Columbus, Ohio- Big Ten football is known for hard-hitting, physical games with very little offense, maybe not as little as, say, Iowa, but defenses rule the roost during the heart of conference play. Saturday’s game at the Shoe saw two of the best defenses in the country square up in a top-ten showdown.
Penn State came into Columbus looking to take the next step towards being an elite football program in the Big Ten. For them and head coach James Franklin, this would be the final necessary step, one last speed hump to overcome. They would look to rely on their stout defense while the offense would eat up the clock and score at will over an underwhelming defense.
Instead, the Buckeyes dominated the Nittany Lions through four quarters of play. The severely underrated defense showed up and held Penn State to six points throughout most of the game. The Buckeyes themselves couldn’t score in bunches, but key plays from receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. made all the difference needed to snag the win.
The narrative will have turned from Penn State looking to beat Ohio State and proving they’re an elite football team to, “Well, the Nits were just posers.” Defense wins championships, and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has a playoff-caliber group. The front seven imposed their will on a tough Penn State offensive line, taking advantage of an inexperienced quarterback and forcing poor decisions. The defensive backfield, which, for some reason, was highly criticized this week, came out and stopped every deep threat. The Buckeyes’ offense was without running back TreVeyon Henderson, while receiver Emeka Egbuka was “limited,” and by that, I mean nonexistent. The offense struggled without the extra horsepower in the backfield, but quarterback Kyle McCord found his number one receiver, Marvin Harrison Jr., all game long, racking up 11 receptions for 162 yards and one touchdown on Saturday. This game marks the third consecutive time this season that MHJ has gotten over 100 receiving yards, and minus the subpar performance (two receptions on six targets), it’s hard not to fathom how he isn’t at the top of everyone’s Heisman watch or draft board.
Sophomore quarterback Drew Allar, who had been asked to manage the clock and offense thus far, was forced to throw the ball over 40 times, many of which were errant passes out of his comfort zone. He would complete just over 40% of his throws for under 200 yards, all while under immense pressure from the likes of JT Tuimoloau and other Rushmen. However, the blame shouldn’t be placed solely on Allar’s shoulders. A multitude of issues arose as James Franklin’s staff used interesting tactics that seemed to scream a lack of confidence in the offense. More likely, it was supreme confidence in his strong defense. In addition to those calls, the Nittany Lions’ receivers vanished into a scarlet sea, while the running game was stifled on all except two or three large-chunk plays. Their defense held tough many times, and forced the Buckeyes into difficult red zone decisions. The Nits should be proud of keeping this Buckeye offense to 20 points, even if the offense struggled mightily. James Franklin will need to head back to the drawing board as his offense only converted on one third down; getting into the red zone for the first time with less than a minute on the clock doesn’t help anyone’s confidence on offense.
(3) Ohio State, 7-0 (4-0), heads to Madison for a primetime showdown with the Wisconsin Badgers, 5-2 (3-1) on Saturday 10/28 at 7 PM, Eastern.
(10) Penn State 6-1 (3-1) will head back to Beaver Stadium to welcome Indiana 2-5 (0-4) on Saturday 10/28 at Noon, Eastern.
(Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images)