College football: Lightning strikes for Ohio State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It was 8 minutes, 51 seconds Ohio State will remember for a long time and Penn State will have a hard time forgetting.

The No. 2 Buckeyes (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) were behind most of the time from late in the first half until the game changed completely in the final 8:51 of 44-31 win over the No. 13 Nittany Lions (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) on Saturday.

Penn State led 14-13 at halftime. OSU regained the lead 16-14 at the end of the third quarter on a 40-yard field goal by Noah Ruggles. Penn State got the lead back at 21-16 with 9 ½ minutes to play and Ohio State wasn’t looking particularly sharp on offense or defense.

All the big hopes and dreams for the season looked like they might be in jeopardy.

But then came the fireworks when Ohio State took the lead at 23-21 on a 41-yard touchdown run by TreVeyon Henderson with 8:51 to play.

Two plays into Penn State’s next drive J.T. Tuimoloau forced a fumble and on the next play C.J. Stroud connected with tight end Cade Stover on a 24-yard touchdown pass for a 30-21 lead. After Penn State cut the lead to 30-24, Henderson scored again on a 7-yard run for a 37-24 lead.

On Penn State’s first play after that score, Tuimoloau intercepted a pass and took it back 14 yards for a touchdown and all of a sudden it was 44-24.

“You can say it was crazy but we expected that game to be that way here. The game we played here in 2018 and in 2017 back at our place came down to the fourth quarter,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.

“There are a lot of things in the first half we wish we could have done better, no question. It doesn’t come easy but I’m very proud of the way the team played, especially in the fourth quarter. C.J. Stroud was unbelievable the way he played in the fourth quarter. J.T. (Tuimoloau) was off the charts. But it was everybody.

“We wore them down. It was tremendous. “That locker room was on fire afterwards,” he said. “I thought we finally got into a rhythm, we hit a couple of shots on the outside where the protection was clean. We struggled on third downs early and we struggled on first downs. At the end of the day when you look at games like these you have to look at the whole body of work.”

Much like their game against Iowa a week ago, the Buckeyes had more than a few mis-steps and missed opportunities in the early going.

On the way to his 41-yard touchdown run, Henderson had been stopped for no gain or a loss five times. And two of Stroud’s early completions to Emeka Egbuka also went for no gain.

But Penn State evened that out by being on the wrong end of four turnovers – three interceptions and a lost fumble.

“The game starts and ends for us with turnovers. You can’t give a team like that a short field that often and be successful,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.

Even with its fourth-quarter flurry, OSU was outgained 482 yards to 452 yards in total offense.

Stroud was 26 of 33 for 354 yards and one touchdown. Marvin Harrison Jr. grabbed 10 passes for 185 yards and Egbuka had 6 catches for 53 yards, including a 42-yard play in the final quarter.

The game started off with OSU taking a 10-0 lead on a field goal and a 4-yard touchdown run by Miyan Willliams, set up by the first of Tuimoloau’s two interceptions, in the first quarter. But Penn State answered with touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to go up 14-10 and led 14-13 at halftime.

Tommy Eichenberg led OSU’s defense with 15 tackles. Steele Chambers had nine tackles and Lathan Ransom had seven tackles. Zach Harrison had an interception, giving the Buckeyes three interceptions on the day by defensive ends.

“It feels good just to get a W. Penn State is always a tough team to play, it’s a tough place to play. It was rocking a few times in that stadium,” Harrison said.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.