By: C.J. Doon
With Penn State and Ohio State destined for an early off-season as a result of NCAA sanctions, the two teams met under the lights in Happy Valley on Saturday night in a clash of two of the Big Ten’s best. It was the 28th meeting between the two schools, but this time the narrative was a bit different.
It wasn’t for a spot in the Top 25, or the chance to play in a BCS bowl game. It wasn’t even for a place in the Big Ten Championship Game.
It was the “Ineligibowl”, and it was for nothing but bragging rights.
Ohio State defeated Penn State 35-23 in front of 107,818 fans at Beaver Stadium to remain a perfect 9-0 on the season. Buckeyes’ quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller proved to be too much to handle for the Lions’ defense, scampering for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and throwing for 143 yards and another score.
The upset-minded Nittany Lions looked poised to topple the mighty Buckeyes early, blocking a punt with 7:25 left to play in the second quarter to draw first blood. Junior linebacker Mike Hull raced through the Buckeyes’ punt team and got two hands on the football just as punter Ben Buchanan lined up to kick the ball away, sending the ball flying into the endzone, where it was recovered by senior linebacker Michael Yancich for a touchdown.
“It was a truly tremendous feeling,” Yancich said. “Words can’t describe what was going through my mind and my body as I was getting up.”
With the Whiteout crowd buzzing, the Lions’ defense forced a quick three-an-out on Ohio State’s next possession, after Miller was sacked by James Terry on 3rd and 5. The Buckeyes punted the ball away, and Penn State set up shop looking to increase their lead before halftime.
Or so they thought.
A questionable holding penalty was called during the punt, and the Buckeyes were given a fresh set of downs at their own 37-yard line with less than 6 minutes to go in the first half. Having been given new life, Braxton Miller marched Ohio State down the field to the Nittany Lion’s 1-yard line, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by junior running back Carlos Hyde to tie the score at 7-7.
“Once again, you are talking about huge shifts of momentum and field position,” head coach Urban Meyer said, referring to the penalty. “You better take care of the football and you better tough it out.”
The Lions tried to answer at the start of the second half, but got off to an inauspicious start when sophomore tailback Bill Belton muffed the opening kickoff and nearly gave the ball away. After Matt McGloin was sacked on second down, the Lions faced 3rd and 13 from their own 8-yard line. Instead of opting to run the ball and punt on fourth down, McGloin dropped back to pass and threw over the middle, right into the arms of Ohio State’s linebacker Ryan Shazier. The sophomore ran untouched into the endzone for a quick pick-six, and all of the sudden Ohio State was on top 14-7.
“The guy made a great play and Matt will learn from that mistake,” O’Brien said, referring to the interception. “Matt is going to come back and really try to work hard and improve no question about it.”
After a Sam Ficken field goal, the Buckeyes reeled off 14 unanswered points on two 1-yard touchdown runs by Braxton Miller to take a 28-10 lead. Penn State pulled within two possessions after Matt McGloin’s 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matt Lehman early in the fourth quarter, but Miller quickly silenced the crowd with a 72-yard touchdown strike to senior receiver Jake Stoneburner that pushed the score to 35-16.
Matt McGloin found tight end Kyle Carter over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 2:21 left to play to make the final score 35-23. Carter finished with a team-high 6 catches for 77 yards, while McGloin threw for a career-high 327 yards passing and two touchdowns. Zach Zwinak was the Lions’ leading rusher with 42 yards on 12 carries.
“I just think that Ohio State beat us today,” O’Brien said after the game. “I didn’t do a very good job tonight as the head football coach. I need to do a much better job for this football team. It starts with me and I’m going to go dive into that tape tomorrow and figure out things that I can do better to help this team to do better.”
After winning five straight games, the Nittany Lions suffered their first loss in over a month, and now sit at 5-3 heading into Saturday’s contest against Purdue. The game will be played at Ross Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, In., and kickoff is set for 3:30 ET on ESPNU.