Like two heavyweight boxers, Ohio State and Penn State stood in the middle of Beaver Stadium trading jabs and waiting for an opening to deliver the knockout punch.
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Penn State scored that first body blow, blocking an ill-conceived OSU rugby punt for a touchdown in the second quarter. But the Buckeyes weathered that punch and countered with a pick-six interception touchdown by linebacker Ryan Shazier. Add in an amazing second-chance leap for a touchdown by quarterback Braxton Miller and his 72-yard touchdown later on to Jake Stoneburner, and that was all the Buckeyes would need.
No. 9 Ohio State moved to 9-0 on the season and took command of the Big Ten Leaders Division with a 35-23 win over Penn State before 107,818 Saturday night at Beaver Stadium.
“I think we are definitely one of the top teams in the country,” Stoneburner said. “We just keep on winning. There is something about this team. We have a very good chemistry. We’re going to try and win every single game.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer referred to the White-Out environment at Beaver Stadium as a “big league atmosphere.” He was even more impressed with the way his team responded after a couple of subpar performances the last two weeks in wins over Indiana and Purdue.
“When you go on the road, you find out a lot about your team because it’s a gladiator type mentality,” Meyer said. “It’s us against the world and our guys seem to thrive on that. It was against a very talented group. We are very pleased with the team win.”
As always, the OSU win had Miller’s fingerprints all over it. He struggled early throwing the ball, before ending up 7 of 19 passing for 143 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also had 134 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
That yardage total allowed him to become the first OSU quarterback to go over 1,000 yards rushing for the season. He now has 1,093 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. He had been knocked out of last week’s game against Purdue with a sore neck after a rough tackle.
“I was so excited,” Miller admitted. “I missed a lot of throws early. I was excited to come back from the injury. I didn’t plant my feet and I was rushing it. But we came back in the second half. I slowed down and we got things going.”
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Tailback Carlos Hyde added 55 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown for the Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0). Jake Stoneburner had two catches for 86 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown.
The OSU defense was also huge. The Buckeyes held PSU (5-3, 3-1) to 36 yards rushing on 28 attempts. OSU sacked Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin four times.
“I know we pressured more and played more man coverage than any game all year,” Meyer said. “And that was against the number one passing team in the Big Ten.”
With the running game non-existent, McGloin ended up 27 of 45 passing for a career-high 327 yards with two touchdowns and that critical interception.
"Offensively, we could have done some better things," said Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. "I could have adjusted better. I could have had a better game plan."
As It Happened
The first quarter-and-a-half of this game was a punt fest. OSU’s first five possessions ended with punts, while Penn State’s first four ended with punts. On their fifth possession, the Nittany Lions drove down to the OSU 20. But a false start penalty moved PSU back 5 yards and McGloin’s fourth-down pass came up short of the first-down marker.
The Buckeyes could not get a first down and had to punt. Ben Buchanan shuffled to his right to try a directional rugby punt, but PSU’s Mike Hull basically blocked the punt off his leg into the end zone, where teammate Michael Yancich recovered it for the touchdown and a 7-0 Penn State lead with 6:15 left in the first half.
Carlos Hyde scores at Penn State
Ohio State answered with a 12-play, 75-yard scoring march. The Buckeyes got a huge break when PSU’s Brad Bars was called for holding on an OSU punt, giving the Buckeyes a first down. Rod Smith had a 12-yard run for a first down. Miller, bottled up most of the half, finally broke loose for a 33-yard gain down to the PSU 6. Three plays later, Hyde took it over right tackle and powered in for the 1-yard touchdown that tied it at 7-7 with 34 seconds left in the first half.
Disaster struck for Penn State early in the third quarter. PSU’s returner fumbled the opening kickoff, leaving the Lions back on their own 11. OSU’s Shazier broke free for a sack on McGloin back at the 8. On third-and-13 there, McGloin tried to fit it in for Alex Kenney over the middle. But Shazier followed the quarterback’s eyes and made the easy interception. He returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to put OSU up 14-7 with 13:41 left in the third quarter.
