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Ohio State outlasts Penn State in thrilling Big Ten bout, 28-17

The Nittany Lions threatened, but the Buckeyes remained undefeated

Penn State v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

In the battle for the Big Ten East, the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes came away victorious, taking down the No. 8 Nittany Lions 28-17 in Columbus on Saturday afternoon. Despite the Nittany Lions’ fourth-ranked run defense, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day was able to utilize a ground-and-pound rushing attack to remain undefeated and secure a spot in the Big Ten Championship game.

Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins were the one-two punch for Ohio State’s offense, as Dobbins led the way on the ground while Fields utilized both his arm and his legs to drive the Scarlet and Gray down the field and put points on the board. The conditions were a bit soggy, maybe aiding in the three Buckeye fumbles, as OSU really attacked the Nittany Lions on the ground all game long. Dobbins ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns, while Fields put up 188 yards and two TDs through the air and another 68 yards rushing.

On the other side of the ball, the Silver Bullets were lights out all afternoon, holding Penn State to just 64 total yards in the first half as everyone from the secondary to the defensive line was able to execute for a full 60 minutes. PSU quarterback Sean Clifford was under pressure seemingly every play, as the Chase Young-infused defensive line was able to play bully-ball in the trenches against a good Nittany Lions o-line. Young was incredible, especially in crunch time, finishing with three sacks and four tackles for loss.

Ohio State won the toss and elected to defer, going on defense to start the game. So it was Penn State starting with the ball at their own 40 after a nice return by KJ Hamler, who had been questionable coming into the game after reportedly being in the concussion protocol following last week’s victory over Indiana.

The Nittany Lions would pick up a first down, but shortly thereafter Pete Werner made a nice pass breakup on 3rd-and-4 to force a punt, as the Buckeyes would start their first offensive possession inside the 10-yard line.

Dobbins got things started off on the right foot for the OSU offense, taking off for 22 yards on the first play of the drive. Fields was able to pick up two big gains with his legs for first downs, leading OSU into Penn State territory. Day was abusing the Nittany Lions on the ground, as another Dobbins’ run for 15 yards put the Buckeyes inside the five. One play later, Dobbins powered his way through through PSU defenders, extending the ball over the goal line to give Ohio State an early 7-0 lead.

After excellent kick coverage, Penn State started its next drive inside its own 15-yard line. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, the team on the other side was in possession of a Chase Young. After completely swallowing up an option play in the backfield, Young swarmed off the edge to help bring down PSU QB Sean Clifford for a sack, as the road team would be forced to punt from their own 5-yard line.

The Buckeyes would get a short field as a result of a bad punt, starting on Penn State’s 45-yard line. Fields completed his first pass of the game to Austin Mack for a first down, and followed it up with a nice 16-yard catch-and-run by Garrett Wilson. K.J. Hill got the ball inside the PSU 10-yard line, but Fields had the ball knocked out of his hands just before he crossed the goal line on a keeper and the Lions recovered in the end zone for a touchback on a game-changing play.

Seizing the momentum, Penn State was able to put a nice drive together by utilizing quick throws, working into Ohio State territory as the first quarter came to a close. After Jordan Fuller had an interception just nearly slip through his hands, the Buckeye front was able to get some pressure on Clifford to force an incompletion on third down. PSU would again punt, as OSU would start deep in its own territory.

Ohio State was seemingly suffering no ill effects after the fumble, as they were able to quickly move the ball past midfield with a good mix of runs from Dobbins and quick passes by Fields. However, a holding penalty by Thayer Munford knocked the wind out of the sails, and after Fields took a sack on 2nd-and-long, the Buckeyes were forced to punt for the first time in the contest

The Bucks were able to get a quick three-and-out, and following another poor punt the home team began in Nittany Lions territory with a shot to take a two-score lead. A false start threatened to kill the drive early, but Fields was able to follow up a nice gain with his legs with a beautiful throw to Mack for a first down.

Day rolled the dice early on, letting Fields take it himself on 4th-and-5 for 22 yards to set Ohio State up inside the five. It would all come down to a 4th-and-goal from the half-yard line, and Dobbins would be able to squeeze through a nice hole created by the o-line as the Buckeyes took a 14-0 lead.

