Ohio State shows resolve after watching Nittany Lions rally back
COLUMBUS — Indianapolis … beware!
Buckeye Nation is on its way.
Ohio State took another step toward the College Football Playoff Saturday afternoon when it shook off an ugly third quarter to subdue Penn State, which certainly didn’t fold its tents when it had every chance to after falling behind 21-0.
The 28-17 victory against the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions clinches the Big Ten East for the third consecutive season for the Buckeyes, earning them a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 7.
Though the title game against a Western Division opponent yet to be determined is assured, don’t think for a minute that Ohio State is about to rest on its accolades.
The celebration around Columbus, and especially the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, is tempered because it’s officially Michigan week.
There was a stretch in the third quarter when it looked like Ohio State’s focus had shifted to next week’s trip to Ann Arbor a bit prematurely.
While the Nittany Lions certainly made the Buckeyes earn the victory and actually had many of the 104,355 onlookers experiencing probably their first true anxious moments of the entire season, many of the Buckeyes’ issues were self-inflicted wounds.
It’s certainly not cliche when you hear football coaches talk about the need to win the turnover battle. Ohio State cost itself a touchdown with a first-quarter fumble and then coughed it up on consecutive third-quarter possessions that resulted in 10 PSU points.
For probably the first time since Wisconsin scored after a turnover in the special teams game, a month ago, the Buckeyes found themselves needing to answer.
It did so impressively. Chase Young, who was unleashed after sitting consecutive games due to an NCAA eligibility issue, recorded a sack that eventually led to a punt.
Working on a short field, Justin Fields threw his second touchdown of the second half when he found Chris Olave, who made a brilliant catch for a 28-yard touchdown.
There was a faction of people who wondered how Ohio State would respond if and when it was faced with its first adversity of the season.
It’s tough to argue that it didn’t answer the bell.
Let’s be honest. Momentum was lying clearly with the Nittany Lions, but the defense and then the offense — with their backs to the wall — made plays when they needed to.
That’s the sign of a championship team.
It’s easy to win lopsided games, but as Day and many players talked about all week it’s how you play when talent is equated that separates the contenders and pretenders.
The Buckeyes are more than a contender. They’re the favorites to win their third consecutive Big Ten Championship and make a run toward their second College Football Playoff championship, too.
∫ Penn State came into the game with the nation’s top rushing defense, allowing a little more than 75 yards a game. The Buckeyes eclipsed that mark on their first drive of the game when they marched 91 yards in 12 plays, all of those yards came via the rush.
Despite a fumble in the third quarter, junior running back J.K. Dobbins continued to show that he’s clearly one of the premier backs in the country. He finished with 157 yards on 36 carries and scored twice.
All told, the Buckeyes finished with 229 yards.
∫ YOUNG’S AFOREMENTIONED return was impressive. He affected the game early and often and it led to Penn State using multiple double — and sometimes — triple teams on him. He finished with three sacks and eight tackles. He set an OSU single-season record during the game.
∫ IF the first true nervous moment occurred during the third quarter when PSU scored 17 consecutive points, the second and even bigger moment came in the latter portion of the fourth when Fields was sacked and appeared to be rolled up on, causing him to lie on the turf for several mionutes