Exhale, Buckeye Nation. Ohio State held on against Penn State, winning 20-12. Ohio State now sits at 7-0 on the season and can regroup before going to Wisconsin on October 28th at Camp Randall Stadium.
The victory was not without its difficulties. Backup quarterback Devin Brown suffered an injury that was serious enough for him to leave the game on a cart. If anything, look for Ohio State to elevate Tristan Gebbia to the primary backup quarterback position behind starter Kyle McCord.
Speaking of Kyle McCord - it was not always pretty, and McCord often seemed rattled by the Nittany Lions, but he seemed to subscribe to the “do no harm” mentality that let Ohio State punt the ball away, and let the defense carry the load for the team.
Below are some other random thoughts I had while watching this game...
The Defense Is The Strength Of This Year’s Team
If you had told me that I would be writing that sentence back when the season began, I would have scoffed in your face. The facts cannot be denied, as Ohio State was able to effectively clamp down on the Penn State offense, as the Nittany Lions were at one point 0-15 on third down conversions. Major props to Jim Knowles and the defense for making Penn State so miserable offensively.
Penn State finished the game 1-of-16 on third downs.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) October 21, 2023
Short Yardage Is Still A Major Weakness For Ohio State
As soon as Ohio State was on the goal line, up 13-7, with a 4th and 2, I was pleading for a field goal attempt that would have essentially put the game out of reach. Instead, Ohio State went for it on 4th and 2, did not make it, and Penn State was able to get the ball on the turnover of downs.
The fact that Ohio State eventually won the game does not gloss over the painful fact that the Buckeyes are not able to convert on short-yardage downs. It has not yet hurt the Buckeyes, but against some of their remaining opponents, it could certainly be a mistake at the worst time.
Miyan Williams’ Return Was A Welcome Sight
It was not always pretty, but Miyan Williams offered a physical running style that this game against Penn State demanded. 24 carries for 62 yards and 1 touchdown is not the stuff of legends, but Williams often was able to gain positive yardage for the Buckeyes, and like his teammate Kyle McCord, played with a “do no harm” style that Ohio State needed.
This Offense Is Entirely Dependent Upon Marvin Harrison, Jr.
That statement is not a complaint, but a simple, observable fact. Even though Harrison is not fully healthy, his usually clutch receptions were crucial to Ohio State’s offensive possessions. I wrote “usually clutch”, as he has been having some uncharacteristic drops recently, but for the most part, Harrison is what makes the Ohio State offense go, or unfortunately, stay idle.
A TresselBall Approach Is Not A Bad Thing
Yes, I prefer touchdowns to field goals, but against a quality opponent such as Penn State, it was imperative that Ohio State come away with points when in scoring territory. Considering the short-yardage woes that Ohio State is seemingly unable to fix, perhaps Coach Day will be more likely to invoke the style and mannerisms of one of his predecessors and take a field goal after an offensive drive gets stalled.
I have said this before on The Silver Bullets Podcast, and I will repeat it - the 2023 Ohio State football schedule has a series of tests upon it. Ohio State took, and passed, their first test at the end of September when they went to South Bend and defeated Notre Dame. The second test is how Ohio State was able to knock a top team such as Penn State from the ranks of the unbeaten. A quick reminder to Ohio State fans is how sluggish the Buckeyes looked after their bye week and at home in their 37-17 win over Maryland on October 7th. Considering how challenging Camp Randall Stadium can be, the Buckeyes cannot afford to get too comfortable, as the Badgers and Luke Fickell are eagerly waiting for their first visit since 2016.