Mere days before Halloween, the Nittany Lions threw a scare into the visiting Buckeyes. Yet in the end, Ohio State did leave Happy Valley with a victory, and after several lopsided wins leading up to the PSU game, a hard-fought win might be exactly what the Buckeyes needed.
Meyer said no – nine times, in fact – when asked if it was perhaps a good thing his team nearly lost. Meyer admitted, however, that there were benefits to getting a challenge away from home – especially with a Nov. 8 showdown at defending Big Ten champion Michigan State looming in two weeks.
“It's not a good thing. It's a great thing,” Meyer said. “I talked to a couple of my colleagues who I talk to on a weekly basis. They made those comments, and that's true. It's not just the atmosphere.
“You gotta nut up, man. You're down. You're down by several points in that environment, and there's no don't look to anyone else for help. There's 11 guys out there, have to score a touchdown, and they did.”
Ohio State allowed 24 unanswered points to the Nittany Lions after leading 17-0 at halftime. Penn State took advantage of OSU turnovers and a defensive that did not play aggressive enough in the final minutes of regulation according to Meyer to send the game into overtime. The Lions took a lead in the first overtime before the Buckeyes rallied to send the game to a second OT and closed out the victory with a touchdown and a defensive stand.
Meyer said pulling out a win like that builds toughness. OSU running backs coach Stan Drayton agreed.
“I thought the way the events happened in that game on Saturday was really a good testament to the hard work that our boys have been putting in to prepare for moments like that.
“You’ve got a bunch of young players out there in a very hostile environment, an awesome environment to add that, but I thought our players responded at the time that they had to. They experienced some lows during the course of that game, and they were able to overcome that. That is a true testament of growth that our players are experiencing right now. To be able to go able to go through something like that and come out battle-tested and still come out with a victory out of that environment, I think we’re going in the right direction.”
Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett struggled at times during the game, but when he needed to lead the Buckeyes to a touchdown in the first overtime, he stepped up. Drayton said looked into Barrett’s eyes before he took the field in that situation and liked what he saw.
“There’s nothing like looking in a player’s eyes to find comfort as a football coach,” Drayton said. “I just so happened to see J.T. Barrett’s eyes at that moment and I tell you what, I got all the confidence that I need that he was at least at that moment going to give everything that he had to try to put us in a situation to win that ball game. It turned out that that was the case, so when you see that coming from some young football players that we have right now, you can’t help but to get really excited and anxious to see what the future holds for this football team.”
Barrett extended the game thanks to a game-tying TD and later added another rushing score that proved to provide the winning points in the second overtime.
“That was a great character win. You’re not supposed to win in that situation,” OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said. “You get caught from behind, in an environment like that and then go behind in overtime, going into their student section, you are not supposed to win that game.”
And yet the Buckeyes did, producing a victory that could mean far more than an ugly win once the 2014 is complete.