BY PAUL ASPAN
PENN ST. INSIDER
Momentum and 110,134 screaming fans were squarely behind the Penn State defense as Ohio State’s offense came back on the field with 4:59 left to play in the first quarter. The Lion offense had just responded to an early Buckeye field goal with a 9-play 78-yard touchdown drive to put the home team on top 7-3. Anthony Morelli and company had picked up where they left off against Indiana and looked equally effective on the ground and in the air. Seven points weren’t going to be enough to win, but it should have been enough to keep Penn State in a game billed as a defensive showdown. However, the Nittany Lions’ momentum lasted about as long as the post-touchdown pushups. Six plays and a little more than three minutes later, Ohio State went back ahead 10-7 with a touchdown of its own, and this time…it didn’t look back.
After its first drive, the Nittany Lion offense was unspectacular. However, it was the nation’s seventh-best defense that failed to show up against the top-ranked Buckeyes. Penn State’s defense stopped Ohio State only twice in the first half: once on an interception that the offense failed to convert into points, and once thanks to the clock which read 00:00 indicating halftime. The result was a 17-7 halftime deficit that the Lions could not recover from. The Penn State offense stalled out, but it didn’t put the defense in the tough position of defending a short field. All of Ohio State’s touchdown drives started at or inside its own 20. Morelli did throw an interception returned for a touchdown with ten minutes left in the game, but by that point, the game was out of reach.
The Buckeye offense was equal parts pass (253 yards) and run (200 yards) -- equal part big plays and methodical drives. Ohio State’s first touchdown was due largely in part to a 60-yard pass from quarterback Todd Boeckman to Ray Small. Its ensuing touchdown drives were 15 and 13 plays respectively. The Buckeyes weren’t forced to punt all game and converted 12-of-16 third downs. The 37-17 defeat was Penn State’s worst home loss in six years and it dropped the Lions from both the Top 25 and the BCS standings.
At 6-3 Penn State can still finish at a respectable 9-3 if they win out against Purdue, Temple, and Michigan State. However, for that to happen, the defense will have to regroup after allowing 68 points in the last two games.