: CJ Saunders on the field in the fourth quarter. Why? Why is a sub 6-foot former walk-on in the wide receiver rotation late in the game at Penn State? Ohio State has so much talent, and so much athleticism at receiver, and it’s just inexcusable for those guys (like Binjimen Victor) to be on the bench while Saunders plays.
I get that they were looking for another quick receiver to run the screens they were calling on basically every play. However, Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon, Chris Olave, Jaelen Gill, and Demario McCall could all fill that role just fine. There’s no reason to go away from all of that talent late in the game.
Buy: Ohio State as the obvious Big Ten favorites. Well, after this win, Ohio State has passed their biggest test this season. They’ve gotten over the largest hurdle, in an incredible environment. No matter how ugly it was, the Buckeyes are undefeated, they control their destiny, and if they can get through the rest of the schedule unscathed, they’ll be headed to the playoff once again.
Sell: Dwayne Haskins being fully ready. I’ve been as high as anyone on Dwayne Haskins this year, which makes this even more difficult for me to say. Dwayne was not ready to play in this environment. His calm demeanor and general coolness faded when Penn State brought pressure on every play, and what had been pinpoint accuracy all season long was gone for almost the entire game. I was impressed with the way he stepped up in the clutch, but those were almost all short passes and screens. Dwayne was rattled by the crowd, and that’s okay. He’s still young, he’s still human, and he still has learning to do. The good news, of course, is that Ohio State still got the win.