Buckeyes Cruise Past Penn State

Ted Ginn Jr. struck again with a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown and Tyler Everett added a 24-yard interception return for a score in OSU's 21-10 win over Penn State Saturday. This story was updated at 5:20 p.m. with stats, notes and quotes.

Ohio State had one of each on Saturday against visiting Penn State.

That is the Buckeyes had one touchdown each on offense, defense and special teams in a 21-10 win over the Nittany Lions before 104,947 at Ohio Stadium.

"I guess there's some balance there," OSU cornerback Dustin Fox joked. "But we want to have consistency in all phases. We did not do everything perfect. We're not where we want to be. We're a much better team than we showed today."

Ted Ginn Jr. returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown, Tyler Everett had a 24-yard interception return for a score and senior fullback Branden Joe notched his first career touchdown with a 4-yard run as the Buckeyes (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) built a 21-7 halftime lead.

"Our kids played hard, no question," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "We had the opportunity to maybe make it a heck of a win and very decisive, but we turned it over a couple of times. That's a little disconcerting because we're not going to be able to be the top team we want to be if we turn it over.

"But any Big Ten win is a good one. We knew they were physical up front and it would be a battle and it was."

Going against the nation's 17th-best defense, Ohio State mustered 202 yards total offense. The Nittany Lions (2-6, 0-5) came into the game allowing just 285.9 yards per game.

Quarterback Troy Smith made his second career start a winning one for the Buckeyes. On a day with swirling winds, he completed 6 of 8 passes for 59 yards. He also carried 12 times for 26 yards. The only blemish on his day was a lost fumble, which helped set up PSU's only touchdown.

"Troy reinforced that he's a competitor," Tressel said. "There is no secret he has a passion to be the Ohio State quarterback. I like the way he attacked it today."

Smith started again in place of the ailing Justin Zwick, out with a shoulder injury. Tressel said Smith would likely start next week's game at Michigan State.

"I think he's done a great job with his decision-making, and so forth, and without having given it any thought, I'd say if we were playing Michigan State right now, obviously Troy, in my mind, would line up and be the guy," Tressel said. "And, you know, I don't know what exactly could change that or -- or whatever. You know, I'm just anxious to get Justin back to the point where he can be one of the guys, because today if he would have needed to be put in, he couldn't have been, and so we have to crawl before we walk in Justin's case."

Senior tailback Hall added 65 yards on 14 carries for the Buckeyes. Hall also had a 62-yard kickoff return to set up Joe's touchdown just before halftime. On that return, he broke Ken-Yon Rambo's OSU career record for kickoff return yardage.

"Mo is a team guy and he'll give everything he's got and he's battled through injuries and, you know, his wheels probably aren't what they used to be but he doesn't care because he's a Buckeye," Tressel said.

PSU quarterback Michael Robinson had a rough day. Playing in place of the injured Zack Mills, Robinson was 7 of 21 passing for 69 yards with a pair of interceptions. Tony Hunt had 85 yards on 20 carries for the Lions, who managed 242 yards total offense.

"We ought to be able to go up and down the field and do it again," PSU coach Joe Paterno said. "We are just finding ways to kill ourselves. We worked like dogs all week on the kicking game because they scared us."

Penn State had the ball to open the game and maintained possession for over six minutes. But on second-and-7 at the OSU 31, Robinson dropped and threw toward Terrell Golden. But OSU's Ashton Youboty jumped the route, intercepted the pass and returned it 35 yards to the Penn State 46. Youboty atoned after extending the drive previously with a pass interference penalty.

"In practice, I had that exact route thrown at me a lot," Youboty said. "Today, Coach Tucker challenged me. After that pass interference penalty, I felt like I had to make a play. That was redemption for me."

"That first interception was huge because they had a nice drive going and had converted some third downs," Tressel added.

OSU was unable to get a first down and punted. The Buckeyes then forced a PSU punt. Jeremy Kapinos hit a long, 48-yard line drive, which Ginn fielded in the middle of the field. He cut left and got a block from E.J. Underwood. He then exploded through a seam to the left and was gone down the sideline for the 67-yard touchdown return that put the Buckeyes up 7-0 with 5:18 left in the first quarter.

"Whenever I see an opening, I just try to burst through the hole as quick as I can and get to the end zone, and that's just what I did," Ginn said. "I think I provide a good spark for the team. I just try to have fun when I'm out there."

"Like the punt return team has done all year, they gave us some energy and electricity," Tressel said. "We don't care who gets it. That's why we have two guys (Ginn or Santonio Holmes) back there because the other guy will usually make a key block."

Ohio State struck again moments later. On third-and-7 from the PSU 23, Robinson locked on to Terrance Phillips in the left flat. But OSU's Everett jumped that route and intercepted the pass between Phillips and another PSU receiver. He rolled 24 yards untouched on the touchdown return to put the Buckeyes up 14-0 with 3:41 left in the first quarter.

"The ball was thrown and it hit me in the hands and I just got it," Everett said. "We knew their tendencies when they were in that formation with that receiver. We knew what to expect."

As the quarter ended, OSU had held the ball 2:49 of clock time (to PSU's 12:11) and had more points (14) than yards (12).

