I was wrong … and it's never felt so amazing. Yes, I predicted Penn State would lose to No. 2 Ohio State, but the Nittany Lions overcame some huge setbacks to beat the Buckeyes 24-21. It took a cast of heroes to pull off the victory in front of a capacity White out crowd.
Lets look at the highs and lows from the epic victory.
THE HIGH TEN
1. Lionheart: Despite some massive setbacks for Penn State in this game, including a blocked field goal, a muffed punt and a safety off a miscued punt snap, the Lion squad showed no quit — a trait they have shown in games past, but in this one it paid massive dividends.
2. Off the Blocks: Although PSU had some major special teams' miscues, it generated some colossal special team opportunities that changed the game. Namely a blocked punt by LB Cameron Brown and a blocked field goal by safety Marcus Allen, which was dashed in for the go-ahead touchdown by CB Grant Haley. That will more than likely become one of those timeless rerun moments, like Tamba Hali's sack-fumble of Troy Smith in the 2005 showdown.
3. Power Line: While many predicted OSU's offensive line to overpower PSU's smaller defensive front, the Lions' front four was disruptive to the Buckeye pocket and J.T. Barrett. Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan were wrecking balls in the pass rush, forcing Barrett to look over his shoulder the entire second half. Imagine if Sickels had played in the first half, which he missed after getting benched for missing some classes this week.
4. Fuel Injection: There was no better time for Linebacker U. to get a boost with the return of Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell, who were instrumental supports in the Nittany Lion pass rush and helped provide critical containment against Barrett and Mike Weber. A tip of the hat to Manny Bowen, who also made some big plays in key moments for the defense.
5. Running Wild: Yes, Trace McSorley made mistakes and had some lapses in judgement. But he hit some huge key passes and made some massive runs when the chips were down. In this one he looked more like "Ace" McSorely given the way he went all in and got payoffs when it counted. That touchdown run, like a lot of his efforts, showed tremendous guts and even more heart. McSorely had nearly three times as many rushing yards as Barrett on the night.
6. End Game: Mike Gesicki left the game with an ankle injury, but returned and came up big in his own right in this one. In fact, he led the Lions in receiving against OSU with four catches for 46 yards and a long of 26.
7. Nice Boots: This one was one of those classic OSU/PSU battles where it was a regular back and fourth and one or two big plays would determine the outcome. Blake Gillikin was instrumental in the battle for field position and giving the Buckeyes some long fields to deal with. He deserves a lot of credit here.
8. Cover Me: Along the same lines, the coverage units on kicks and punts came up huge throughout this game, pinning OSU deep often and punishing ball returners who seemed more and more hesitant as the game progressed. Tip of the hat to Von Walker, who went all out in this game time and again on coverage.
9. The "White" Stuff: It's been said time and time again, but there's no better student section in the country, and there's no better fan base in college football. The impact the White Out crowd had on the players in this game was clearly visible, particularly as the fourth quarter wound down. It's a massive asset every team across the country longs for and one that should not be taken for granted.
10. Sign Here: A regular discussion among fans for several seasons has been when would PSU get a "signature win." Now it's debatable to say "Penn State is back" given the depth and injury issues the team is coping with, but it certainly is hard not to see that this team is on the return.
11. The coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for the victory in how it prepared the players and put them in a position to win. A lot of things went wrong at times, particularly in the passing game. However, the coaches took some calculated risks and also kept the spirits of the players up and helped them to dig in and grab a massive win.
Sure, there were lows in this game, but they're irrelevant now. The key is Penn State dug deep, played hard, never quit, overcame some massive deficits in terms of depth and talent in areas to better the No. 2 team in the land.