Ohio State Survives Scare Against Penn State

Ohio State hosted Penn State the night before Halloween, and even though the game looked like a trick, it ended up being a treat.

The Buckeyes remained undefeated in conference play after the 33-24 defeat over the Nittany Lions. Ohio State’s playoff hopes have nearly recovered by this point, now a day away from the first College Football Playoff rankings of the year. Penn State, on the other hand, has now suffered three straight losses, and their hopes for anything beyond a decent bowl game are dead at this point.

The game got off to a spooky start for Ohio State fans, as Penn State forced a punt and then scored the game’s first touchdown. The Buckeyes didn’t score a touchdown until late in the second quarter, but when they did, they took hold of a lead that they wouldn’t surrender.

Penn State kept Ohio State from scoring from the red-zone, so the Buckeyes needed some explosive plays. They got them from Chris Olave, who had a 38-yard reception for a touchdown, Jerron Cage’s 57-yard fumble return for a touchdown, and TreVeyon Henderson on a 68-yard run.

The explosive plays were enough to keep Penn State at arm’s length, and Ohio State’s defense stopped the Nittany Lions from scoring in the fourth quarter. A missed field goal from Penn State sealed the nine-point win for Ohio State.

Ohio State Survives Scare Against Penn State

Penn State’s Third Downs

Coming into this game, Penn State only converted 33 percent of their third downs, which was 114th in the country.

Whatever their issues were, they seemed to have them solved. Penn State faced 18 third downs and converted 11 of them. The Nittany Lions converted third downs of anywhere from one yard to go up to nine yards to go.

Obviously, converting more third downs means extending drives. Every time Penn State converted three third downs in possession, they got a touchdown out of it.

For a team that wanted to make a statement with their defense, they sure had trouble stopping a team that has been struggling to score in recent games.

Ohio State’s Sloppy Offense

Early in the game, Ohio State’s offensive line looked sloppy. The Buckeyes had four pre-snap penalties in the first half, one of which caused the Buckeyes to kick a field goal instead of going for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Henderson got off to a slow start, and part of the blame for that goes to the offensive line. There was some miscommunication that allowed Penn State defenders to get through unblocked.

Ohio State came into this game with the top scoring offense in the country, and Penn State held them to their lowest point total since Week 2. C.J. Stroud said postgame that the offense kept shooting themselves in the foot, which was certainly the case.

The errors lessened in the second half, which helped open up the scoring a little bit.

However, Ohio State got completely shut down in the red zone. The Buckeyes had six red-zone possessions, scored one touchdown, kicked four field goals, and turned the ball over on downs once. Ohio State never could figure out Penn State’s red zone defense, even after the offense came back to life.

Henderson’s Slow Start

Henderson has been an electric player this season who averaged 8.8 yards per carry going into this game.

In his first 14 carries against Penn State, he only had 20 yards in the box score. But he finally got loose on a 68-yard run down the sideline. Two plays later, he ran it in for his first touchdown.

Henderson finished the game with well over 100 yards. This was his third 100-yard game this year and his second-most productive game after his 277 yards day against Tulsa.

The final line for Henderson was 28 carries for 152 yards.  The 5.4 average per carry is incredibly low for Henderson standards, but it was good enough to get the win.

Parker Washington and Jahan Dotson for Penn State

Ohio State knew that Jahan Dotson would be a threat, and the defense paid him a lot of attention. That opened things up for Parker Washington to be the leading receiver in the first half. He finished the game with nine receptions for 108 yards.

As Washington drew more attention, Dotson became a bigger target. Dotson carried Penn State last year but had fewer yards in this years’ loss. He still posted an impressive 11 catches for 127 yards despite the slow start, but it wasn’t enough.

Sean Clifford found all of the soft spots in Ohio State’s zone defense and had 361 yards on 52 passing attempts. The Buckeyes shut down the Nittany Lions rush, so Clifford was forced to look for Dotson and Washington, especially while trailing and needing quick yards.

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