“On the sack, their offense ran it just like we had practiced it,” Shazier said. “It opened up and I got the sack. Then, on the interception, we ran the coverage and I didn’t have any receivers on my side so I worked back to the middle. He threw it to the curl and I took it to the house.
“It felt amazing. It almost felt like a dream. I’ve dropped so many picks this year. It was a great momentum change.”
Meyer added, “Any time you get a sack like that and follow it with an interception for a touchdown, that’s huge.”
Penn State rallied with a 42-yard pass from McGloin to Brandon Mosely-Felder. But a holding penalty pushed PSU back and the Lions had to settle for Sam Ficken’s 27-yard field goal. That cut the OSU lead to 14-10 with 9:50 left in the third quarter.
Miller was then intercepted by PSU’s Stephen Obeng-Agyapong at the OSU 44. But the defense rose to the occasion again. Defensive end Nathan Williams scored with a sack of McGloin. Facing fourth-and-9 at the 43, Penn State tried a fake punt. But OSU’s Adam Griffin broke up punter Alex Butterworth’s pass and the Buckeyes took possession.
“That was nice,” Meyer said. “We saw it at the last second. (Assistant) Zach Smith has done a nice job with that group. They block punts and they return punts. We had a block on. They showed it at the last second and little Griff made a great play there.
“I think that was the turning point of the game. Our field position had not been good, but we gave the ball there to our offense at the 40-yard line.”
The Buckeyes moved 57 yards in 10 plays to their third touchdown. Miller found Evan Spencer for a pair of 13-yard gains. The second one converted a third down and gave OSU a first down at the 9.
The touchdown was something out of the spectacular. OSU had third-and-goal at the 1. PSU’s Sean Stanley shot the gap and tackled Hyde, although Miller had retained possession. He sidestepped PSU’s Gerald Hodges and then leaped over PSU’s Malcolm Willis for the 1-yard touchdown that put the Buckeyes up 21-10 with 3:30 left in the third quarter.
“The guy came in and tried to tackle Carlos and I pulled it,” Miller said. “I don’t who was around me after that. My instincts just took over. I was just trying to get the touchdown.”
Stoneburner added, “That was crazy. I’ve never seen a quarterback be able to do something like that, let alone most athletes. The sideline was just in awe.”
After a PSU punt, OSU went 85 yards in eight plays for another score. The drive was aided by a 15-yard face mask penalty on the Lions. Miller kept it for an 11-yard gain and Smith dazzled by bouncing off tacklers for a 28-yard gain down to the PSU 25. Smith then had a 5-yard run, followed by a nifty 14-yard scamper by Miller down to the 6. Hyde plowed ahead for 5 yards, setting the stage for Miller’s 1-yard touchdown run that made it 28-10 with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.
Penn State drove 80 yards in a methodical 18-play drive to cut the lead to 28-16 early in the fourth quarter. The drive was aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Shazier. Facing fourth-and-8 at the OSU 19, McGloin dropped and threw under pressure to tight end Kyle Carter for a 15-yard gain down to the 4. Then, on third-and-goal at the 2, he dropped again and had all day. Just as Williams was closing in, McGloin found Matt Lehman for the touchdown with 9:49 left in the game.
Down 28-16, PSU coach Bill O’Brien opted to go for a two-point conversion. Bill Belton took a handoff going left, but defensive end John Simon stood him up and Michael Bennett stopped him for no gain.
On OSU’s ensuing possession, OSU was backed up to its own 8 after penalty on the kickoff. Miller had a pair of 7-yard gains for a first down. On third-and-4 at the PSU 28, Miller dropped to throw. He threw down the middle to Jake Stoneburner, who had gotten behind PSU safety Jacob Fagnano. He hauled it in at the 50 and kept trucking all the way for the 72-yard touchdown to make it 35-16 with 6:11 left in the game.
“It was a simple slant, but they were in a no-deep coverage with no high safety,” Stoneburner said. “Once I beat my guy, I had to get vertical. I got vertical and Braxton threw a beautiful ball right over him. I was able to outrun the defense after that.”
