Ohio State claimed their seventh-straight win over Penn State, beating the Nittany Lions 20-12 in Columbus on Saturday. True to recent form, a lot of the game between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions was played with only a score separating the teams, but Ohio State was able to put some distance on Penn State in the fourth quarter before a late touchdown by the Nittany Lions made the final tally look a little more respectable.
Beside a ton of points, we saw a little bit of everything else in Saturday’s game in Columbus. There were some studs, some duds, and some moments that were flubbed. I try and summarize what I liked, what I hated, and moments that lost me during the game.
Stud: Marvin Harrison Jr.
We are running out of words to describe just how good Marvin Harrison Jr. is. Even on a day where Kyle McCord wasn’t all that sharp, Harrison still hauled in 11 passes for 162 yards and a score. Harrison has put up three-straight games with at least 100 yards and a touchdown, and has hit the century mark in receiving yards in five games this season. The 12 career 100-yard receiving games for Harrison in his Ohio State career breaks a tie with Chris Olave, and has him just two away from tying David Boston’s school record.
What’s crazy is Penn State knew Harrison was going to be the focal point of the offense and they still couldn’t stop him. It’s not like the Nittany Lions have terrible defensive backs; Penn State has one of the best secondaries Ohio State will see all season. Harrison is just that damn good. By the time he declares for the NFL Draft following this season, it is going to be hard to argue that there was a better receiver in Buckeye history than Harrison, which is saying a lot since there has been a lot of top-tier talent at wide receiver over the years at Ohio State.
Please though, no more calling him “Maserati Marv”. After Gus Johnson said it 93,249 times during the game, I am over that nickname.
Dud: Parker Fleming
Another week, another miscue from the special teams unit. After Ohio State forced Penn State to punt deep in their own end in the third quarter, a punt bounced and hit Lorenzo Styles, which resulted in the Nittany Lions taking possession after they jumped on the football. Maybe the mistake doesn’t happen if Emeka Egbuka isn’t injured and is back there returning punts, but it looked like punt returner Jayden Ballard was trying to get his teammates to be aware of where the football was.
Do you want to know how much Parker Fleming makes per year? $500,000. No, I didn’t add a couple extra zeros to that number. I haven’t seen anything from the special teams since he has been in Columbus that makes me think Fleming is worth $5,000, let alone $500,000.
I would love for Day to try and justify why Fleming is making anywhere close to that amount per year. Honestly, Fleming might want to consider a career in politics since he already seems to be an expert at stealing money.
Flub: Ryan Day at the end of the first half
As a Buffalo Bills fan I already have to deal with Sean McDermott, who is a giant coward of a head coach. At the college level I have Ryan Day trying to talk like a tough guy, but there are times when he doesn’t practice what he preaches. Day had me ready to lose it near halftime when he sat on his three timeouts and decided to kneel out the first half even though Ohio State had nearly a minute to work with. At that time Kyle McCord was struggling with his confidence a bit after having a fumble return for a touchdown nullified by a defensive penalty.
My issue with Day not using his timeouts and at least trying to do something with the football was Ohio State also was getting the kickoff to open up the second half. Score at least some points on both those drives, and the Buckeyes could have really broken the spirit of Penn State. Also, if the Ohio State offense does move the football down the field, at least it would restore some of the confidence of McCord heading into the second half. Instead, the Buckeyes ended up punting on their first drive of the second half anyway.
What’s not working: Ohio State’s running game
It’s sad to see just how inept the Ohio State running game has become. It feels like every time the Buckeyes run the football, the design takes it towards the boundary. How about trying to run more north and south? Instead Ohio State runs east to west and ends up running 20 yards to gain two yards if they are lucky. For as much as Ryan Day wants people to believe his team is tough and can run the ball, he doesn’t put them in position to have much success on the ground.
Even though the play design is a big reason why the Buckeyes ran for just 79 yards on 41 carries against Penn State, there are more issues than just that. It doesn’t help that TreVeyon Henderson has missed the last three games due to injury. With Henderson on the sidelines, Chip Trayanum and Miyan Williams were left to handle most of the carries. While the two are both tough runners, they are way too similar.
I get that Ryan Day wants to keep Dallan Hayden’s redshirt, but you have to scrap that plan because Hayden is too good to keep on the sidelines right now.
Lastly, there has to be someone better than Josh Simmons that can start. The San Diego State transfer is easily one of the worst offensive linemen in the FBS. Luckily his terrible play hasn’t hurt the Buckeyes too much so far this year, but at some point one of his mistakes is going to end up costing Ohio State a game.
What to be excited about: The Buckeyes now have a clear path to “The Game”
With the win over Penn State, Ohio State doesn’t have much to worry about them ahead of next month’s showdown with Michigan. Next week the Buckeyes travel to Madison to take on Wisconsin under the lights. Heading into the season, the battle with the Badgers looked like it could be a tricky spot for Ohio State. The matchup has lost a lot of its luster since Luke Fickell’s dreams of adding more of a passing element to the Wisconsin offense has sputtered, and quarterback Tanner Mordecai broke his hand last week.
Following next week’s contest against Wisconsin, Ohio State travels to Rutgers, then they’ll be at home for games against Michigan State and Minnesota before they travel to Ann Arbor after Thanksgiving. I know college football can make no sense sometimes, I just don’t see a scenario where the Buckeyes lose any of those games before they head to Michigan. We could be looking at another No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown between the rivals.