Ohio State hosted Penn State in what appeared to be a much less interesting game than originally thought after the Nittany Lions lost to Iowa and Illinois, and had an apparently wounded quarterback in Sean Clifford. But Clifford was feeling much better this week, and played like it, and the visitors raised the level of their game to give the Buckeyes a hard time for 60 minutes. It wasn’t what I expected, and it made for a nervy night before Ohio State eventually won it, 33-24.
Here are the things that made me salty when I specifically asked for no salt.
It’s great when players give 100% effort on every play. It’s not so great when that effort leads to turnovers. Jeremy Ruckert fought for, and got, a first down on the first OSU drive, but once he reached the line to make, he was held up by multiple defenders. Still fighting for every inch, Ruckert had the ball ripped out of his hands for an early turnover. His defense bailed him out on the next play by forcing a Penn State fumble, but that’s not the play you want out of a potential first-round pick at tight end. Otherwise, however, he had a strong game.
Not Very Sportsmanlike
TreVeyon Henderson was thrown for a loss on Ohio State’s second possession and a good stop in the backfield put the Buckeyes in a tough position behind the chains. However, the Buckeyes should have had a first down due to a throat slash gesture by Penn State linebacker Curtis Jacobs. Those types of calls are supposed to be automatic. Ohio State had to punt two plays later instead of having a first down via penalty. Penn State drove down the field and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive, so it was a big no-call.
O-line? More Like Woe-Line
Ohio State’s offensive line had a game to forget. When the five up front weren’t false starting, they were flat out getting beat. You can only credit Penn State’s scheme and execution so much. Blocks were missed, assignments were blown, and there was a lack of physicality from a group that is supposed to be among the nation’s best. They did open a couple of decent running lanes in the second half but they were too few and far between, and the penalties were contagious.
There’s nobody in the future
So baby let me hand you my love
Oh, there’s no step for you to dance to
So slip your hand inside of my glove
Hold me, hold me, hold me
Hold me, hold me, hold me
– “Hold Me” by Fleetwood Mac
James Franklin’s Nittany Lions must be huge fans of the Mirage album, because boy did they take that chorus to heart. There were egregious no-calls all over the field, so the game officials also must have been feeling the Big Mac Attack vibe. Holding was Penn State’s best friend. It’s said you could call holding on every play, but in this game it was a matter of should. If not for that, the Nitts wouldn’t have scored in the first half. There were back-to-back uncalled infractions on the two plays prior to Penn State’s first-quarter touchdown, another (on defense this time) that prevented a potential big play to Chris Olave, and so many obvious ones on the last drive of the first half that broadcasters Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit were pointing them out. Cody Simon may have had a sack that could have prevented the field goal on the final play of the second quarter if he hadn’t been held. Officiating generally is inept to the point that it evens out, and television broadcast teams don’t normally talk about them even if they’re kind of obvious, but the Ohio Stadium visitors were comfortable enough to do whatever they wanted with their hands on Saturday night.
All I need to say here is, “the Steele Chambers” play. You know why I was aggravated, and you probably were too. I wonder if Chambers is an important player, though. [/thinking face emoji]
We’ll never know if TreVeyon Henderson would have scored a rushing touchdown (or indeed what the play would have been) on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line in the third quarter. The freshman leaned too far forward, anticipating the snap too soon, and committed yet another preventable OSU pre-snap penalty — there were seven in the game — on a night filled with them from the OSU offense. Instead, Noah Ruggles kicked a short, sad field goal.
The M is for Manball
Ohio State stubbornly kept banging its head against the wall in the red zone. Penn State had numbers in the box and the Buckeyes ran the ball anyway. Often, Ryan Day invited Penn State to pack the box with his formation. When Ohio State spread the field with three receivers, Henderson scored a rushing touchdown. Otherwise, it was just a lot of nonsense. Day inexplicably called a Jim Harbaugh type of game, figuring if his team just kept smashing forward, the results would change. They did not.
Those were the things that will have me calling the dentist on Monday to fix the nubs of what used to be my teeth. There were a lot of good moments, too, such as Jerron Cage’s big man touchdown, a long run by Henderson, and a key late-game catch and run by Ruckert.
Up next is a trip to Lincoln to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Those Nebraska fans are annoyingly nice and I can’t abide it.