The Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions put on a good old Big Ten defensive slugfest today in front of over 105,000 fans in Ohio Stadium, but it was the Buckeye defense that proved to be the tougher one as they stifled a powerful Penn State offense to lead OSU to a 13-7 win. Chris Gamble was a hero today as the wide receiver/cornerback became the first OSU player to start on both sides of the ball in 39 years and put in a tremendous performance at cornerback that included a decisive INT return for a touchdown.
The Buckeye defense's performance was huge considering the loss of OSU's top offensive player, RB Maurice Clarett, to a shoulder injury on the opening drive. Clarett was looking good on the first drive as he ripped off a 30-yard gain, but shortly after, he was forced to leave and did not return. The Buckeyes kept moving though and got down to within striking distance, but Craig Krenzel fumbled the ball at the 1, stopping the OSU drive. The ball was picked up by PSU's Anwar Phillips and returned back across midfield into OSU territory. The Buckeye D would rise to the occasion though as shortly after, LB A.J. Hawk picked off a Zack Mills pass to give OSU the ball.
The Buckeye offense couldn't generate any scoring though, and later in the quarter, PSU put together their best drive of the day as they went 80 yards in nine plays and got their only touchdown of the day on a run by RB Larry Johnson. PSU held a 7-0 lead, but in the second quarter, the Buckeyes would make it 7-3 on a field goal by Mike Nugent that was set up by a drive after an interception by DE Will Smith. The Buckeyes would get the ball back again before the half, and they were driving down deep into PSU territory, but they turned it over again on a Chris Vance fumble. Neither team would score again before the half.
(AP Photo/Mark Hall)
The Buckeyes' defensive dominance started early in the second half. PSU started the half with the ball, but shortly after, a Mills pass was picked off by Chris Gamble, who would then move and juke his way into the end zone for a 40-yard INT return for a TD. The Mike Nugent PAT made it 10-7.
Penn State would not be able to do anything once again, and they had to punt back to Ohio State. The Buckeyes did what they had to do when playing an offense like Penn State -- keep them off the field. They went on a drive that ate up over 8 minutes off the clock and was capped off by another Mike Nugent field goal, this one from 37 yards out (and this one ricocheted off the goal post and went back through the uprights).
From there, no more scoring took place, but it was an exciting defensive battle. The Buckeye defense was looking strong and it didn't look like Penn State would be able to do anything. But Penn State was looking good when Shawn Mayer picked off a pass and set up the Lions with good field position. But Penn State could not get in scoring position and had to punt to OSU. The Buckeyes went three-and-out and had to punt back, but Andy Groom came up big once again as he boomed another one and sent PSU back well into their own territory. The Lions and Buckeyes exchanged punts, and the fourth quarter clock kept winding down. Finally, Andy Groom's final punt pinned PSU back at the 11 with just over three minutes left in the game, but the Buckeye defense tightened and made PSU turn the ball over on downs. OSU ran the clock out from there, giving the Buckeyes their ninth win of the season.
- This game lived up to the hype as it was exciting and had plenty of twists and turns. It wasn't for those who don't like defensive football, but this was truly another Big Ten dogfight for OSU. If you're handing out grades, the Buckeye defense gets an A+++. Few thought they could hold Zack Mills to just 98 passing yards and 3 interceptions. The corners (Gamble and Dustin Fox) had big days as PSU standout WR Bryant Johnson had just one catch for six yards and WR Tony Johnson had 2 for 14. The Lions had just 179 total yards, and 80 came on one drive.
- As of writing this, we heard no official word yet of Maurice Clarett's status although on 1460 AM, they did mention he might play next week, but this shoulder problem could be an issue the rest of the year. Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall could have to step up the rest of the way.
- The general opinion is that the freshmen who were playing as injury replacements -- Rob Sims for Shane Olivea and A.J. Hawk for Cie Grant -- did quite well. Hawk had a fine day as he had an interception and a sack. The future looks bright for both.
- The crowd was indeed into it today as they were loud, and at times, very loud. Today, there were definitely times when the crowd was the twelfth man out there on defense.
- Gamble, of course, had a huge day. He and Andy Groom came up huge for the second week in a row, and Mike Nugent has moved his field goal streak to 19 straight. This team showed today that they can step up and win a big game through adversity. This team has the tendency to step up when it has to and find a way to win.
- Next up is another ranked opponent in Minnesota and another Big Ten battle. So far, it's nine down and four to go, but each game is huge and will be tough. Iowa won big over Michigan today, but OSU just needs to keep the wins coming. Go Bucks!
(AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)<