Penn State Post-Game Thoughts
1. With the 38-25 win, Ohio State now leads the series versus Penn State, 22-14 (.611 winning percentage), including 20-8 (.714 winning percentage) in Big Ten play. Ohio State has outscored Penn State 834 to 678 (23.2 to 18.8 on a per game basis). In Big Ten games, Ohio State has outscored Penn State 773 to 531 (27.6 to 19.0 on a per game basis).
2. A 13-point win against a pre-season top-10 team seems pretty impressive, but the game wasn't really that close. Ohio State settled for three FG attempts inside the 5-yard line, and missed two of them (one with an injured Blake Haubeil; one with his backup, walk-on Dominic DiMaccio). Penn State was clearly gifted a FG of their own when the clock malfunctioned (or something) at the end of the first half, and a second FG after a phantom roughing the passer call allowed them to convert a 3rd-and-12. If Ohio State makes their two short FG, and the refs don't gift Penn State six points, then your final score is 44-19. If Ohio State converts TDs in those goal-to-go situations, then the final score is 56-19. You get the idea.
3. Justin Fields had another Heisman-caliber performance. He was 28/34 (.824) for 318 yards, 4 TDs, and no interceptions.
4. If I have one quibble about Fields - or perhaps it is really a quibble about the Ohio State offense in general - it is this: The Buckeyes have a difficult time converting touchdowns inside the 5-yard line. Over the past four games with Fields at QB (Wisconsin and Clemson last season; Nebraska and Penn State this season), Ohio State has been at or inside the 5-yard line eleven times, with the following results: 4 TDs; 4 FGs; 2 missed FGs; and 1 fumble. Four touchdowns in eleven tries inside the 5-yard line is quite simply awful. Granted, Wisconsin, Clemson, and Penn State have solid defenses, and perhaps one or two of those FG attempts were dictated by the game situation, but the Buckeyes clearly have some major difficulties in scoring when the playing field gets compressed.
5. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are the best receiving duo in the country, and quite possibly in Buckeye history. For the second straight game, both receivers eclipsed the 100-yard mark, which has never happened before at Ohio State. Olave had 7 receptions for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns (26 yards; 49 yards), while Wilson had 11 receptions for 111 yards (no TDs) and added another 62 yards on a rush.
6. Jeremy Ruckert had a big game, at least by the standards of Buckeye tight ends, with 4 receptions for 25 yard and a pair of touchdowns. Luke Farrell (1 reception, 16 yards) and Jake Hausmann (1 reception, 13 yards) also made it onto the stat sheet. A big tight end can be a real asset in goal-to-go situations (see above), and Ruckert (or Farrell or Hausmann) could be the X-factor that finally allows Ohio State to become more efficient inside the 5-yard line.
7. The Buckeyes' tailback tandem of Master Teague (23 carries, 110 yards, 4.8 average, TD) and Trey Sermon (13 carries, 56 yards, 4.3 average) were somewhat better this week, but it's becoming apparent that Ohio State will not be able to win a close game against a top opponent by relying on its running game. It's Justin Fields or bust in 2020.
8. Q: How often does a defensive tackle lead the team in tackles? A: Basically never, but Tommy Togiai accomplished that rare feat last night. Togiai had seven tackles (4 solo, 3 assists) and added 3 sacks for 13 yards lost. Javonte Jean-Baptiste had a solo sack, and Zach Harrison (4 tackles, TFL) and Jonathon Cooper (5 tackles) combined for a fifth sack. After a rough game against Nebraska in week one, Cooper had a much better and more physical game against Penn State.
9. Marcus Hooker looked like his big brother on a 31-yard interception return that he almost took to the house. Hooker's near pick-six late in the 4th quarter pretty much clinched the game for Ohio State, although the Buckeyes certainly made things interesting by: (1) not scoring a touchdown inside the 5-yard line, and (2) subsequently missing the chip shot field goal. Hooker also added 6 tackles (5 solo, 1 assist) for the contest.
10. The Buckeye front seven were stout all night long, with 5 sacks, 2 additional TFLs, and surrendering just 44 yards rushing on 27 attempts (1.6 average, no TDs). After being torched recently by running quarterbacks (Trevor Lawrence, Adrian Martinez, Luke McCaffery), the defense did an especially nice job on Penn State QB Sean Clifford. Subtracting out the five sacks for minus 23 yards, Clifford had 13 rushes for just 28 yards (2.15 average) and a long run of 11 yards.
11. Where Clifford hurt the Buckeyes was in the passing game. Although Clifford's stats weren't great - 18 for 30 (.600) for 281 yards, 3 TDs, INT, 5 sacks - he made several big plays, including eight completions of 16+ yards. Clifford's biggest plays of the night were a 37-yard completion to Jahan Dotson to convert a 3rd-and-17, and a 21-yard TD to Dotson on the very next play to cut Ohio State's lead to 31-19. Those two plays kept the game fairly close and the final score almost respectable.
12. Turn back the clock to September 28, 2013. #4 Ohio State versus #23 Wisconsin. The Buckeyes win the game, 31-24, but Badger quarterback Joel Stave connects with wide receiver Jared Abbrederis 10 times for 207 yards and a touchdown, including receptions of 23, 33, 36, and 64 yards. Who was guarding the otherwise forgettable Abbrederis that evening? None other than Buckeye All American cornerback (and future first round draft pick) Bradley Roby. I've never seen a Buckeye corner get torched quite so badly as Roby that night, but Shaun Wade certainly entered the discussion with his "coverage" on Penn State's Jahan Dotson, who had 8 receptions for 144 yards and 3 touchdowns (14, 20, 21 yards). Sure, Dotson made some nice individual plays, but there were times when Wade simply looked overmatched and/or disinterested. Bradley Roby was able to rebound from his awful night back in 2013, so maybe Shaun Wade can do the same thing in 2020. If Wade can't be a lockdown corner going forward, then the Buckeye defense will have a difficult (if not impossible) time stopping the high-powered offenses that they hope to meet in the playoffs.
13. Remember how I said that the game wasn't really as close as the final score? Ohio State outgained Penn State 526 total yards to 325 total yards, and won the time of possession battle 37:01 to 22:59. In addition, Ohio State was 12 for 21 (.571) converting 3rd and 4th downs, while Penn State was just 3 for 10 (.300). Ohio State basically dominated the game everywhere but on the scoreboard.
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