"I watched last year's game twice this week and I saw two years ago when we were here, and one thing that really stuck out to me was every play was big," Posey said. "I felt in a game like this you need to capitalize on all of your opportunities."
When Posey had his chance Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd in Beaver Stadium, the wide receiver didn't disappoint. With 1:47 to play in the third quarter, Posey got behind the Penn State defense and hauled in a 62-yard touchdown pass from Terrelle Pryor to increase Ohio State's lead to 17-7.
The 15th-ranked Nittany Lions didn't recover as No. 11 Ohio State grabbed a 24-7 win on Saturday to wrest control of the Big Ten race. Penn State earned 38 yards and only two first downs on four drives the rest of the way, while Ohio State marched for a touchdown the next time it had the ball to salt away the game.
After a string of high-profile losses – including one to Penn State last year that turned on a Pryor fumble – the Buckeyes were happy that the play that made the game finally was made by someone wearing scarlet and gray.
"We talk about, just make a play," senior offensive lineman Jim Cordle said. "Somebody has to step up and make a play, and guys did that tonight."
The bomb from Pryor to Posey seemingly had been set up from the early going. On their first 15 first downs of the game, the Buckeyes ran the ball, lulling the Nittany Lions into a comfort zone.
But Ohio State had something different in mind when taking over at its own 38 as the third quarter neared a close. The Buckeyes came out in a run set, showing a two-back set with an unbalanced line to the left. Tackle Andy Miller lined up outside of tackle Cordle and guard Justin Boren.
Pryor ran a playaction fake before stepping up and putting his body into a throw that hit Posey near the 10-yard line, and the wideout had no one between him and the goal line.
"We had been in unbalanced a decent amount," head coach Jim Tressel said. "We knew the same thing everyone else knew is that we'd been running a lot on first down. We felt like if we had decent field position it was time to try to strike. We were out near the 40 I think, and we felt that we could get behind them."
Cordle had a similar view of the play.
"Yeah I mean, a couple of guys were saying we're running every time on first down, but we were moving the ball," Cordle said. "And then that did set up the big pass there because on that one we actually had tackle over so we had two tackles on one side, and that's definitely a run formation for us. It was first down, where we were running, running, running, and then we were able to hit that big one."
Ohio State also caught Penn State in a cover-2 look that put safety Nick Sukay out to dry. Both Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, who were lined up to the left side of the formation, ran go routes past the first level of defenders. Sukay was caught in between, and a quick check on Sanzenbacher allowed Posey to sneak behind him.
That split second of looking at the inside receiver allowed Posey to catch the ball just beyond the outstretched arm of the diving Sukay.
"We just coming back to the sideline and telling them, ‘Coach, we've really got a shot if we go deep on that play.' " Posey said. "They were in the right coverage on that first down. We kept doing the same things just to check it out and see what they were doing. On third downs they were going to cover-2, and sometimes on first downs. It was just a great call that (offensive coordinator Jim) Bollman had."
The grab served a dual purpose, a talk with Cordle divines. Not only did it seem to take a weight off of Ohio State's shoulders and ice the game, it put the Penn State defense in its place.
"The DB fell down even, so that was kind of funny, but it was great that we were able to hit that because the defense was still talking all that trash," Cordle said. "We were running the ball but we hadn't thrown much, and then Terrelle was able to shut them up with that big pass."