This is 12-for-12: Ohio State’s Perfect Season. Originally, we put this together thinking there would not be an actual football season in 2020, but fortunately that is not the case. So now, this just functions as a fun look at throwback games each week as we prep for Oct. 24.
We have put together a full 12-game schedule for the Buckeyes using one game from each of the last 12 years. The docket is complete with three non-conference opponents, nine Big Ten showdowns, and will also include a three-game postseason with a Big Ten title game and College Football Playoff matchups. We tried to use the best games from each of the 12 years to fill the slots, but some had to be left out to avoid duplicate opponents in the regular season.
We will also be keeping a running total of the regular season’s stat leaders as if all of these games were occurring over one full season. There are many different players that have come through the program during this 12-year span, so only the top three guys in each category will be listed. In the end, we’ll have an interesting concoction of who led the Buckeyes over this 12-game Frankenstein season.
We are going to continue this series even with the announced start date for the actual Big Ten 2020 season, and will drop two Perfect Season pieces a week to try and fit the whole series in before the team’s opener against Nebraska. As we anxiously await the return of Ohio State football, we still have a bunch of games from seasons past to help pass the time.
Game 11 on the schedule: Ohio State vs. Penn State (2017).
Tale of the Tape
The 2017 Ohio State squad definitely had some flaws, and those were exposed early on as they lost at home to Oklahoma early in the year. The Buckeyes looked as though they were on the path to overcoming the slip up and still working their way into the College Football Playoff, but a blowout loss at the hands of Iowa dashed those dreams. Ohio State would go on to win the Big Ten Championship, and would defeat USC 24-7 in the Cotton Bowl. The team finished at No. 5 in the CFP poll.
Penn State entered the 2017 campaign with a ton of hype, beginning the season ranked at No. 6 as the Big Ten’s defending champs. They eased through the first seven games on their schedule, winning by an average margin of 30 — including a 42-13 beatdown of then No. 19 Michigan. Saquon Barkley was looking like an otherworldly talent, and the Nittany Lions’ big matchup with the Buckeyes loomed large. The winner of the Oct. 28 meeting would likely go on to represent the East in the B1G title game, and that wound up being the case.
I’ll tell ya what — Ohio State has certainly had better starts to a football game.
Shockingly, things somehow went from bad to worse for the Buckeyes following the Saquon Barkley kick return touchdown to open the game. After Ohio State approached midfield on its first possession, Penn State recovered a fumble and returned it to just outside the red zone. It wouldn’t take long for Trace McSorley to find DaeSean Hamilton in the end zone, and just like that it was 14-0 Nittany Lions.
It did not get any easier for the Buckeyes for the remainder of the first quarter. Their next two drives resulted in a three-and-out and a field goal, and after forcing Penn State to punt twice, OSU was set up just outside the red zone looking to make it a four-point game. Instead, Urban Meyer elected to go for it on 4th-and-8 at the PSU 25-yard line, and the Bucks came up short as they turned it over on downs.
The Nittany Lions responded with a long seven-play, 81-yard drive of their own, and after a pass interference call set Penn State up deep in Ohio State territory, Barkley capped it off with a 36-yard TD run as his team took a 21-3 lead in Ohio Stadium early in the second quarter.
It wasn’t until after the 10-minute mark of the second quarter that Ohio State was able to find the end zone. A long 36-yard completion to Austin Mack set the Bucks up inside the red zone, and from there Barrett found Terry McLaurin wide open over the middle for a TD to cut the deficit to 21-10.
Ohio State’s special teams unit continued its early struggles, and Koa Farmer returned the ensuing kickoff 59 yards to the Buckeyes’ 23-yard line. From there, yet another pass interference on OSU would set up an easy walk-in TD for McSorley as Penn State extended their lead up to 28-10.
Meyer’s offense seemed to be in a better groove at this stage in the game, and they were able to work the ball down the field with a healthy mix of run plays and short passes. Mike Weber capped off the 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard rushing score, and it was once again an 11-point game at 28-17. That score would stay put heading into halftime.
For the first time since the opening quarter, Ohio State was able to make it a one score game with a field goal to begin the second half, cutting the deficit down to 28-20. Unfortunately for the home team, the defense came out of the break a bit slow, and a 37-yard TD pass from McSorley to DeAndre Thompkins — originally thought to be intercepted but the play was overturned on review — put the Nittany Lions right back up 35-20.
Things continued to go poorly for Ohio State for much of the rest of the third quarter. A punt on their next possession and then a fumble on the drive after that saw the Buckeyes still trailing by 15 at the start of the fourth with the Nittany Lions in possession of the football. It was at this point that my roommate said to me in the stadium, “Hey, you want to leave? This game is probably over.”
It’s a good thing we stuck around, because the game was most certainly not over. In a palpable shift of momentum, Denzel Ward blocked Penn State’s next punt, setting Ohio State’s offense up with a short field. Two plays later, Barrett hit a wide open Johnnie Dixon for a 38-yard TD, and OSU had new life now trailing 35-27 with 11 minutes remaining.
The Nittany Lions managed to add a field goal, but Ohio State’s offense was feeling it now. It took only five plays and 1:22 of game clock for the Buckeyes to go 76 yards, as Barrett completed all five of his pass attempts including a 10-yard TD dot to Dixon to cap off the drive and get OSU within five points.
The crowd was in a frenzy at this point, and Penn State appeared to be cracking under pressure. After Sam Hubbard tackled BOTH McSorley and Barkley on a read-option play, the Nittany Lions were again forced to punt.
J.T. Barrett was in a zone never before seen from the Ohio State QB, and he just could not miss a throw. A 20-yard reception by McLaurin and two-straight catches by K.J. Hill had the ball already inside the Nittany Lion’s red zone. On the next play, Barrett found Marcus Baugh wide open in the back of the end zone, and the Buckeyes took their very first lead of the game at 39-38 with only 1:48 remaining on the clock.
After a Jalyn Holmes sack of McSorley on second down, Penn State would wind up faced with a fourth-and-long. The fourth down pass would fall to the ground incomplete, and Ohio State had officially completed the comeback to walk away with a 39-38 win over the No. 2-ranked Nittany Lions in Ohio Stadium.
J.T. Barrett was a perfect 13-for-13 passing with 170 yards and three TDs in the fourth quarter.
LGHL Season Stat Leaders (OSU 11-0)
- Terrelle Pryor: 696 Yds / 6 TD / 1 INT (3 games)
- J.T. Barrett: 654 Yds / 8 TD / 0 INT (3 games)
- Braxton Miller: 548 Yds / 7 TD / 1 INT (4 games, 3 at QB)
- J.K. Dobbins: 468 Yds / 6.3 Avg / 1 TD (3 games)
- Ezekiel Elliott: 313 Yds / 8.0 Avg / 3 TD (3 games)
- Daniel Herron: 306 Yds / 4.6 Avg / 2 TD (4 games)
- DeVier Posey: 12 Rec / 206 Yds / 1 TD (2 games)
- Devin Smith: 11 Rec / 196 Yds / 4 TD (4 games)
- Johnnie Dixon: 10 Rec / 187 Yds / 2 TD (3 games)
- John Simon: 4.0 (4 games)
- Chase Young: 3.0 (2 games)
- Four tied at 2.0
- Chimdi Chekwa: 2 (3 games)
- Jeff Okudah: 2 (2 games)
- Eight tied at one
This Saturday will be the final game of 12-for-12’s regular season, and just like Ohio State’s actual football schedules, the last matchup on the docket is a meeting with TTUN (2016).