Buckeye Breakdown: Ohio State Outlasts Nits

Ohio State got its stiffest test of the season -- perhaps unexpectedly -- in its 31-24 overtime win against Penn State. So how did the Buckeyes perform, and what did we learn in the insanity of Happy Valley? We take a look in this week's Buckeye Breakdown.

Ohio State run offense: Ohio State did better against Penn State than any other team this season, amassing 219 yards on the ground. A bulk of that came before halftime when the Buckeyes netted 119 yards on the ground. The second half saw the Nittany Lions make some adjustments and force Ohio State to use its perimeter run game more. Most importantly, though, the Buckeyes went to the run with the game on the line in overtime. The Buckeyes ran the ball on all six of their overtime snaps, resulting in two touchdowns to secure the game. Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett in particular ran hard, with Elliott clearing 100 yards in against a Penn State defense that was allowing 60.8 per game. While I don’t think Penn State has the best run defense in the country, it might be the best in the Big Ten and Ohio State got it done when it needed to. -- Blake Williams

Ohio State pass offense: You might not be surprised to learn Ohio State’s 74 yards passing were the fewest of the Urban Meyer era. It was the worst passing day for the Buckeyes since they had 55 yards against Indiana in 2011, another game they also won against an overall overmatched opponent. Quarterback J.T. Barrett was brought back to earth by a Penn State defense that brought pressure from a variety of angles and seemed to have him off balance most of the night. He rarely looked comfortable when he dropped back, but he did not have a lot of time. -- Marcus Hartman

Ohio State run defense: Penn State didn't get much going on the ground other than using a double-pull sweep play that allowed it to hit the edge a couple of times. In the end, the Nittany Lions finished with 31 rushes for 16 yards, an average of 0.5 yards per tote. Akeel Lynch finished with just 38 yards on 13 tries, while Bill Belton had nine rushes for 8 yards overall. This part of the Buckeye defense was essentially dominating, with the Nittany Lions not once rushing for 10 yards or more on one play. Penn State was the team that entered with the best rushing defense in the nation, but Ohio State's was the better unit on this day -- Jeff Svoboda

Ohio State pass defense: There was plenty to like about the Ohio State passing defense ... and then there was the second half. After completing 10 of 16 passes for just 67 yards and one (dubious) interception in the first half, Penn State sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg had a much more successful response in the second half. His final line wasn’t perfect, but it was much more effective than many expected before the game: he completed 31 of 49 passes for 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. On the game-tying drive, when the Nittany Lions marched down the field from its own 9, the Buckeyes pass defense looked nothing like the defense that co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash was brought to Columbus to install. Hackenberg completed nine passes and marched the Nittany Lions into field goal range after starting at the PSU 9-yard line. When it mattered most, the pass rush was able to come up with the biggest play of the game, but members of the OSU secondary let a lot of opportunities – and passes – slip through their fingers against Penn State. -- Ryan Ginn

What We Learned…

Ryan Ginn: It’s not going to be as easy as I thought. In a conversation with my BSB colleagues before the game, I mentioned that it was looking more and more likely with each passing day that Ohio State wouldn’t lose until the postseason. That may still be the case, but the Michigan State game now looks like a much bigger hill to climb. It won’t be as loud as Penn State, but it will still be rocking and the Buckeyes will be facing a much better opponent. Four straight blowouts obscured a pretty important fact – this team is still very much a work in progress.

Marcus Hartman: Ohio State is not ready for primetime. Perhaps they will put this behind them as a fluke in a tough environment, but the Buckeyes seemed to shrink from the spotlight for much of the night. Of course they deserve credit for getting it together in overtime, but should it have reached that point? Everything will play out on the field, but the performance did not leave me feeling like this is a team that can handle what it will face in two weeks — either physically or emotionally — in East Lansing against a Michigan State team that took care of business and then some Saturday against a better opponent. Perhaps, though, it’s a wakeup call that will lead to them looking like a different squad the next time the stakes go up.

Jeff Svoboda: That it's never as good as it looks or as bad as it looks. That's an old Jim Tresselism but one that seems to fit after the past few weeks. The old head coach always liked to say that the team was never as good as it looked in a blowout (think the last four games) and never as bad it as looked when it struggled (think tonight). There was an overreaction one way after the past four games and will likely be one the other way today, but in the end, the Buckeyes are what they always have been -- a young but extremely talented team trying to make its way through the gantlet that is college football. To survive the cauldron of noise that was Happy Valley with a win is a positive for this team's growth.

Blake Williams: J.T. Barrett is tough as nails. He didn’t have his best day, far from it, but the redshirt freshman played the entire second half and both overtimes on a sprained knee. With the game on the line, Barrett did some of his toughest running on the night. He gained 32 yards on four overtime carries and scored both touchdowns. This was far from the Heisman-like performances that we saw from Barrett at home against some lesser opponents, but Barrett showed me against Penn State that he was capable of leading through adversity and pain. Buckeye fans should be happy with the ball in his hands in a tight game.

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