10 Things we learned

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Last updated: 10/28/2012 12:53 PM

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Football
10 Things We Learned Another Win in Nittanyville
By Brandon Castel

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It was supposed to be Bill O’Brien’s last big stand.

Penn State had won five in a row coming into the game Saturday and the Nittany Lions were looking to stave off their execution with a program-building win over the Buckeyes in State College.

O’Brien filled Beaver Stadium with all kinds of prospects, but in the end, Ohio State came away victorious in a game that was tied at the half. Here’s a look at the 10 Things We Learned from another big win for OSU in Nittanyville.

1. Delusion is a hell of a drug. It’s amazing what kind of potion can be created when delusion is mixed with blind loyalty. We got a whiff of that toxin on Saturday in Happy Valley, where apparently the memory of one man is still more important than the lives of countless others. From the moment we arrived on Penn State’s campus, we saw fans impersonating Joe Paterno and others who were dressed up to look like the Paterno statue which was removed from outside the stadium.

Some fans wore ‘I Heart JoePA’ shirts outside the stadium, and inside, where Paterno let Jerry Sandusky cart around his Second Mile kids like a predator with its prey on the open plains, there were countless signs supporting the late Penn State coach. One said ‘408 Forever,’ while another said “Thank You JoePA.” One sign even lauded the idea Penn State was a better place because of Paterno, which seems to blissfully ignore all the irreparable damage that was done by his inaction.

2. Braxton Miller is one of the most exciting players you’ll ever see. Miller is one of those rare players where you actually hold your breath waiting for something magical to happen. Even when things aren’t going his way, you always feel like he’s just one big play away from bursting open the flood gates. That was certainly the case Saturday against Penn State. Just when it looks like the Nittany Lions might have him figured out – the same way they figured out Troy Smith in 2005 or Terrelle Pryor in 2008 – Miller broke loose for 33 yards. That was all the spark he needed, and it seems like every week now he does something we swear we will never see again, like his electrifying 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Enjoy it, folks, because you may not see another one like him.

3. He still has a long way to go as a passer. As good as Miller is with his legs right now, and he’s as good as there is in college football, Ohio State’s sophomore QB still has a long ways to go with his arm. All the God-given tools are there, but Miller has yet to put it all together as a passer. He missed on a couple of big ones Saturday and almost made two costly decisions that could have put the Buckeyes in a 14-0 hole early. His passing numbers were bolstered by the 72-yard pass to Jake Stoneburner – which was a perfect throw by Braxton – but he also left a bunch of yards on the field with misfires. Eventually, I think he will get that corrected, but it probably won’t be until his junior season.

4. Urban Meyer already one step ahead of the Big Ten. Who’s going to be the first to beat Urban Meyer? So far, Mark Dantonio, Bo Pelini, Kevin Wilson, Danny Hope and Bill O’Brien have all tried and failed. Next week it’s Tim Beckman and then Bret Bielema and Brady Hoke will each get a shot at Meyer and the Buckeyes in November. This is not going to be Urban’s best team at Ohio State. Probably far from it. If these guys can’t get to him now, in his first season at OSU, they could be in for a rude awakening over the next 5-7 years.

5. Jake Stoneburner has big boy wheels. Who knew Stoneburner could motor like that? I guess it depends who you ask. To some, it looked like Stoneburner was moving in slow motion as he raced down the field for his 72-yard touchdown catch Saturday. To others, however, it looked like Stoneburner was moving at a pretty good pace for a guy used to be a tight end. Either way, he outran the defense and made it into the end zone, which is all that really matters.

6. Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde could be a dangerous 1-2 punch. If only Smith could prove he can hold on to the football. He didn’t have a fumble against Penn State Saturday, but he was really close to a bad one. The Buckeyes were down 7-0 on the blocked punt when the ball came loose from Smith’s grasp. He was ruled down before the fumble, but it still had to make Meyer and Tom Herman second-guess Smith’s reliability. He rewarded their faith with a key 28-yard run later in the game, but it was Hyde who ground out the tough yards against the Nittany Lions.

7. Luke Fickell and the staff put together the right gameplan. Give some credit to Fickell and his staff for putting together an aggressive gameplan this week. Part of that was the fact it’s a lot easier to be aggressive when you can make a team one-dimensional like Ohio State did Saturday. The Buckeyes allowed just 34 yards on the ground, which put the game squarely on the shoulders of senior quarterback Matta McGloin. With the pressure bearing down on him – both John Simon and Nathan Williams had tremendous days – McGloin made the costliest error of the game on his pass to the flat that was intercepted for a touchdown by OSU LB Ryan Shazier.

8. Shazier has a bright, bright future. It’s easy to criticize the flaws in Shazier’s game – mainly that he doesn’t always play with great leverage and tends to overrun plays on the perimeter – but it’s important to remember this kid is only 19 years old. He’s already the best linebacker this team has, easily, and while that might not say much, his play the last two weeks certainly has. The guy flies around like a missile out there, and when he remembers to break down and chop his feet, maintaining leverage on the outside, Shazier is a tackling machine. He always seems to be around the football and manages to come up with big plays when the defense needs them, and he’s just getting started. Look out, Big Ten.

9. Michael Bennett is starting to look like himself. Speaking of someone getting started, Bennett finally looked like the guy we all remember from the end of his freshman season a year ago. After playing a little bit here and there the last few games, Bennett was inserted into the starting lineup at defensive tackle Saturday against Penn State, and he played what had to be the best game of his OSU career. The decision to move Bennett inside allowed him to be incredibly active and it really helped to create opportunities for Simon, Williams and Noah Spence on the outside. Bennett is a guy who can really make plays when he’s healthy, which it looks like he is finally getting there after battling through the groin injury for so long.

10. Punt team has major issues. Meyer said the punt team was exposed a little bit in this game, and he’s beyond 100 percent correct. Something just isn’t right. It doesn’t matter what Meyer tries, something always seems to go wrong. It looked like Zach Boren made another mistake in punt protection this week, as he took the outside guy and allowed Mike Hull to come right up the middle unblocked. It also looked like Ben Buchanan took an extra step at the end, but it’s really tough to blame this one on the punter. Something is wrong with the blocking scheme right now and Meyer has got to get it figured out before it finally costs them a game.

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