Penn State Nittany Lions: Buckeyes-Lions-102712

Loss carries big sting for Penn State

October, 27, 2012
Matthew McGloinRich Barnes/US PresswireMatt McGloin threw for 327 yards against Ohio State, but his third-quarter interception directly cost the Nittany Lions seven points.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien folded his arms after the game and furiously chewed a white piece of gum as the alma mater played.

Some players declined to remove their helmets. Center Matt Stankiewitch didn't even move his lips; backup QB Shane McGregor rested a right hand on his shoulder.

This was a statement game, the game that was supposed to show sanctions couldn't beat these Nittany Lions. That Bill O'Brien couldn't be out-prepared. That Penn State was the best team in the Big Ten.

Instead, Penn State showed it's good, not great. That those first two losses weren't just exceptions -- but were as tied to this team's identity as the five consecutive victories.

Penn State showed Saturday it belongs, right now, with the Wisconsins of the Big Ten -- not the Ohio States.

"I didn't do a very good job tonight as the head football coach," said O'Brien, whose eyes seemed to glimmer beneath the bright lights of the postgame news conference.

O'Brien often smiled before this contest and told the press he wasn't a genie, but a strong fan base still believed in O'Brien as if he were. His squad beat teams with better talent and somehow improved a patchwork offense that lost 10 starters. But Penn State's luck ran out Saturday. It turned into a pumpkin three hours before the clock struck midnight.

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The Ineligi-Bowl turned into an indelible moment for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes came into a frenzied Beaver Stadium and sliced up a red-hot Penn State team 35-23, leaving no doubt which team is the best in the Leaders Division and the entire Big Ten. Ohio State improved to 9-0 and inched one step closer to its goal of a perfect 12-0 season under first-year coach Urban Meyer.

Here's how it went down:

It was over when: Braxton Miller squeezed a third-down pass into the hands of Jake Stoneburner, who had nothing but daylight in front of him for a 72-yard touchdown catch with 6:11 remaining. That made it 35-16 and extinguished any hope of a Penn State comeback.

Game ball goes to: The Ohio State defense. Penn State's offense came into the night on a roll, but the Buckeyes applied pressure to quarterback Matt McGloin all night and didn't allow an offensive touchdown by the Nittany Lions until there was 9:49 left in the game.

Stat of the game: Ohio State had 233 rushing yards to just 32 for Penn State. Miller piled up 134 of those, along with two scores. He was able to dominate the game in the second half despite completing just 7-of-19 passes.

Second-guessing: Bill O'Brien's gambles have mostly paid off this season. But one backfired on fourth-and-nine from the Ohio State 43 in the third quarter. Penn State went for the fake punt, and Alex Butterworth's pass was broken up on a nice play by the Buckeyes' Adam Griffin (son of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin). Penn State's defense had been playing really well, and the flipping of field position helped Ohio State drive in for a touchdown to make it 21-10.

What it means: It was an odd meeting of two good teams who can't play in a bowl game, so no result was going to have any postseason implications. But both teams are eligible to win the Leaders Division title, and now Ohio State has a virtual two-game lead in that race with three games left. Hey, it's something.

More importantly, it continued the Buckeyes' impressive march through the Big Ten in Meyer's first year. If Ohio State keeps on winning, Associated Press voters are going to have an interesting time figuring out to do with this team, which hasn't lost but also hasn't beaten a team currently ranked in the Top 25.

For Penn State, the loss halted some serious momentum as the team had won five straight coming into Saturday. The Nittany Lions had hoped for a dominating performance to impress recruits, more than 100 of whom attended the game. This was as close to a bowl game as Penn State is going to play over the next few years. Still, one loss doesn't erase what this team is accomplishing this year.

Ohio St.-Penn St. pregame ponderables

October, 27, 2012
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Greetings from Beaver Stadium.

The last time I was here was during the worst and weirdest week in Penn State history, as the Jerry Sandusky scandal enveloped the community and Joe Paterno was fired last November. It's safe to say the atmosphere is a little different this time.

There has been a huge buzz on campus for this game, which arrives nearly a year to the day when Paterno coached his last game for the Nittany Lions. And rightly so, as Penn State has won five straight games and Ohio State comes in at 8-0. I attended the "Rally in the Valley" Friday night, and the students were out in force. The game is sold out, and I expect this to be a special atmosphere this evening.

We've had overcast skies all day, but the rain is holding off and temperature is near 60 degrees. You get the feeling that Penn State fans are hungry for a big-game environment after an incredibly difficult year. This is also big for recruiting, as over 100 prospects are in attendance. With the coming scholarship cuts, Bill O'Brien could use an impressive performance to tell recruits it's OK to come to State College despite the sanctions.

The matchups tonight will be fascinating. Our choices as the Big Ten offensive and defensive players of the year -- Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti -- could go head-to-head, especially if Miller takes off on the run. How much and how well will Miller run it after last week's scary-looking neck injury against Purdue? That's the question that nobody really knows yet. If Miller can't run with abandon -- and really, even if he's healthy, he might not be able to do that against Penn State's disciplined defense -- where does Ohio State get its offensive production? The passing game has been hit or miss, and Carlos Hyde's power running style might not work that well against the Lions' defensive front.

Another big question for the Buckeyes is how they will defend Penn State's offense, especially the way O'Brien uses his tight ends. That could spell major trouble for a team that has turned in some shaky play at linebacker and safety all season. Expect a lot of nickel from Luke Fickell's defense tonight, but there should still be some mismatches for the Lions to exploit, including tight end Kyle Carter. Getting pressure on Matt McGloin will be crucial for Ohio State.

I can't wait to see O'Brien and Urban Meyer match wits, and both coaches have been unafraid to gamble and go for it on fourth down. While the winning team can't go to a bowl, it can still win the Leaders Division title. This one figures to be as good and intense as any bowl game, anyway.