Stoneburner peered over his shoulder as a pair of PSU defenders were closing in, but he beat them to the goal line for the backbreaking touchdown.
“I was thinking, ‘Don’t get caught,’ ” Stoneburner said. “I just wanted to score. I took an angle to the end zone. Some people said I looked fast and some people said I was going to get caught. I’m just happy I was able to make that play and seal the game.”
Penn State mounted a 12-play, 83-yard scoring march, capped by McGloin’s 20-yard touchdown toss to Carter. That cut the gap to 35-23 with 1:41 left in the game.
OSU’s Bradley Roby recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Buckeyes got out of Happy Valley with a hard fought win.
* Amazingly, Shazier’s pick-six touchdown was OSU’s eighth in its last 11 games against Penn State.
Shazier traded his typical uniform No. 10 for uniform No. 48 to honor his childhood friend Gary Curtis, who died recently after a battle with muscular dystrophy.
Shazier honored his friend in a big way with seven tackles, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. He and converted fullback Zach Boren, starting at linebacker, led the team with seven sacks.
“I was thinking about him the whole game,” Shazier said. “I knew I had his number on. It was like he was playing through me. He had my back.”
* OSU is 33 of 37 this season on scoring chances in the red zone. That includes 30 touchdowns and three field goals.
* Miller became the first OSU quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a single-season. He joins Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Indiana’s Antwann Randle-El is the only ones to ever do it in the Big Ten.
This is the 27th time in school history an OSU player has rushed for 1,000 yards in a single season. He is the 20th different Buckeye to do it and the first since Beanie Wells in 2008. With 1,093 yards, Miller stands 24th on OSU’s single-season rushing list.
Miller has nine career 100-yard rushing games, including eight this year.
* The Buckeyes have had 27 70-yard drives this season – 18 more than the nine they had all last season. In this game, the Buckeyes had touchdown drives of 75, 85 and 92 yards.
* Simon’s first-quarter sack of McGloin broke a string of eight quarters for OSU without a sack, dating to the Oct. 6 home win over Nebraska. OSU had no sacks in wins over Indiana and Purdue the last two weeks.
“You always want to get a sack early,” Simon said. “It might screw up their thinking a little bit. Michael Bennett got some pressure inside and pushed McGloin toward me. It was a total team effort today.”
* Ohio State now leads the all-time series with Penn State 15-13. That includes a 13-7 edge in Big Ten games played since Penn State joined the conference in 1993. OSU now leads the series 6-5 in games at University Park, Pa.
OSU has won five of the last seven meetings overall with home losses to Penn State in 2008 and 2011 in that stretch. The Buckeyes have also won four of their last five trips to PSU.
* Ohio State is the nation’s only 9-0 team. Starting the weekend, OSU was one of 11 remaining unbeaten teams.
“It’s good to be 9-0,” Meyer said. “Maybe you guys can help me with how many teams are now 9-0. We’re going to work on some things … We’ve got to get better.”
* The Buckeyes have reached 9-0 to start a season for the 12th time in school history and third time in seven years, dating to 2006. Previous 9-0 starts: 1954 (started 9-0), 1968 (started 9-0), 1970 (started 9-0), 1973 (started 9-0), 1975 (started 11-0), 1979 (started 11-0), 1995 (started 11-0), 1996 (started 10-0), 2002 (finished 14-0), 2006 (started 12-0) and 2007 (started 10-0).
This is the third team Meyer has led to a 9-0 start in his 11th year as a head coach. Only two first-year OSU coaches have started 9-0. Carroll Widdoes was 9-0 in 1944 and eventually won his first 12 games before a loss. Earle Bruce posted an 11-0 record to open the 1979 before a Rose Bowl loss to USC.
* Meyer’s teams are 70-14 when ranked.
* Meyer coached against Penn State once previously and it came in his final game as the Florida coach at the 2011 Outback Bowl. Florida won the game 37-24.
* Ohio State returns home to host Illinois next Saturday. The game time and TV assignment for that game should be announced on Sunday. The Illini fell to 2-6 overall and 0-4 in Big Ten play with Saturday’s home loss to Indiana (31-17).
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