Buckeyes Survive Scare At Penn State

The Ohio State football team blew a 17-0 halftime lead at Penn State but still leave Happy Valley with a victory. The Buckeyes outlasted the Nittany Lions 31-24 in double overtime.

The Ohio State football team kept their hopes of sneaking into the inaugural College Football Playoff alive with a 31-24 double overtime win Oct. 25 against host Penn State.

The Buckeyes (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) entered the game as a double-digit road favorite heading into a White Out at Beaver Stadium. Yet the Nittany Lions managed to throw a scare into No. 13 Ohio State by nearly rallying from a 17-0 halftime deficit to force overtime.

Penn State began the first overtime on offense after Ohio State won the coin toss. The Buckeyes seemingly caught a break at the start of the possession when PSU lineman Brendan Mahon was flagged for a holding penalty on the first play of the drive. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg got the Nittany Lions back in business with an 18-yard pass to DaeSean Hamilton on first-and-20 at the 35.

Hackenberg rushed for 2 yards on a QB sneak on third-and-1 two plays later, and the quarterback then moved his team to the OSU 2 with a 12-yard connection to Hamilton. Two plays later, Penn State had its first lead thanks to a 1-yard TD run by Akeel Lynch out of the wildcat. A Sam Ficken PAT gave PSU a 24-17 lead, its first of the game.

Ohio State answered with a touchdown on its possession. After Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 3 yards on the drive’s first play, J.T. Barrett took care of the rest. His QB keeper that went for 17 yards advanced the ball to the PSU 5, and he called his own number on the next play for a 5-yard TD. Nuernberger’s PAT knotted the game and sent the teams into a second overtime.

Penn State was flagged for leaping, a personal foul, on the extra-point attempt. That allowed Ohio State to start the second overtime on offense at the 12½-yard line. Again, it did not take the Buckeyes long to reach the end zone. Elliott rushed for 2 yards on first down, and Barrett added 6 more on a keeper. Facing third-and-2 at the 4, Barrett again rushed on a QB keeper and this time pushed his way into the end zone.

Following the extra point, the Buckeyes held a 31-24 advantage.

The Ohio State defense made the lead hold. Lynch was held to no gain on Penn State’s first play, and after Hacknberg threw a 5-yard pass to Jesse James, the Buckeyes ended the game by forcing a third-down incompletion and sacking Hackenberg on fourth down. OSU sophomore defensive end pushed Lynch into Hackenberg, forcing the quarterback to his knee to end the play and the game.

Tale Of Two Halves

Ohio State got a big gift from the officials early in the first quarter. The Buckeyes won the toss and deferred. Penn State began on offense and recorded two first downs before facing a first-and-10 from the PSU 36. Hackenberg dropped back to pass and was almost immediately under pressure from OSU redshirt freshman linebacker Darron Lee. Hurried, Hackenberg threw an off-balance pass that was intercepted by a diving Vonn Bell. The officials ruled that the OSU sophomore safety caught the pass, but replays showed that the ball clearly hit the turf. What should have been a quick replay review and overturn of the initial call did not go that way. Officials announced that he play stood as called, meaning there was not evidence to overturn the intial call – despite several angles that showed that Bell did not catch the ball.

Ohio State took advantage of the officials’ miscue. Taking over at the PSU 39, the Buckeyes needed seven plays to reach the end zone. Elliott rushed four times for 21 yards, the last 10 coming on a touchdown run on a read option rush to the left. Sean Nuernberger’s PAT made it 7-0 Ohio State with 10:15 left on the first-quarter clock.

The visitors later added to their lead with a 49-yard field goal by Nuernberger. The career-long boot by the freshman came at the end of a 14-play, 59-yard drive that began at the OSU 9. The Buckeyes drove all the way to the PSU 17 before a pair of false start penalties and a sack of Barrett on a third-and-16 pushed the ball back to the 32.

The Buckeyes actually caught another break on the field goal. The kick came well after the play clock had expired. The officials did not see the infraction, however, and Ohio State extended its lead to 10-0 with 11:07 left before halftime.

The Ohio State defense help set up the Buckeyes’ next score. A 48-yard punt by OSU’s Cameron Johnston was fair caught at the PSU 10-yard line, and the Buckeyes defense forced two incompletions before Lee and sophomore Joey Bosa combined on Ohio State’s first sack of Hackenberg on the night. The sack forced a punt from the Penn State end zone, giving the Ohio State offense a short field to work with.

Barrett then led a short touchdown drive. Taking over at the PSU 39, Barrett and Elliott had a hand in all of the yards on the way to the end zone. Elliott rushed for 19 yards on three carries, Barrett rushed for 5 yards and the quarterback completed two passes for 15 yards – including a 1-yard TD connection with senior tight end Jeff Heuerman.

After Nuernberger added the PAT, the Buckeyes held a 17-0 lead with 3:58 remaining in the second quarter. That score held into halftime, marking the first time Penn State had been shut out at home in the first half since Nov. 12, 2011, vs. Nebraska.

The Nittany Lions stole momentum early in the third quarter. The Buckeyes started the second half on offense and quickly faced a third-and-6 from the OSU 40. Barrett dropped back to pass and was picked off by Penn State defensive tackle Anthony Zettel. The defensive tackle dropped back into coverage, and Barrett threw it right to him. Zettel rumbled all the way down the field for a pick-six, which following a Ficken PAT, cut the Penn State deficit to 17-7 with just 2:23 after halftime.

The interception was Barrett’s first in 111 pass attempts and his first since the Kent State game. It was also Penn State’s first pick-six since 2009.

Ohio State saw a scoring opportunity go by the wayside later in the third quarter. Taking over after a Penn State put at the OSU 30, the Buckeyes drove 47 yards – all on the ground – with four different players lining up at quarterback for at least a play. In addition to Barrett, sophomore backup quarterback Cardale Jones, and H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson each took snaps in the wildcat formation.

In the end, the drive was halted at the PSU 23. Nuernberger attempted a 41-yard field goal, but it sailed wide right.

Following the field goal miss, Penn State drove 32 yards aided in large part by a 15-yard pass interference penalty by OSU cornerback Eli Apple. But the Ohio State defense stood tall, forcing a turnover in OSU territory. Hackenberg was picked off for the second time on the night, this time getting picked by Powell.

The Nittany Lions’ offense finally got moving early in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to the Buckeyes. Barrett was intercepted on his first pass attempt of the final quarter, giving Penn State the ball at the OSU 45 after a Mike Hull pick. It took Penn State eight plays to reach the end zone for the first time. Hackenberg, on a rare play during which he had plenty of time in the pocket, threw a ball to the right side of the end zone. That’s where Penn State’s Saeed Blacknall and Apple engaged in a one-on-one battle for the jump ball, one that Blacknall won for a touchdown.

Ficken’s PAT made it 17-14 with 11:08 left in regulation.

Both teams struggled to find success on offense until Penn State’s final drive. The Nittany Lions began the march on the PSU 9 after a 41-yard Johnston punt with 2:58 remaining. Hackenberg converted three third downs – twice on QB sneaks and one on a 5-yard pass to James – in guiding the Lions down the field. Ohio State also gave Penn State a first down on a roughing-the-passer penalty. In all, Penn State needed 18 plays to set up a 31-yard Ficken field goal that tied the game with nine seconds left in regulation.

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