Two heavyweight fighters felt their opponents up Saturday in a punt-filled first quarter, and the lessons learned were all too clear to the audience: Penn State and Ohio State are remarkably similar ball clubs.
Both teams leaned heavily on their stingy defenses — when was the last time you saw Ohio State kneeling in the locker room with three timeouts — and worked through inherent growing pains with a young, inexperienced quarterback. However, PSU quarterback Drew Allar found no rest in his unproven receiving corps, and Ohio State gunner Kyle McCord drove away from the Nittany Lions in a Maserati.
Marvin Harrison Jr. cemented his first-round draft pick candidacy on Saturday, hauling in 11 receptions for 162 yards to cap Ohio State’s 20-12 victory Saturday.
During OSU’s opening drive, McCord stared down one of the best defenses in college football early Saturday, shredding the Blue-White secondary and completing all five of his opening passes. A dump down to Chip Traynum extended 19 yards into the red zone, but with the goal line choking its neck, Penn State’s defense finally began to match its pedigree. McCord would immediately commit three consecutive incompletions, stopping the Buckeye drive and forcing a field goal.
Both defenses continued to perform at an elite level, forcing nine first-half punts, and linebacker Curtis Jacobs punched the ball away from a scrambling Kyle McCord in what appeared to be a momentum-changing blow in front of Penn State. A 56-yard fumble recovery touchdown in the second quarter.
A jubilant Jacobs jumps in celebration, however, as the Penn State secondary is whistled for a defensive tackle, giving Ohio State new life and new downs. McCord took full advantage, riffling Harrison Jr. at the four-yard line before handing the ball off to Mian Williams.
Penn State sandwiched Williams’ score with a pair of field goals to take Ohio State’s lead to 10-6 into the locker room.
That same stingy defense consumed the entire third quarter, seven combined possessions with five punts, one turnover and a fumble. But as Ohio State began to stretch its lead to four points in the fourth quarter, McCord turned to ol’ reliables Harrison Jr. and Kate Stover — who combined for 81 percent of OSU’s receiving yardage Saturday — for a pair of 30-yard grabs. The Buckeyes should be pushed into the opposing zone.
Ohio State knocked off a crucial field goal from 40 yards out, and a fourth-down stop in front of midfield set up a short field for the Buckeye defense, which Harrison Jr. eventually clinched with a 13-yard TD score. Penn State managed a consolation touchdown in the final minute, but the Buckeyes received an on-side kick and improved to 7-0 on the season.