Perhaps you recall Penn State’s last visit to Ohio State, in 2013.
Nittany Lions safety Jordan Lucas is among those who would rather forget.
“We lost,” he said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “That’s what I remember.”
The Lions lost all right, embarrassingly and humiliatingly, the 63-14 final score an interesting counterpoint, years after the fact, to a defeat PSU hung on OSU by the same count in 1994.
The footnote is that Ohio State won the next year in Beaver Stadium, on a late touchdown run by Eddie George (behind no less a player than tackle Orlando Pace; not a bad Buckeyes club, that one).
The Lions, losers of three straight to OSU, have not been so quick to gain revenge. Nor is that really the point heading into Saturday’s rematch with the top-ranked Buckeyes, if you believe Lucas. The game two years ago is irrelevant, he said. Ditto for last year’s double-overtime loss to OSU at home.
“That doesn’t even matter,” Lucas said. “That doesn’t even matter to me right now. All that matters is Saturday, they’re going to come out with their pads on, we’re going to come out with our pads on and it’s a football game. Last year doesn’t matter. It’s 2015. They’re No. 1, we’re 5-1 — that’s all that matters.”
Well, maybe there is a little something more.
Saturday’s game, Lucas said, represents “a chance for me personally to get my first win against Ohio State, throughout my four years being here.”
But beyond that, he is concentrating more on the challenge the Buckeyes’ offense presents. OSU (6-0) leads the Big Ten in rushing yardage (230 per game), total yardage (460) and scoring (36.8 ppg). Quarterback Cardale Jones, who inherited the job late last season because of injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, has thrown for 1,158 yards and seven touchdowns, with five interceptions.
Barrett has found work as the red-zone QB, and Miller plays wide receiver — and has been playing it, Lions coach James Franklin said, “like he's played wide receiver his entire life.”
Miller also sees time at running back. And Wildcat quarterback.
“Everybody has to be accounted for,” Lucas said. “They have a veteran offensive line, they have a good quarterback and they have athletes on the perimeter, so they’re definitely going to try to get them the ball and we just have to be on our P’s and Q’s as a defense and make sure we play mistake-free football.”
Lucas, who is in his third year as a starter (and his first at safety, after two years at cornerback), termed his own season “pretty challenging.” He missed the San Diego State game on Sept. 26 with what is believed to be a shoulder injury, but has been productive otherwise. His 33 tackles are third most on the team, and he has 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
“Nobody likes to sit out a game,” he said, “especially since it’s the first game I missed in my college career, but it happens. It’s a part of the game, and you just have to bounce back.”
He said the team has come together since the season-opening loss to Temple.
“And slowly but surely,” he said, “we’re finding our identity as a Penn State unit. … Just (as) a resilient team, and a team that has a lot to play for.”
“One, this university,” he said. “Everybody that came here before us and made it possible for us to even be playing here right now. And our families. We have our families to play for. There’s a little bit more incentive right now. We’re 5-1 right now, and we want to get a chance to play in January.”