Game 8 Recap: Ohio State 44 – Penn State 31
For the second time this season, Ohio State went on the road, and this one being the most difficult in a loud environment against top 15 opponent Penn State. Every year, this game can be circled as a must win match-up for both teams for the Big Ten East race, and this year was no different. For the 5th time this season, Jaxon Smith-Njigba did not play, and it was up to the new crop of wide-receivers to once again hold the torch for the best receiver unit in the country.
Ohio State started with the ball, and were held to a field goal by Penn State to take an early 3-0 lead. On Penn State’s first possession, Sean Clifford throws his first interception of the game, a tipped pass from J.T. Tuimoloau (spoiler, his name will come up a lot in this post) which Zach Harrison did his own tip drill to reel in the ball, and gave Ohio State possession at the Penn State 39 yards line. The stout Penn State defense forced a 3 and out, and on the field goal attempt, Noah Ruggles missed the 53 yard attempt.
On Penn State’s next possession. Sean Clifford was picked off a second time, this time by J.T. Tuimoloau, who dove in front of the receiver to make the catch himself, give the Buckeyes the ball at the Penn State 41 yard line. This one found success as CJ Stroud connected with Marvin Harrison for 37 yards in 2 passes, and then Miyan Williams rolled into the endzone to give Ohio State a 10-0 lead, which held for the final in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Penn State rallied, and scored their first touchdown from a 58 yard touchdown pass from Sean Clifford to Parker Washington in large part do to evading some takcles against the Ohio State defensive backs in open field. On their next drive, Clifford drove the field with his arm once more and connected with KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 23 yard touchdown and gave the Nittany Lions their first lead of the game. The Buckeyes could only manage to score 1 field goal, and were stopped in the redzone for the first time this season to end the half, and Penn State led 14-13 going into halftime.
Penn State started with the ball and was able to drive down the field, but failed on a 4th down conversion attempt at the Ohio State 19 yard line. They exchanged punts, and then Ohio State retook the lead with a field goal, making it 16-14. Penn State got the ball back, and made the most of a 13 play drive, one where they were aided by Ohio State penalties which included a roughing the passer, and even 2 missed field goals, but Kaytron Allen drove into the endzone on a 1 yard touchdown run, and gave Penn State a 21-16 lead with 9 minutes to go into the game.
This is where Ohio State needed to make a statement, and did they ever. They drove down the field in 3 plays, and TreVeyon Henderson dashed for a 41 yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes the lead 23-21.J.T. Tuimoloau came up big, and sacked Sean Clifford which forced a fumble that JTT was able to recover himself. Cj Stroud connected with Cade Stover, and the Buckeyes led 30-21, all in a span of under a minute in game time.
Penn State drove down and settled for a field goal, cutting into the lead 30-24. The Buckeyes still had momentum, and drove down the field in 7 plays, which was capped off by a 2nd TreVeyon Henderson run for 7 yards. J.T. Tuimoloau then picked off Clifford for a second time and scored the final Buckeye touchdown and made it a 44-24 game. Penn State responded with a last drive touchdown which didnt affect the outcome other than those who bet the spread, and the Buckeyes won 44-31.
CJ Stroud finished the game with 354 yards passing and 1 touchdown. He completed 79% of his passes, and actually made a few plays with his feet rushing for 5 yards.
TreVeyon Henderson led the Buckeyes in rushing with 78 yards on 16 carries and 2 touchdowns. Miyan Williams was the second leading rusher, but only was able to get 2 carries for 9 yards and touchdown before getting injured in the second quarter on a apparent hand injury.
Marvin Harrison Jr had his best game statistically. He had 10 catches for 185 yards. Cade Stover was second on the team with 6 catches for 78 yard and a touchdown. Emeka Egbuka was 3rd with 6 catches as well, and 53 yards. Julian Fleming, the Pennsylvania native, finished the game with 2 catches for 27 yards.
In true Ohio State vs Penn State fashion the last 7 seasons, this game was a 4th quarter game. Credit to Penn State for challenging the Buckeye offense, and for the most part of the game making them 1 dimensional, but the key to this game was that the Buckeye defense forced 4 turnovers to their 0 in the game. No greater turnover happened at a more critical time than when after Ohio State scored on a 3 play, 75 yard drive that took all of 35 seconds of game time, J.T. Tuimoloau sacked Sean Clifford which caused a fumble, and JTT recovered it on the Penn State 24 yard line. One play later, CJ Stroud connects with Cade Stover, and the Buckeyes take the lead 30-21 with 8 minutes remaining, but all the momentum on the Buckeye side. Credit to the Penn State fans for making it loud all game, but the Buckeyes flexed their talent, and when pushed into a corner, they made the plays they needed to to win this game.
Star of the Game
J.T. Tuimoloau. It was easily one of the best defensive player performances, and the fact he was a defensive lineman makes it even more impressive. The 2021 number 1 recruit had been held in check most of this season, pun intended for the uncalled holding penalties against him, but this was as much of a breakout game as there ever was for a player. He finished the game with 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a tipped pass that led to an interception, and he had 2 interceptions of his own, 1 of which he returned for a touchdowns to help extend the lead to 20 points.
For the second straight week, Ohio State struggled with its run game, which more could have be a product of the play calling against a 8man box than it was issues blocking, but when the Buckeyes has their back against the wall with 9 minutes to go in the game, they score 14 points in 34 seconds of game time to retake the lead and held on to it. Tennessee took care of Kentucky in dominating fashion and Georgia held on to beat Florida after jumping out to a 28-3 lead. The first playoff ranking come out on Tuesday, and it is likely those three teams will be ranked in the top 3 in any order. All have a case to be the #1 team, but that will also settle itself after this weekend because Tennessee will travel to Georgia in what could be the most important SEC game this season. Ohio State and Michigan have all but cleared their toughest hurdles, and look to be on a collision course to be undefeated heading into The Game on November 26th.
Ohio State (8-0) will travel to Northwestern (1-7) at 12pm on ABC.
Penn State (6-2) travels to Indiana (3-5) at 3:30pm on ABC.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Barry Reeger