Penn State had just made the play that secured a stunning 24-21 upset of No. 2 Ohio State — the play in question a second consecutive sack of dangerous Buckeye QB J.T. Barrett — and a gentleman all decked out in black was recording it on his cell phone from the sideline.
“Unbelievable,” he said, half facing a reporter and half continuing to record what was going on out on the field. “What else can you say? I mean, who would think (that would be) the Penn State we saw play today?
“A defining moment right here in Penn State history,” he added.
The man was D.J. Dozier, star running back for the Nittany Lions’ 1986 national championship team (which was honored at halftime). A guy who knows plenty about defining moments. A guy who knows plenty about Penn State history. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1719381-psu-fans-now-get-s...
He was right, of course. The powerhouse Buckeyes (6-1, 3-1) came in as nearly three-touchdown favorites. The Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-1), the narrative has been, are still recovering from the since invalidated sanctions that came down after the Sandusky scandal broke, and were still at least a year away from competing with the elite teams in the Big Ten.
A 49-10 loss at Michigan earlier this season only seemed to reinforce that notion.
But Saturday night, with a White Out crowd of 107,280 serving as the ultimate 12th man and more than 170 recruits looking on from the stands, third-year coach James Franklin’s crew finally earned the elusive “signature victory.” And it was signed with a big, fat Sharpie.
Here was our take on the amazing evening.
MEN OF THE HOUR
Veterans Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda both returned after missing most of the season with injuries and with them came the return of “Linebacker U.” The duo played like men possessed, combining for 31 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and two pass breakups.
DE Garrett Sickels was benched in the first half for disciplinary reasons. All he did when he returned in the second half was log nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. “Maybe I should suspend him for the first half for the rest of the season,” Franklin quipped afterward. The entire D-line dominated the Buckeyes’ offensive front.
QB Trace McSorley did not have a great night if you go by the stat sheet. But he made big plays when Penn State needed them. The kid is a winner.
Penn State’s special teams finally turned in a game-changing play vs. a top foe. You saw it. S Marcus Allen blocked Ohio State’s late 45-yard field goal attempt, and CB Grant Haley scooped and scored for what became the game-winning TD.
PSU’s much maligned offensive line did not dominate. But it was not dominated, either, as some expected. It only gave up one sack. Special kudos to LT Paris Palmer for stepping in and more than holding his own.
Down 21-14 in the fourth quarter, Penn State got a blocked punt from freshman linebacker Cam Brown. It led to a Tyler Davis field goal, and suddenly the Lions were within 21-17. The crowd, which was in and out of the game most of the night due to PSU’s special teams’ gaffes and the erratic play of the offense, roared back to life and never quieted down.
Penn State again rotated a ton of defensive linemen. And again the front four came up huge late in a game — this time against an elite opponent.
• OSU outgained Penn State 413 yards to 276.
• The Buckeyes also dominated time of possession, 37:19 to 22:41.
• OSU did not commit a turnover.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
• Penn State’s special teams struggling in several areas vs. another top opponent — until finally turning things around late. Davis missed the first field-goal attempt of his career (he drove a 39-yard try into the line), John Reid muffed a punt that led to an OSU field goal and usually dependable Tyler Yazujian fired a snap over punter Blake Gillikin’s head that led to a safety.
• Urban Meyer only giving backup RB Curtis Samuel two carries. He had 74 yards, including a 71-yard TD. Starter Mike Weber carried 21 times for 71 yards.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE
• Gillikin was terrific, averaging 37.7 yards on his seven punts and putting three inside the 20.
• State’s coverage units were good, too. The Buckeyes had minus-four yards on two punt returns and did little damage on kickoff returns.
DID YOU NOTICE?
• After Reid’s muff, he was replaced on punt-return duties by Gregg Garrity.
• McSorley completed only 8 of 23 passes. But four different receivers — TE Mike Gesicki, and WRs Chris Godwin, Saeed Blacknall and DaeSean Hamilton — each had at least one catch of 20 yards or more.
• Starting receiver DeAndre Thompkins left the game after landing awkwardly while trying to catch a pass in the first half.
Penn State has not been ranked since the end of the 2011 season — or before the sanctions hit. Where will the Lions be ranked this week?