A determined Penn State squad gave Ohio State all they could handle today, but it wasn't enough as Ohio State squeaked by the Nittany Lions for a 21-20 win. Quarterback Scott McMullen filled in for Craig Krenzel, who left the game in the second quarter with an injury, and brought the Buckeyes back from a 17-7 halftime deficit and a 20-14 late game deficit to help give Ohio State their eighth win of the season and only the second win by a visiting team in the last eleven meetings between PSU and OSU. McMullen was 12 of 17 for 112 yards passing and two TDs, including the game-winning drive to give Oho State the lead with under two minutes to play.
Things started out promisingly for Ohio State as after forcing Penn State to punt on their opening possession, the Buckeyes took over at their own 26 yard line and marched 74 yards in 14 plays to take a 7-0 lead. The drive was keyed by a 31-yard run by Lydell Ross on the second play, two third down conversions and a fourth down conversion deep in Penn State territory. Ross capped off the drive with a 1-yard TD for the lead.
Penn State answered on the following drive as Zack Mills led the Nittany Lions' offense down the field 80 yards on 12 plays. The drive's biggest play came on a 28-yard pass to Terrance Phillips, and Ohio native Sean McHugh caught a 2-yard TD pass on third down to cap off the drive. The PAT made it 7-7.
Zack Mills escapes a sack.
After a three-and-out for each team, Ohio State took over on their own 40 and looked to be gaining some momentum as they moved down into field goal range on the strength of Lydell Ross's running, but on a third down, Craig Krenzel was intercepted by Penn State defensive back Alan Zemaitis, who took the ball 78 yards for a touchdown.
After Ohio State went three-and-out on the following possession, Penn State took over on their own 45 and moved the ball down to field goal range with the help of a 22-yard pass to Gerald Smith and an 11-yard pass to Mike Lukac. PSU kicker David Kimball booted a 42-yard field goal (the first FG of his career) to give the Nittany Lions a 17-7 lead.
The Buckeyes suffered a blow on the following drive as after a few plays, Craig Krenzel took a shot from a blitzing Deryck Toles on a third down play and had to be helped off the field. Krenzel did not return in the game.
One last PSU drive failed before the half, and OSU ran out the clock to send the game into halftime. Ross had a strong first half, running the ball for Ohio State as he carried 15 times for 78 yards and a TD, but Krenzel struggled before getting hurt, throwing for 36 yards on 5 of 12 passing and one INT. Mills was 13 of 19 for 132 yards at halftime and was looking to be every bit recovered from a knee injury he suffered a few weeks back.
The Buckeyes came out quickly in the second half, however. The offense was now on Scott McMullen's shoulders, and he came out firing as he led the team down the field for a 12 play, 80-yard drive to open the second half and cut the PSU lead to 17-14. McMullen's 38-yard strike to Santonio Holmes, his key fourth down conversion sneak at the PSU 5-yard line and the running of Lydell Ross helped OSU storm down the field, and a 4-yard pass to Michael Jenkins capped the drive with a TD.
Michael Jenkins pulls in a TD.
Penn State came right back and moved the ball inside Buckeye territory on the next drive, converting on three plays of third and 13 or longer. OSU CB Dustin Fox came up with a big play though as he halted the drive by intercepting a Mills pass at the OSU 37-yard line.
The teams traded three-and-outs, and then Penn State took over from their own 16 and began to drive again on the strength of some clutch Mills passes. The drive stalled at the OSU 31 (after one of two big missed calls of the second half, this one being where Dustin Fox apparently committed pass interference on third down but was not called), but that was still in the range of PSU's strong-legged kicker as he booted a 48-yard field goal to stretch the lead to 20-14.
OSU could not do anything on the next drive and had to punt back to PSU, who took over with 7:32 left in the fourth quarter. The Buckeye defense stiffened though, forcing PSU to punt it back to OSU after a few plays, giving the Buckeyes one last shot with 5:55 left on the clock.
The Ohio State offense had been struggling in the second half after their opening drive, but on this drive, they would deliver. Lydell Ross was hurt on the first play of the drive, but McMullen led the team down the field with some clutch running and passing, including a 20-yard strike to Santonio Holmes and three QB rushes for 19 yards. A bit of controversy came on a third down play inside PSU territory when the officials ruled a McMullen to Hartsock pass complete even though the ball had hit the ground before landing in Hartsock's grasp. The drive continued though, and the Buckeyes finished it off with a 10-yard McMullen to Michael Jenkins pass for the TD.
Penn State had one last shot as they got the ball with just over one minute left and no time outs, and they drove down into OSU territory and set up for a 60-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left, but kicker David Kimball wasn't able to get this kick through.
Many people may not have expected this close of a game considering Penn State's struggles this year, but OSU head coach Jim Tressel said the Buckeyes knew what they were in for.
"We knew this was going to be a knock-down, drag-out game," Tressel said. "Penn State has great pride. They had lost their last four league games in a row because of mistakes, not because they've been outplayed. It was a battle, but our seniors would not let the rest of us give it up.
David Kimball's final FG try was no good.
"We had guys step it up when they needed to, like Scott McMullen."
On Craig Krenzel's situation, Tressel said, "He got banged. They didn't think it would be the right thing to do to let him go back in there."
McMullen was poised despite having to rally OSU from a ten-point deficit in a hostile environment.
"It just feels great right now," he said. "I'm at a loss for words. To pull out a win at a place like Happy Valley, this was a dog fight until the very end."
Krenzel still played a big role in the second half comeback though as it was he who adjusted the McMullen-to-Jenkins TD play that gave OSU the lead on the final drive.
"It was a stop-jump play," McMullen said. "Craig called the play, and it was a good call. Mike is 6-5, and he can make those kind of plays."
Santonio Holmes led the way for the Buckeye receivers for the second week in a row, this week catching five passes for 78 yards. Jenkins had three catches for 20 yards and two TDs. Lydell Ross had 110 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. Ohio State's defense gave up over 250 yards passing to Zack Mills, but they only allowed 33 yards rushing on 27 carries.
The Buckeyes now enter a three-game stretch where they face the other three one-loss teams in the Big Ten consecutively.
"We just have to take care of our business like always," offensive lineman Alex Stepanovich said. "We are blessed to still have the opportunity to do what we want to do. Our destiny rests in our hands."
OSU's win over PSU cuts the Nittany Lions series lead to 10-9, and it moves OSU ahead to 7-4 in Big Ten play. The OSU win gave Penn State five straight losses for the first time in the Joe Paterno era.
The Buckeyes face off against Michigan State next week.