Few expected Penn State to realistically walk into the Horseshoe and knock off No. 1 Ohio State. Whatever fan hope there was stemmed from the fact that the Buckeyes had looked far from a legitmate top-ranked team in recent weeks. Alas, it was a script we've read before, where Penn State's defense came to play, creating opportunities and holding OSU's passing game to 114 yards, but the Blue and White offense went conservative and showed little imagination, resulting in a 38-10 blowout.
The Low Five
LACKING HACK: QB Christian Hackenberg continues to lack game awareness, failing to consistently run through his progression, surrendering key sacks and missing a wide open opportunities, like Saquon Barkley on a wide sweep on one of those fourth downs. Plus, giving up another key turnover was just an indicator of where his play is at this stage. Aside from this, if he's hurt — as was apparent in the game, as the announcers continually said he was "on one leg” — playing him did no favors for the offense. On the night he went 6 for 12 for 120 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs and a fumble.
SAME OLD: With Barkley running wild, it was shocking Penn State opted not to use playaction outside of a couple times. Granted, Hackenberg was once again inaccurate, sailing balls over receivers' heads. But you coudln't expect Barkely to just carry the load in this game. Yet that's just what John Donovan did — loading him up on 26 carries. PSU's lucky he came out of this game healthy. Aside from this, the playcalling continues to be conservative and simply unimaginative on the whole, particularly on third and short with the up the middle call time and time again, which typcially goes for a loss. James Franklin has to start addressing this, there's no way around it.
DAMAGE DONE: Penn State's series of self-inflicted wounds — Mike Gesicki's wide open deep dropped pass, Brain Gaia's hold on Barkley's long touchdown run, the mis-snap that bounced off of Brandon Polk on the jet sweep, Hackenberg's fumble after the OSU targeting ejection -- ended up in key missed opportunities that would have given the Lions desperately needed momentum in this game. The odds were stacked against them, so they last thing they needed were lost opportunities to blunders.
SHANK YOU: Poor punting with both punters gave OSU a series of short fields and just made things challenging time and again for the Nittany Lion defense. The special teams' tailspin continued since the great performance they put on against Rutgers. That's not on the punters alone, given the deep postions they had to boot from, but multiple shanks are inexcusible at the midpoint of the season.
DEEP HOLE: Speaking of field position, PSU had horrible starts throughout much of this game. Give the OSU punter credit — he caged the Lions against the end zone and forced them to drive the field — which was a tall order for PSU's one-dimensional offense.
TICK TOCK: The Lions' clock management was inconsistent at best in this one. A third-year starting quarterback should not lose site of the play clock, forcing his head coach to run a 4.3 40 yard dash down the sideline to call a timeout to bail him out. Overall the Lions need to get a handle on the clock in key situations.
The High Five
LOUD BARK: To say Barkley adds a spark to Lion's offense is the PSU football understatement of the year. The freshman rushed for 194 yards on 26 carries. But again, you can't expect him to do it alone out there, particularly against a team like OSU. You'd think that this would have taken pressure off the passing game, but … see the Same Old ow point above.
UP FRONT: The defensive front of the Nittany Lions was impressive on the whole in this game, facing a rotation of three different quarterbacks and playing a solid containment scheme. Of course, DE Carl Nassib led the charge with eight tackles (4 solo), 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks. DT Anthony Zettel was also key up front with four tackles (2 solo), 2 TFL, 0.5 sack and a pass breakup. The front created opportunites with some three and outs, but as was the concern heading into this game, the offense was unable to consistently capitalize.
FAST STARTS: PSU played tough early to start both halves, showing the Black Out crowd had little effect on them. Penn State's second half start was impressive — a deep ball to Chris Godwin, a strong run by Barkley and a tough TD catch and run by DaeSean Hamilton. Again, when they mix things up, they tend to find success.
CATCHING ON: Speaking of Godwin, the wideout had a heck of a performance Saturday. Althought he only caught three balls, he managed 103 yards. The offensive staff has to get him more involved throughout the game and target him more given the abilities he showing to create opportunities.
GOT YOUR HEALTH: Outside of Hackenberg's leg injury, Penn State seemingly departs Columbus with a healthy crew. That's particularly promising given how Barkley ran and the fact he was carrying the offense in much of this game.