Ohio State would get another quick stop, gaining one more possession with a little over a minute remaining and no timeouts before halftime. Dobbins started things off with a big 16-yard run, with another 15 yards added on as a result of a horse-collar tackle by PSU. However, an illegal formation on OSU and a Penn State back would put an end to any chance of points, as the Buckeyes went into the half with their two-touchdown lead.

OSU got the ball out of the half as the rain started to come down. The Buckeyes were able to pick up a few quick first downs on the back of Dobbins as they continued to pound the rock. It was all Dobbins all the time as Ohio State neared the red zone, and with the PSU secondary beginning to creep up, Fields was able to lay an absolute seed to K.J. Hill for a 24-yard TD to take a 21-0 lead.

Just when things seemed to be going right for PSU, as they started to move the ball on their ensuing possession, Clifford went down in some obvious pain after being landed on by Malik Harrison.

Backup quarterback Will Levis would come in to replace him, immediately picking up a first down with his legs. Ohio State’s defense seemed to lose focus with the backup in, and following a missed tackle by Harrison in the backfield, PSU RB Journey Brown powered through multiple OSU defenders for an easy 18-yard TD, cutting the Buckeye lead to 21-7.

Momentum was fully on Penn State’s side now, as Dobbins fumbled on the very first play of Ohio State’s subsequent possession. In two plays, Levis was able to walk it in for a PSU touchdown as the Buckeyes lead was cut to seven — 21-14 — with just under eight minutes to play in the third quarter.

Ohio State needed to try and stop the bleeding on its next offensive possession, and they just could not do it. This time, it was Fields coughing up the ball with his second fumble of the game, and Penn State once again took over deep in OSU territory. However, this time, the Silver Bullets would find a way to bend but not break, as a sack by Young on third down forced a Nittany Lions’ field goal, and the Buckeyes were now holding on to a slim 21-17 lead late in the third.

Things did not get much better for the home team on their next possession, as PSU was able to force a rather quick three-and-out, getting the ball back at their own 11-yard line. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Levis fumbled the snap on the first play of the drive, recovering, but being taken down by Young at the 1-yard line. It would eventually result in a Penn State punt to begin the fourth quarter, as Ohio State was in desperate need of taking back momentum before things slipped away.

It was another short field for the Buckeye offense, beginning on the Penn State 43-yard line. After picking up a first down on the ground with Master Teague, Fields let it fly to Chris Olave who made a spectacular catch in the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown, giving OSU a little bit of breathing room now leading 28-17 after the much-needed response.

In the second half — especially after the rash of fumbles — Ohio State began to give up big chunk plays on the ground as Penn Sate was quickly down to the opposite 40-yard line.

Levis was much more of a factor running the ball than Clifford, and he was making the Buckeyes pay with the zone read plays. However, the Nittany Lions tried to catch OSU off guard with a read-option pass, and it was picked off by fifth-year senior Justin Hilliard for the first Penn State turnover of the game.

The Buckeyes took over at their own 20-yard line looking to milk some clock and run the ball. PSU was able to get them to 3rd-and-7 quickly, but Fields rolled out to find Jeremy Ruckert for a clutch first down.

However, they would be unable to convert on the new set of downs, and Penn State would take over following the punt on its own 16-yard line and just under six minutes remaining.

With their backs against the wall, the Nittany Lions were forced to go for it on 4th down, and after two-straight false starts, they would be unable to reach the long line of gain as they turned it over on downs. Ohio State would fail to get anything going on offense themselves, and after not picking up a fourth down conversion of their own Penn State once again had the ball with 2:17 left still down 28-17.

The Buckeye defense was having no more of Penn State’s hijinx, as it was back-to-back sacks for Young and Baron Browning to really crush any signs of life left for the away team. The Nittany Lions would be unable to pick up a first down, as Ohio State would hold on thanks to Chase Young and the defense in the fourth quarter.

Ohio State’s road doesn’t get much easier, as it will head to Ann Arbor to take on the rival Michigan Wolverines to close out the regular season next weekend. Regardless of the outcome, a Big Ten Championship appearance is waiting for them.