A grade card on Ohio State’s 28-17 win over Penn State, a game where the Buckeyes proved they can handle adversity but probably shouldn’t have had to do that.
After Minnesota and Indiana both torched Penn State for more than 300 yards passing, the conventional wisdom was that was the best way to attack the Nittany Lions’ defense. But Ohio State did just the opposite when it drove 91 yards for a touchdown on its first possession of the game and all 91 yards came on rushing plays. OSU continued to run successfully throughout the game against a defense that was ranked No. 4 nationally against the run. J.K. Dobbins gained 157 yards on 36 carries. Justin Fields had a career-high 21 carries and made some big third-down and fourth-down conversions by running the ball. Ohio State had 417 total yards with 229 of those coming on rushing plays.
The big negative was that three Ohio State turnovers played a huge role in making this a close game. Fields fumbled as he was diving into the end zone when he could have put the Buckeyes up 14-0 late in the first quarter. It was called a touchdown on the field but overturned by a replay. Dobbins had a fumble which led to Penn State’s second touchdown and Fields had another fumble, which led to a field goal by Penn State.
But the offense did respond with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Fields to Olave to make it 28-17 after Penn State had scored 17 unanswered points.
One of Penn State’s touchdowns came after it recovered Dobbins’ fumble at OSU’s 12-yard line and its field goal came after it recovered Fields’ second fumble at the Buckeyes’ 36-yard line, so those can’t be entirely pinned on the defense.
The defense held Penn State to 128 yards passing and Penn State’s leading rusher, Journey Brown, had only 64 yards. But maybe the best thing the defense did was neutralize K.J. Hamler, one of the best big play threats in the Big Ten. With Shaun Wade defending him most of the day, Hamler caught just three passes for 45 yards. He also was not a factor as a kick returner, with a 26-yard kickoff return to the Ohio State 40-yard line being his best effort of the day.
Chase Young had three sacks after missing the last two games, which gave him 16.5 for the season, a new Ohio State record. Justin Hilliard’s fourth-quarter interception helped Ohio State keep the momentum after going up 28-17.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Kick coverage was good and Garrett Wilson was back on the field as a punt returner after his fumble set up a Rutgers touchdown last week. Drue Chrisman punted three times and Blake Haubeil did not attempt a field goal.
It could have been better, but an 11-point win over the No. 8 ranked team is still a pretty good day.