Mistakes cost Penn State in loss to Ohio State
UNIVERSITY PARK — Turning to an old but familiar formula worked for roughly two quarters for Penn State.
But after controlling its much-anticipated Big Ten matchup Saturday at frenetic Beaver Stadium, Penn State collapsed under the weight of Ohio State's running game and the Buckeyes' dominance of both lines of scrimmage.
Quarterback Braxton Miller overcame a sluggish start to run for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and No. 9 Ohio State delivered a reality check to Penn State in a 35-23 win in front of a sellout crowd of 107,818.
Miller scored on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs, including one of the highlight-reel variety, as Ohio State opened a 28-10 lead in the third quarter. The sophomore finished with almost 300 yards of total offense.
The Buckeyes improved to 9-0 and 5-0 in the Big Ten. Penn State dropped to 5-3, 3-1; it will try to rebound next Saturday at Purdue.
Penn State did not score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes made the Nittany Lions one-dimensional and forced quarterback Matt McGloin to beat them.
The fifth-year senior showed a resilience that has marked his career, throwing for a career-high 327 yards and two touchdowns. But he couldn't bring the Nittany Lions back after throwing an interception early in the third quarter that Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier returned 17 yards for a touchdown.
Ohio State confused Penn State's offensive line with an array of blitzes, stunts and twists, and that accounted for the Buckeyes outrushing the Nittany Lions, 234-36.
“I didn't do a very good job as the head coach,” Penn State's Bill O'Brien said. “I could have adjusted better. I could have had a better game plan.”
The game turned in the third quarter with the Nittany Lions trailing, 14-10, after an interception by cornerback Adrian Amos gave the Nittany Lions the ball at Ohio State's 44-yard line. But Penn State's offense went backward, and it didn't convert a fake punt.
Miller took advantage of the favorable field position, driving the Buckeyes 57 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. Miller capped the drive with a spectacular 1-yard run, evading several defenders in the backfield and then diving into the end zone.
“He's a great athlete, and he made plays all day,” said Penn State outside linebacker Gerald Hodges, who had a game-high 14 tackles. “They didn't wear us down, but they were executing on their no-huddle offense, and we weren't.”
Penalties and missed opportunities prevented Penn State from taking control in the first half. McGloin undershot Allen Robinson on Penn State's third play; the sophomore might have scored had McGloin led him.
Penn State could have had an easier touchdown a little later in the quarter when safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong had a bead on a Miller pass and a clear path to the end zone. But Obeng-Agyapong dropped the throw, and the game settled into a defensive struggle.
Special teams produced the first points of the night when Mike Hull's second career blocked punt was recovered in the end zone by Mike Yancich. The WPIAL connection — Yancich went to Trinity, and Hull is a Canon-McMillan graduate — gave Penn State a 7-0 lead, and the Nittany Lions forced a punt after James Terry sacked Miller.
But in a mistake-filled first half for Penn State, the biggest came on the punt, when the Nittany Lions had momentum and the white-clad crowd behind them. Penn State was flagged for holding, and its fifth penalty of the half gave Ohio State a first down.
Miller made the most of the mulligan: His 33-yard run set up a Carlos Hyde 1-yard touchdown carry and made it 7-7 at halftime, Penn State never recovered as Ohio State dominated the second half.
“We did some uncharacteristic things,” O'Brien said. “It starts with me. I have to do a much better job for this football team.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.