COLUMBUS, Ohio– Penn State (5-3, 2-3) came into its Big 10 battle with the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1, 5-0) knowing that they had to rely on their top-tier defense, and hope to take advantage of Buckeye mistakes to knock off the No. 5 team in the nation.
At times, bits and pieces of upset ingredients were put into the pot, but at the end of the game, the Nittany Lions did not have enough to outcook the Buckeyes who went on to win 33-24.
The game started with a gift being handed to Penn State when Jeremy Ruckert was stripped by Ji’Ayir Brown, who recovered his own fumble. Taking advantage there would have been huge, but the very next play resulted in a Noah Cain fumble and the Buckeyes dodging a bullet.
The Penn State defense held strong through most of the first half, though, and the front consistently got home to create havoc for C.J. Stroud. Penn State was able to string together an impressive drive that featured a key third and long conversion by KeAndre Lambert-Smith. Sean Clifford followed that up with a strike to Parker Washington for 32 yards, and Clifford capped it off by hitting Brenton Strange from five yards out to go up 7-0.
Again, Penn State had pieces of the upset in play and even forced three punts inside their own territory in the first half. However, the offense only had that one drive to hang on, and the Nittany Lions could not slow down the bevy of Buckeyes pass catchers.
After being 0-5 targeting Chris Olave, Stroud drilled Olave for a 38-yard strike that gave the Buckeyes a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. Penn State had a chance to recover but Clifford was drilled on the ensuing drive by Tyreke Smith. Clifford lost the ball, and Jerron Cage scooped and scored for 57 yards and a touchdown that extended the lead to 17-7.
Penn State was able to string together a drive before halftime to get three on the board and make the game 17-10. Still, that field goal amplified how devastating the fumble for a score was.
The Nittany Lions got the ball at the half and had their most productive drive of the game. Clifford spread the ball around to Doston, Washington, and Lambert-Smith before Dotson took the snap himself and score from five yards out to tie the game at 17.
Ohio State was not going to leave the game tied for long, and a 58-yard catch and run by Jaxon Smith-Nijgba set up a field goal that made the score 20-17 halfway through the third quarter.
Penn State hung around, but down 20-17, it felt like they needed a long drive to stay in the game. Instead a three and out and a punt gave the Buckeyes a real chance to put their stamp on the game. Ohio State did what they were expected to do when an underdog gives them too many chances. They took advantage. A 68-yard rush from TreVeyon Henderson set up his own score from one-yard out and he gave the Buckeyes a 27-17 lead.
Penn State was down but was not going to die that easily. Sean Clifford strung together a strong drive in which he completed five passes to three different receivers, and Keyvone Lee eventually punched in a score from one yard out to cut the lead to 27-24.
Penn State had another chance to make something happen when Ohio State failed to convert a fourth-down and three from the PSU 13. Clifford got the ball down by three and threw an interception that was returned into field goal range.
Still, the defense, which had been more up and down in the second half held strong once again and Ohio State was only able to extend the lead to 30-24. The door was once again open for Penn State to make something happen, and they once again failed to move the football. It was a three-and-out this time that killed any momentum PSU had to take control of the game.
Penn State had OSU lose a fumble, turn the ball over on downs, and get held to three after a backbreaking pick to keep the score within six, but all three situations immediately resulted in offensive implosions.
There were only so many chances the Nittany Lions had before the game wore out on them. Ohio State was able to rely on Henderson their workhorse back to grind out a few minutes and get the team in field goal range. The Nittany Lions held Ohio State to 3, but with the lead extended to nine, and just 2:41 to go, PSU was now in a position where they needed two scores, and an onside kick in between.
Penn State drove down the field but a missed field goal all but wrapped things up. The team stayed close throughout but ultimately has to think that they let Ohio State get away with one.
The Nittany Lions will look to stop their three-game losing streak as they head to Maryland next week.