COLUMBUS, Ohio — Penn State dominated the first quarter against Ohio State here Saturday night, silencing a Black Out crowd and making the nation’s No. 1 team look ordinary. But the Nittany Lions only had a 3-0 lead to show for it, as once again blown opportunities were the order of the day for James Franklin’s bunch.
And the talented Buckeyes made them pay, dominating the second and fourth quarters themselves while winning going away, 38-10. OSU improved to 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten.
PSU fell to 5-2 and 2-1, and the Lions left the Horseshoe kicking themselves for not putting on a better show.
“When you don’t capitalize on the road against the No. 1 team in the country, you’re gonna have some problems,” Franklin said.
Here’s how things broke down from our view.
MAN OF THE HOUR: Penn State freshman RB Saquon Barkley returned from an ankle injury and left the second-largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history (108,423) gasping at moments. He carried 26 times for 194 yards and had a long TD run wiped out by a hold.
CLOSE SECOND: DE Carl Nassib was on the big stage in a game that also featured OSU star Joey Bosa. Nassib had the better numbers, with 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks to Bosa’s three TFLs and lone sack.
CLOSE THIRD: WR Chris Godwin had three catches for 103 yards, with a PSU season-long 56-yard circus catch in the third quarter. He had long catches to set up both PSU scores.
TURNING POINT: As the first quarter was winding down, Barkley took a handoff and bolted around right end, then beat the rest of the OSU defense to the end zone for what appeared to be a 44-yard score. It would have given the Lions a 10-0 lead. But RG Brian Gaia was (rightfully) flagged for holding LB Dante Booker. Gaia gave up a sack on the next play as PSU was forced to punt. The Buckeyes scored on their next three possessions to blow it open.
SOLID STRATEGY: It took him a while, but Urban Meyer eventually turned over the offense to mobile QB J.T. Barrett, who was dynamite (102 rushing yards and two scores, and 4-of-4 passing for 30 yards and two more TDs). Hard to understand why there is any QB controversy here.
NUMBERS GAME: Penn State was 1 for 11 on third down and 0 of 2 on fourth down. The Lions were 0 for 7 on third down after the first quarter.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: PSU had 10 more tackles for loss and two more sacks in this game.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: A rare bright spot for the Lion special teams was KO return man Brandon Polk, who had four attempts for 79 yards, including a 30-yarder.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
• Penn State going for it on fourth-and-8 from the OSU 31 down 14-3 in the second quarter. Hackenberg was sacked. The Buckeyes got the ball at their own 34 and took six plays to go up 21-3. It would have been a 48-yard field goal attempt in good conditions. If you don’t have a kicker who can handle that, well, it’s time to find a new kicker.
• Penn State going with an empty backfield on first-and-10 from its own 8 down 21-10 in the third quarter. Barkley was averaging more than seven yards per carry at the time. Predictably, QB Christian Hackenberg was sacked on the play, leading to a second-and-15 from the 3 and all but dooming the drive.
• Bad replay officiating costing Penn State in a game vs. Ohio State — again. Braxton Miller’s key third-down catch late in the first quarter clearly was not clean. Yet the original call of a catch was upheld under review. It kept the drive alive and the Buckeyes later scored to take a 7-3 lead.
• Sophomore TE Mike Gesicki dropping (another) nice pass from Hackenberg on a second-and-1 in the first quarter. It cost the Lions about 20 yards.
• Penn State’s terrible punting effort (again). Chris Gulla and Daniel Pasquariello were both off (again) combining to average 35.9 yards with only one of 11 boots dropped inside the 20. It was so bad Franklin said he may hold an open tryout to find a replacement. It stood in stark contrast to the job Buckeye punter Cameron Johnston did (41.6-yard average, four of five inside the 20).
HIDDEN HERO: WR DaeSean Hamilton did a great job of beating a defender and diving for the pylon on an 8-yard TD catch.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: S Jordan Lucas had a team-high nine tackles for PSU. It is rarely good when a DB leads the team in stops, though.
DID YOU NOTICE?
• Senior C Angelo Mangiro was back in the starting lineup after missing the Indiana game with a knee injury.
• Junior RB Akeel Lynch was also back in action after missing time with a knee injury. He had four carries for 14 yards.
• Senior TE Kyle Carter did not make the trip for undisclosed reasons.
• Wendy Laurent replaced Brendan Mahon at OG in the second half.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Why was PSU so effective in the first and third quarters, and so poor in the second and fourth?