Penn State’s Fourth Quarter Meltdown Leads to Loss against Ohio State

Penn State had yet another fourth quarter meltdown in a loss against Ohio State. In a game that looked winnable most of the day, the Nittany Lions lost 44-31.

Heading into this matchup we broke down what to expect out of Penn State vs Ohio State. For most of the day, the Nittany Lions did just what they needed to do and it looked like they could come away with a win. However, another fourth quarter Penn State meltdown resulted in a 44-31 loss against Ohio State on Saturday. Here is how it happened.

Tale of Two Quarters to Start

Well, it didn’t start off great for the Penn State offense and starting quarterback Sean Clifford. Clifford started his first two drives with two interceptions. Giving the Ohio State Buckeyes a short field. Twice. The announcers said, “It looked like a disastrous beginning for the Nittany Lions”. And that is the truth. However, the Nittany Lion defense held strong. They only gave up one touchdown and held the Buckeyes to two field goals. Fans on Twitter and most likely inside Beaver Stadium were calling for freshman quarterback Drew Allar to replace the 6th year senior, however, Clifford did what he always does and redeemed himself.

It took three drives ending in two interceptions and a punt before the Penn State offense got into a nice rhythm. The freshmen running back duo of Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen did a nice job getting first-down yardage. And Parker Washington put on a clinic stretching out for a big gain. The Nittany Lions went 73 yards downfield to score their first points of the game. A 58-yard touchdown to Washington. This cut the Buckeye lead from 10-0 to 10-7. The Nittany Lion defense came up big again on the next drive for Ohio State. Trying to overcome the injury to Miyan Williams with TreVeyon Henderson, the Buckeyes went for negative two yards on the drive. Penn State was able to use three different receivers and tight end Theo Johnson to get downfield on its next drive. Ending in a 23-yard touchdown to KeAndre Lambert-Smith.

The bend-don’t-break Nittany Lion defense was able to hold the Buckeyes to another field goal after a seven-play drive to keep stay on top in the second quarter 14-13. Clifford and company couldn’t do much on their next drive, giving the ball back to Ohio State with just over a minute on the clock. The Penn State defense ended the half with two sacks of Heisman hopeful quarterback CJ Stroud and a lead.Embed from Getty Images

Second Half Didn’t Start Much Better

The Nittany Lions got the ball to start the second half and almost lost the opening kickoff. Then gave the ball to Singleton to start the drive. On the next play, Clifford tried to get a pass off but the ball was batted back into his arms. Luckily, not another interception. On top of all that, Head Coach James Franklin decided to go for it on fourth and short on Penn State’s own 30-yard line and JUST got the first down. Three lucky breaks for the Nittany Lions.

After all the drama to start the second half, Clifford was able to find receivers and move the ball into Buckeye territory. Much of this success has built off of a good performance from Washington. Another fourth and short on the Buckeye 20-yard line was stuffed by Tyleik Williams to end a promising drive. The Penn State defense came out strong though, stopping Henderson and putting pressure on Stroud to force an Ohio State punt.

To start the second drive of the third quarter Washington already amassed eight receptions for 139 yards and one touchdown. The first Penn State receiver to have a 100-yard rushing day since Jahan Dotson. We have been saying that this team needs to stay balanced to succeed and up to this point Penn State rushed for over four yards per carry on first down. Allowing Clifford to manage shorter yardage going into second and third down. However, it took until the third quarter for the pass rush of the Buckeyes to show up, but it did. Forcing two drives to stall for Penn State.

The third quarter ended with a field goal by the Buckeyes. Leaving the Nittany Lions down 14-16 going into the fourth quarter.

How It Ended

We said all week, Penn State just needs to be there at the end. The defense put the Nittany Lions in a good spot heading into the fourth quarter down by only two points. But ultimately, a fourth quarter meltdown led to a Penn State loss against Ohio State.

J.T. Tuimoloau started the fourth quarter with a sack of Clifford, to go with his deflection and interception from the first half. The next play? Clifford tried to go downfield to Harrison Wallace III and got a pass interference called on the Buckeyes. A four-yard gain by Singleton and a 14-yard rush by Allen moved Penn State into Ohio State territory. This led to another highlight catch by Washington.

The Nittany Lions couldn’t take the lead without a little bit of drama. Franklin decided to kick a field goal on fourth and short. Jake Pinegar hit the first attempt wide, but it was negated by a false start. Then he hit the next one wide, but that was also negated by an Ohio State penalty. Franklin abandoned the “go for the points idea” and decided to go for it on fourth and one. Clifford got a first down to tight end Tyler Warren. A nice pass to Mitchell Tinsley looked to get Penn State into the endzone, however, he fumbled it to Brenton Strange. Leading to a bit of a scramble for the ball.

It was called a touchdown on the field, but after further review, that call was overturned. Leading to third down and goal from the two-foot line. Clifford was called short on a quarterback keeper. Franklin implored his guys to get a push, but alas it came to fourth and goal. Finally, Allen kept his legs going, stayed balanced, and forced his way into the endzone for the lead. 21-16. Too much time on the clock for a very good Ohio State offense.

Another Penn State Meltdown

Two big pass plays put the Buckeyes inside Penn State territory. And Henderson finally broke free giving the Buckeyes the lead on a 41-yard touchdown run. Ohio State was going to go for two, but a false start changed that idea. Penn State down 21-23.

Before that run by Henderson, Penn State had held the Buckeyes to 30 yards rushing. A big change from Michigan two weeks ago.

Tuimoloau forced another turnover. Clifford fumbled the football on Penn State’s own 31-yard line. It started badly for the Nittany Lions and ended just the way it started. Ohio State only needed one play to get another touchdown. Penn State down 21-30.

Pinegar kicked the kick of his life. Hitting a 44-yard field goal to put Penn State down 24-30.

Just when the Nittany Lion defense thought they were going to get off the field Stroud found Emeka Egbuku for a 42-yard gain down to the Penn State two-yard line. After another delay of game Henderson found the endzone. On the second straight two-point attempt, the Buckeyes succumbed to a false start. Leading to an extra point and a 37-24 lead.

Tuimoloau had the game of his life, intercepting Clifford again. This led to a pick-six. And led to a score that did not show how close this game was all day. Penn State down 44-24. Four touchdowns for the Buckeyes in six minutes.

Maybe Next Year

Every year after Ohio State beats Penn State fans say, “maybe next year”. And maybe next year is right, but this was another epic meltdown against the Buckeyes. In a game that felt winnable most of the day, the Nittany Lions just couldn’t recover all the turnovers that plagued the first and fourth quarters of this game. Give the Penn State offense a little bit of credit, despite the epic six-minute meltdown in the fourth quarter, they went down the field and scored with just over a minute left to play. ‘

Clifford looked good again on that drive. But he wasn’t consistently good throughout the day. He did end the day passing Trace McSorley with 78 career passing touchdowns for the most in program history, but we bet he would’ve rather had the win. Next year Allar will undoubtedly be under center for the Nittany Lions and maybe he will bring Penn State back on top.


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