COLUMBUS, Ohio -- So much for the emotional letdown so many of us expected to see out of Penn State this week.
With crazy news about the university and football program seemingly breaking by the hour, the Nittany Lions somehow maintained focus and pretty much dominated Ohio State in the Horseshoe Saturday afternoon.
The final was 20-14, which also happened to be the score at the half. Penn State scored on its first possession and pretty much held the Buckeyes at arm's length the rest of the way. Incredibly, given recent events, if the Nittany Lions (9-2, 6-1) can beat Wisconsin in Madison next week, they will win the Big Ten Leaders Division outright and advance to the first Big Ten championship game.
But before looking ahead to that game, let's look back on the action in Columbus. This team deserves it.
MAN O' THE HOUR: Stephfon Green's late-season emergence continued. He posted 101 total yards, with 93 (including a 39-yard burst to open the scoring) on the ground. He also scored both of PSU's touchdowns.
CLOSE SECOND: Linebacker Glenn Carson had 11 tackles and forced a fumble for Penn State. That made up for a facemask penalty.
HONORABLE MENTION: Curtis Drake was outstanding as a Wildcat quarterback, carrying three times for 50 yards. He also faked the defense on a handoff that Green took for his long touchdown.
OPPOSING MVP: The PA man must have been sick of calling the name of Buckeye linebacker Ryan Shazier, who had 15 tackles. Nice game.
TURNING POINT: There was no single play that stood out. We liked the fact that, after Ohio State put together a short-field drive to cut the PSU lead to 17-14, the Lions responded by going 49 yards on nine plays to get a 46-yard field goal by Anthony Fera. They took the 20-14 lead into the half and shut down OSU in the final 30 minutes.
STRONG STRATEGY: Penn State unleashed the Wildcat extensively for the first time this year and it caught the Buckeyes flat-footed. Drake and freshman Bill Belton both ran it well.
BY THE NUMBERS: Penn State had 254 yards of total offense in the first half but only 73 in the second half.
ASSISTANT ASSESSMENT: A tip of the cap to the entire staff for pulling together amid all of the craziness. This was not a perfect game. But the coaches had the team ready and busted out some new wrinkles.
GREAT PLAY: In the second quarter, PSU defensive end Sean Stanley found himself matched up with Buckeye tailback Jordan Hall on a wheel route. Hall appeared to have a step on Stanley, but the athletic end jumped to bat the pass and nearly came down with an interception.
NOT-SO-GREAT PLAY(S): We'll go with Penn State's four straight tight-formation blasts from inside the OSU 2-yard line. The Lions did not score and turned the ball over on downs. This is not a power running team. A wider formation would have given one of PSU's tailbacks a chance to find a seam.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Fera tied a career-long on his first field goal (43) yards and set a personal best on his second. He was outstanding on punts, too, with three of four downed inside the 20. Ohio State's average starting field position in the game was its own 22.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Wideout Derek Moye quietly had a good game. He had three catches for 40 yards, including a 20-yarder.
HIDDEN HERO: Silas Redd only carried eight times while still nursing a sore collarbone. But those carries were good for 63 yards.
We don't mind that PSU took four cracks at the TD from inside the OSU 2 in the third quarter. But it would have made sense to vary things up a bit.
Wideout Justin Brown had at least two drops in this game. As a junior, he ought to be more consistent.
QB Matt McGloin tried to hit well-covered TE Andrew Szczerba in the second quarter. The pass was tipped and intercepted, eventually leading to an OSU TD. No reason to be gambling in a game like this. To his credit, McGloin was much more conservative the rest of the way.
Buckeye freshman QB Braxton Miller was sacked three times. But the Lions had him virtually wrapped on multiple other occasions, only to see him slip away.
Injured linebacker Michael Mauti (ACL) made the trip but obviously did not dress. He served as a student assistant.
Wideout Brandon Moseby-Felder did not make the trip due to a bad back.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Can this group of gritty Nittany Lions hammer down the Big Ten Leaders Division title at Wisconsin next week?
SUGGESTED HASHTAG: #OnToMadison