COLUMBUS — Ohio State is headed for the Big Ten Championship Game for the third time in three years as the No. 2 Buckeyes (11-0, 8-0) defeated No. 8 Penn State (9-2, 6-2) in a 28-17 relative nail-biter for OSU. The win clinched the Big Ten East over Penn State.
This game also featured the return of junior All-American Chase Young from his two-game suspension and it did not disappoint. Young finished the game with a career-high nine tackles, also notching 3.0 sacks, 4.0 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles. Young now has 16.5 sacks on the year, which is an OSU single-season record.
The Ohio State offense was led by junior running back JK Dobbins, who rushed for 157 yards on 36 carries, scoring twice. Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields picked up 96 yards on the ground in 18 rushes, but lost 28 of those yards in a trio of sacks, giving him 68 yards rushing on the day. He also completed 16-of-22 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
The Buckeyes had issues holding onto the ball on the day, as Fields lost two of his three fumbles and Dobbins lost his lone fumble. Penn State only scored 10 points off of those turnovers, though there was a 7-point swing on one of Fields’ fumbles as he lost the ball prior to crossing the goal line for what was thought to be a touchdown and then overturned via instant replay.
Penn State opened the game with a decent drive, but then chose to punt facing a fourth-and-4 from Ohio State’s 42-yard line. The punt pinned the Buckeyes at their own 9-yard line, but they would only stay pinned for as long as FOX’s commercial break.
With OSU’s first play from scrimmage, Dobbins went 22 yards over the left side to get the Buckeyes out of trouble. Faced with a third-and-5, Fields’ number was called and he picked up an easy 14 yards on the run.
Facing a third-and-12, the Buckeyes went with a quarterback draw and Fields found 17 yards in the Penn State defense, putting the ball at the PSU 33-yard line. Five Dobbins carries later and the Buckeyes were punching it in from the 4-yard line to take a 7-0 lead.
Penn State went three-and-out on their next drive, fueled by a Chase Young and Baron Browning combo sack that gave Young a piece of the Ohio State single-season sack record at 14.
The Buckeyes began the next drive at Penn State’s 45-yard line and drove right down the field. Fields kept the ball on a 4-yard run into the end zone, but fumbled just prior to the goal line. The ball was recovered by Penn State in the end zone, giving them the ball at the 20-yard line.
Penn State’s next possession was again hamstrung by James Franklin’s conservative bent. Faced with a fourth-and-7 from the Ohio State 36-yard line, Penn State again chose to punt rather than try to win the game.
Midway through the second quarter, the Buckeyees struck again. This time the offense went 48 yards, buoyed by a 22-yard run by Fields, and capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Dobbins to make it 14-0.
Ohio State opened the third quarter with another score, as Fields found KJ Hill on a corner route in the end zone for the touchdown, making it 21-0.
Things then appeared to go from bad to worse for Penn State, as starting quarterback Sean Clifford was knocked out of the game, forcing redshirt freshman Will Levis into action. Levis, the better runner of the two quarterbacks, was then used in conjunction with running back Journey Brown to give the Nittany Lions a two-man game that began to make some headway.
In fact, five plays after Levis took over, Brown ended up breaking some tackles and took it into the end zone from 18 yards out to make it 21-7.
Dobbins fumbled on Ohio State’s very next play, which was recovered by Penn State at the Ohio State 12-yard line. Two plays later, Levis bowled in over the left guard from 1-yard out to make it 21-14 midway through the third quarter.
Three plays into Ohio State’s next possession, Fields was hit by defensive back Lamont Wade, forcing a fumble that was reviewed by instant replay and held up when the play stood as called.
The fumble gave Penn State the ball at the OSU 35-yard line, but the Buckeyes held the Nittany Lions to a field goal thanks to a TFL from Baron Browning and a shared sack between Young and Jashon Cornell.
After pinning Penn State deep, the Nittany Lions were forced to punt, which gave Ohio State great field position at the PSU 44-yard line. This scoring drive took just five plays and ended when Fields found Chris Olave in the corner of the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown to give the Buckeyes a 28-17 lead.
From that point on, the Buckeyes really turned on the defense. Linebacker Justin Hilliard came away with an interception on Penn State’s next possession.
The next time the Nittany Lions had the ball the drive was ended when Shaun Wade knocked down a fourth-down pass that was intended for KJ Hamler. Hamler is the same receiver who went 93 yards against Wade in last year’s Buckeye win.
Young and Browning then had sacks on Penn State’s final possession as well. Browning finished with 7 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Up next for Ohio State is Michigan at 12:00 pm on FOX next Saturday afternoon. In two weeks, they will be in Indianapolis to play either Wisconsin or Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship Game.