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Happy Valley was Death Valley for No. 2 Ohio State as its hopes for playing for a national championship were dealt a blow in a 24-21 loss to Penn State on Saturday night at Beaver Stadium.
The Buckeyes (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) led 12-7 at the half and 21-7 in the fourth quarter before falling apart. Penn State (5-2, 3-1) went 90 yards for a score and used a blocked punt for a field goal to pull to within 21-17.
But the play that ended the Buckeyes’ streak of 20 wins in true road game was a blocked field goal attempt by senior Tyler Durbin of 45 yards. Marcus Allen got a hand on it and Grant Haley returned the ball 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game for the final score on a rainy and breezy night.
PSU quarterback Trace McSorley was 8 for 23 for 154 yards and a TD and ran 19 times for 63 yards and another score. Saquon Barkley carried 12 times for 99 yards.
OSU junior J.T. Barrett passed for 245 yards on 28 throws and had one TD. Junior Curtis Samuel had just two carries for 71 yards, despite a 74-yard touchdown early in the third quarter.
How It Happened
The Nittany Lions took the opening kickoff and quickly moved into OSU territory after starting at their own 25. Barkley went 18 yards on the second play and McSorley passed 26 yards to Mike Gesicki to the OSU 25.
McSorley ran for 8 but his pass to Gesicki on second down went for a 4-yard loss and the QB was then stopped for no gain. Tyler Davis had made 18 straight field goals but a bad hold off the snap resulted in a low kick that was blocked and OSU junior safety Damon Webb picked it up at the Ohio State 21 and went nowhere.
A holding penalty put the Buckeyes back to the 4 for their first possession. OSU picked one first down but was forced to punt from is 27. PSU punted back to the Buckeyes after also moving the chains once.
Later a punt by PSU’s Blake Gillikin’s traveled 30 yards to the OSU 10 where senior Dontre Wilson fumbled the ball only to see junior teammate Gareon Conley recover it.
Penn State wasn’t so fortunate a few minutes later. The OSU offense continued to struggle, gaining only 8 yards in three plays before Johnston’s 44-yard punt was mishandled by John Reid and sophomore Terry McLaurin recovered for OSU at the Penn State 38.
Durbin made a 33-yard field five seconds into the second quarter for a 3-0.
OSU extended the lead to 9-0 with 4:53 until halftime on a 26-yard TD pass from Barrett to sophomore tight end Marcus Baugh, who spun away from several would-be tacklers to each the end zone.
The Buckeyes drove 78 yards in 11 plays and chewed up 5:09 of possession. Samuel had two catches for 26 yards in the series and Barret rushed for 2 yards on a fourth-and-two at the PSU 38 to set up the score two plays later. Durbin, though, missed the extra point after a bad hold in the inclement weather.
OSU held Penn State on three plays to force another punt. The Buckeyes started from their 29 an marched to the PSU 13 in eight plays with a pass to Samuel for 14, a Barrett run for 19 and a toss to McLaurin for 19 more.
The drive stalled after three incompletions by Barrett and Durbin booted 30-yard field goal with 1:14 left in the half.
Penn State responded in a big manner by going 74 yards in seven plays to make it 12-7 with nine seconds left. McSorley found DaeSean Hamilton for 34 yards before hitting Chris Goodwin for the score from 20 yards.
On OSU’s second possession of the second half, Samuel turned a third-and-2 from the OSU 26 into a 74-yard TD run on his first carry of the game. Weber made a key block that sprung him through the line and the Buckeyes led 19-7 with 10:10 remaining in the third.
Ohio State got some breathing room and a 21-7 lead on safety when the snap for a PSU punt from its own 30 sailed into the end zone with 8:31 to go in the third.
The score remained unchanged until early in the final quarter when a 37-yard run by Barkley and a 35-yard reception by Saaed Blacknall set the Nittany Lions 2 yards from pay dirt. On second down, McSorley rolled right and reached the end zone at the pylon with 13:32 to play.
It was an efficient five play, 90-yard drive that took just 1:20 and brought the stadium back to life.
OSU averted disaster once on its next possession when Weber recovered a bad exchange but not another when Cameron Brown blocked Johnston’s punt, giving the Nittany Lions the ball at the OSU 28.
PSU got a first down at the 10 after an OSU penalty but the defense stiffened and Tyler Davis made a 34-yard field goal with 9:33 to go.
Ohio State needed a sustained drive to regain momentum, quiet the crowd and maybe add to lead. The Buckeyes were in position to do all three when it reached the PSU 31. But the best OSU could do was add three yards from a Samuel rush so the field goal unit was sent in.
That’s when the kicking game failed again.
OSU got the ball one more time after the TD but on fourth-and-23 at its own 29, Barrett was sacked for a 6-yard loss and PSU ran out the final 62 seconds.