In the second quarter, Penn State cashed in on an Ohio State turnover. Smith was hit by PSU's Matthew Rice and fumbled. PSU's Derek Wake fell on it at the OSU 41. It was Smith's first turnover of any kind for the Buckeyes.

"I had the one turnover and I should have held on to the ball," Smith said.

The Lions needed six plays to find the end zone. The key play was Hunt's 26-yard run around right end down to the OSU 3. On first down there, Hunt took a pitch right and scored standing up to cut the OSU lead to 14-7 with 5:55 left in the first half.

But special teams again came up big for Ohio State as Hall ripped off a 62-yard kick return all the way back to the PSU 35-yard line.

"He didn't just break the record there, he shattered it," Tressel said. "That was a huge play in the game. (Assistant coach) Darrell Hazell challenged the kickoff return team this week in practice. Penn State's coverage unit was ranked number one in the Big Ten."

The Buckeyes needed seven plays to find the end zone. Smith converted a third down with a 7-yard slant pass to Ginn. Then, on third-and-4 from the 15, Smith kept the ball after a rollout and got 11 tough yards down to the PSU 4. On first down there, Joe followed the right side of the line into the end zone to put OSU up 21-7 with 1:57 left in the half.

"I knew my time would come," Joe said. "We had a first down at the 4-yard line and I knew it was now or never. I told (tackle) Rob Sims after the play, `I could have walked that one in,' that's how good the blocking was. I just carried it."

Penn State drove all the way down to the OSU 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter. But on fourth-and-goal there, the Lions brought in kicker Robbie Gould. His 21-yard field goal cut the OSU lead to 21-10 with 9:31 left in the game.

The Buckeyes then drove down to the Penn State 32. But Mike Nugent's 49-yard field goal attempt was deflected by Penn State's Ethan Kilmer and no good with 4:42 left.

The Nittany Lions then threatened, driving to the OSU 40. But on fourth-and-9 there, Robinson's pass to Rubin was broken up incomplete by Youboty – his third pass broken up of the day – with 3:13 left.

OSU salted the game away with Smith converting a third-and-7 with a 9-yard run for a first down with 2:55 left.


* Ginn became the fifth player in OSU history to register two punt returns for touchdowns in the same season. Jeff Graham was the last one to do it in 1990. (Ginn also had one against Wisconsin.)

This also marks the second year in a row Ohio State has had three punt return touchdowns. (Holmes also had one against Northwestern.)

* OSU was 7 of 12 on third downs, marking the first time this year the Buckeyes have exceeded 50 percent in that category. OSU was also 1 of 1 in the red zone, upping its mark to 16 of 18 in the red zone for scoring this year.

* Defensively, PSU's 69 yards passing were a season low for an OSU opponent.

Linebackers A.J. Hawk (13 tackles) and Anthony Schlegel (10 tackles, 3-1/2 tackles for loss, 1-1/2 sacks) led the defense.

* Ohio State scored a touchdown on a punt return and an interception return Saturday, marking the third time the Buckeyes have scored a touchdown via a punt return and interception return in the same game.

The last such game came in 1973 vs. Northwestern, when Tim Fox returned a blocked punt 12 yards for a score and Neal Colzie had a 19-yard interception return for a TD. In 1969 vs. Michigan State, Larry Zelina had a 73-yard punt return for a TD and Mark Debevc intercepted a pass and ran it back 14 yards for a score.

* Hall came into the game needing just 5 kick return yards to set the OSU career mark in that category. He broke the record on his 62-yard return. He finished the day with 83 yards on two returns. That gives him 1,488 in his career, bettering the mark of 1,410 set by Rambo from 1997-2000.

* Freshman receiver Devin Lyons made his first career start for the Buckeyes in a four-wide receiver set.

Defensively, Tyler Everett started in place of Donte Whitner at safety. Whitner was injured and not in uniform. Then, starting free safety Nate Salley left with what appeared to be a wrist injury in the first quarter. Brandon Mitchell subbed for him.

Tight end Rory Nicol was also lost to an ankle injury.

"I think Nate could have gone back in, but they chose not to," Tressel said. "Rory Nicol, I think sprained his ankle, or something -- I don't think it was that major -- and I think went back in, maybe, for a play. But, you know, I don't look for those guys to – I hope not -- miss a whole bunch of time. I hope to get Jay Richardson back. Donte, I hope we get back. Stan White, Brandon Schnittker. You know, for this -- we're going on the road, trying to make something happen, we need all our guys -- Justin, you know, we need everyone."

* At halftime, Ohio State retired uniform No. 47 in recognition of Chic Harley, the school's first three-time All-American. Harley's great-great-nephew, current OSU walk-on defensive back Rob Harley, was on crutches for the halftime ceremony after suffering an injury on special teams during the first half.

* The loss means Penn State will have its fourth losing season – and miss postseason play – over the last five years.

* Until today, Penn State had not reached double digits in scoring in any of the six Big Ten games between the schools in Columbus. OSU has won now won all six of those game by an average margin of 20.6 points.

* Ohio State evened the all-time series with Penn State at 10-10. OSU leads 7-5 in Columbus. OSU leads the Big Ten series since 1993 at 8-4.

Tressel improved to 3-1 against Penn State, while PSU's Paterno is now 6-10 against the Buckeyes.

* Ohio State travels to Michigan State next Saturday (noon, ESPN).

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