Penn State unable to handle Ohio State's defensive line
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With his team trailing by five points late in the fourth quarter, Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard tore into the Penn State backfield and tackled quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley at the same time in one big group hug.
The dazzling play for a 7-yard loss was symbolic of how the Buckeyes' defensive front had its way most of Saturday night in a raucous 39-38 Ohio State victory and dominated in the fourth quarter when it needed stops the most.
Hubbard thundered in nearly untouched from the left end just as McSorley was tucking the ball into Barkley's gut on a run-pass option play. Hubbard wrapped up both, with some finishing help from defensive end Jalyn Holmes.
“We needed a big play to get our offense back on the field, so I just went for it and took them both out,” said Hubbard, one of a dozen Ohio State defenders who recorded a tackle-for-loss.
Later in the fourth quarter, after the Buckeyes had taken the lead, the D-line took over again, sacking McSorley and pressuring him into three errant passes to seal the improbable win.
“Their defensive line, as the game wore on, we had a hard time with those guys,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.
The win moved Ohio State (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) from No. 6 to No. 3 in the AP Top 25, and dropped Penn State (7-1, 4-1) from No. 2 to No. 7. The first College Football Playoff rankings are to be released Tuesday.
The standout performance by Ohio State's defense was overshadowed by quarterback J.T. Barrett's heroic effort. The fifth-year senior threw for three fourth-quarter touchdowns in leading the Buckeyes to their biggest win of the season. He finished with 328 yards and four TDs.
But Ohio State's defense held Barkley — who entered the game as the Heisman Trophy front-runner — to just 44 rushing yards on 21 carries, 36 of the yards on a touchdown run in the second quarter. Nine of his 21 carries resulted in lost yards.
“They were blitzing, bringing more hats (to stop) the run game,” Barkley said. “Their D-line made plays. It's a talented group.”
McSorley was sacked twice and chased all night by defensive end Nick Bosa, who was credited with eight quarterback pressures. The Nittany Lions' offensive line had trouble keeping Bosa and his buddies at bay, especially after starting tackle Ryan Bates exited the game with an ankle injury in the third quarter.
“My gosh, they were all over the place,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said.
The Buckeyes made plenty of their own mistakes, though. They were hampered by penalties — 10 of them for 79 yards. Special teams problems that have plagued Ohio State lately surfaced again when Barkley was allowed to rumble 97 yards for a touchdown on the game's opening kickoff.
Down by 18 points two different times during the game, Ohio State took the lead for the first time with 1 minute, 29 seconds left.
That's when the Buckeyes' defensive line put on the emphatic finishing touches.
“We even said that if the offense is playing that good, we can't let us be the ones that let them down,” Hubbard said. “We've been waiting for a while for them to play like that in big games. And they finally clicked. We did our part, too. We had to.”