For the better part of three quarters, Penn State Football had Ohio State on the ropes, until miscues, mistakes, and turnovers undid any chance the Nittany Lions had to upset the Buckeyes and notch a signature win.
Penn State Football Sean Clifford’s mistakes, including four turnovers, proved costly as Ohio State pulled away late, knocking off the Lions 44-31 on Saturday afternoon.
Here’s a look at 5 key takeaways from Ohio State’s win over Penn State Football:
Another 4th Quarter Collapse
Another year, the same result.
That was the mood for Penn State Football fans as they filed out of Beaver Stadium toward the parking lots. The Nittany Lions once again found themselves leading another top-5 Ohio State team in the 4th quarter, only to watch yet another meltdown.
At this point, it has become a yearly tradition that Penn State Football finds itself in a competitive game with the Buckeyes only to get outplayed in the final moments.
What was shocking about this particular game was just how quickly the wheels fell off.
Penn State Football took a 21-16 lead with 9:26 to go in the 4th quarter. But, by 8:17 of the 4th it was 30-21 Ohio State and the game felt over.
Part of the Lions’ collapse was a 3 play 75-yard drive that was capped off by a 41-yard TD run by TreVeyon Henderson. A strip sack by J.T. Tuimoloau led to a 24-yard TD by Cade Stover and just like that the game felt over. Penn State Football responded with a 44-yard Pinegar FG to cut it to 6 but a beautifully thrown ball by CJ Stroud down the sideline to Emeka Egbuka essentially iced the game.
The pick-6 by Sean Clifford was just an additional dagger straight into the chest of the Nittany Lions.
While the preseason expectations were to go 9-3 or 10-2, getting this close feels like just more of the same.
Key turnovers swung the game
This game was the epitome of the Sean Clifford experience.
It started with a ball thrown straight into J.T. Tuimoloau’s direction that was tipped up in the air and set up Ohio State with great field position. The Penn State Football defense held strong and forced a missed field goal.
The second drive of the game resulted in another interception, on an intended comeback route by Kaytron Allen. This time Tuimoloau finished off the INT and the Buckeyes responded with a 3-play 41-yard TD drive to go up 10-0.
Penn State Football battled back into the game and Clifford had some good throws in the middle quarters giving hope to many fans. However, like we have come to learn, the good always goes sour in these games and a strip sack down 2 in the 4th quarter by Tuimoloau led to an OSU touchdown the very next play. The former 5-star recruit haunted Clifford once again later in the quarter, getting a pick 6 that put the Buckeyes up three scores.
You would think that after the star defender forced 3 turnovers already you would stop going in his direction, but I guess not.
This should be the end of the Sean Clifford era, and Drew Allar should start the rest of the season with the conference championship and playoff now fully out of reach.
Time will tell whether that happens, but Allar has enough talent to go 4-0 down the stretch against Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers and Michigan State.
Lack of Depth showed
The starters for both Penn State Football and Ohio State are relatively comparable with the slight edge to the Buckeyes.
The reason why Ohio State has dominated Penn State and the Big Ten is because of their depth.
The Buckeyes can rotate multiple 4- and 5-star players in at almost every position. The WRs are well known for being one of the best rooms in the country but being able to rotate defensive units and not have the talent level be that much of a fall off is one of the reasons why Ohio State can put teams like Penn State away late.
While there were multiple factors in the 4th quarter collapse, it seemed the lack of blue-chip depth was a contributing factor.
James Franklin has had 2 Top 10 classes in his 9 cycles as Penn State head coach, and that simply isn’t enough to compete with the likes of Ohio State who has a Top 5 class every season.
Nothing will change in this matchup until the Nittany Lions can string together at least 3 Top 10 classes in a row.
The special teams unit continues to be a roller coaster this season.
While in previous weeks Barney Amor was praised for his ability to down punts inside the 10-yard line. The issue that many fans have noticed the past 2 weeks including against Ohio State is that he doesn’t have the leg strength of a Jordan Stout or Blake Gilikin that can flip the field.
In the second half Ohio State punter had a 53-yard boot pinning the Nittany Lions at their own 14. After a short 17-yard drive Amor only returned a 36 yard punt that gave the Buckeyes a shorter field that led to a 40 yard field goal. While the sample size was only 3 punts for this game it is something to look at moving forward. Pinegar also continues to have a roller coaster of a season. On a 4th down early in the 4th the Nittany Lions lined up to kick a FG to take the lead and Pinegar missed back to back kicks from about 35 yards that were both negated because of penalties. Penn State ended up going for it on 4th and 1 and scoring a touchdown.
The senior got another chance down 30-21 and knocked through a 44-yard field goal. This up and down by the Nittany Lion kicking has been an inconsistency that simply can’t happen in big games. These last few weeks are proving more and more just how valuable Jordan Stout was last season.
Atmosphere was lacking
This was the first time that Big Noon Kickoff made its way to Happy valley and it had an impact on the game.
The pregame show was alright setting up outside of the Bryce Jordan Center with Beaver Stadium as the backdrop. Although it is important to note that they had less of a crowd than when College Gameday sets up on Old Main lawn.
The stadium seemed to fill up earlier than most noon kickoffs, but the crowd was a little bit more dull than a traditional Ohio State game.
It is clear that more of an older crowd made its way to this game, and it showed with a lack of people standing during crucial third down plays and the stadium just not as loud as it was in previous weeks.
Many fans were mentioning how the Minnesota game the week before was significantly louder including the peak 3rd down defensive plays. The crowd never seemed to reach full throat like a night game.
That isn’t to say the environment didn’t cause some issues, after all the Buckeyes did have 3 delay games, it just isn’t the noise that we have come to expect for a big-time matchup. It will be interesting going forward how many Big Noon and CBS at 3:30 games Penn State will play in with the new tv deal.
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