COLUMBUS — In what could have been labeled the Adversity Bowl, Penn State (9-2, 6-1) outperformed Ohio State (6-5, 3-4) to take the 20-14 victory during the Buckeyes’ Senior Day.
Despite the controversy surrounding the 2011 seasons of both teams, Penn State rose above the distractions and gashed Ohio State on the ground for an average of 6.18 yards per carry and held off a Buckeye comeback in the second half.
The Nittany Lions started quickly, driving 80 yards over five plays and scoring on a 20-yard touchdown rush by Stephfon Green on the opening drive of the game. The extra point made it 7-0 Penn State with 12:27 remaining the first quarter.
Ohio State punted on their subsequent drive and Penn State responded with a 15-play, 54-yard drive spanning five and half minutes, which was capped by a 43-yard Anthony Fera field goal making it 10-0 Lions with 1:59 left in the first quarter.
“Obviously it started off again down 10-0,” Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said. “Not the way we had planned it. We have to do a better job out of the gate.”
The Buckeyes finally got on the board when Braxton Miller finished a 10-play, 77-yard drive on a slashing 24-yard touchdown run making it 10-7 with 12:32 left in the second quarter.
The OSU defense continued to struggle with the big play when Silas Redd gashed the Buckeyes up the middle on a 42-yard rush. Three plays later, Green took it in from 4 yards out to make it 17-7 Penn State.
The Buckeyes punted on their next possession but Orhian Johnson intercepted Matt McGloin’s pass attempt on the first play of that drive and returned it to the Penn State 37-yard line.
Ohio State made the most of the turnover and scored on a touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to Jake Stoneburner from seven yards out. The extra point made it 17-14 with 5:22 left in the half.
Penn State scored what would turn out to be the final points of the game when Fera capped his previous career long from the first quarter with a 46-yard field goal as the half expired making it 20-14.
Ohio State punted on the opening drive of the second half and Penn State matched them with a punt of their own ending their first possession of the second half.
On the second play of the Buckeyes’ subsequent drive, Jordan Hall, operating from the Wildcat Formation, fumbled the hand off and Penn State’s Jordan Hill pounced on it at the Ohio State 11-yard-line.
The Buckeye defense came up big and stuffed the Lions on the goal line to force a turnover on downs despite Penn State having a first and goal from the 2-yard-line.
Ohio State dug out of the shadow of its own goalposts but running back Carlos Hyde fumbled and Penn State’s Nick Sukay recovered near midfield.
“When you don’t come out on top of the turnover margin, you don’t have a great chance of winning,” Fickell said. “Especially if you don’t win with explosive gains.”
The Ohio State defense forced a punt, and after a 36-yard punt by Fera, the Buckeyes were again forced to start a drive from their own 4-yard line.
The Buckeyes started the third quarter driving but a Corey Brown drop on third down forced OSU to punt yet again.
Penn State suffered a drop of their own on third down when fullback Michael Zordich saw the ball slip through his hands.
Ohio State took over after the punt with 7:09 to play and drove to the Penn State 36-yard-line but a false start by right tackle J.B. Shugarts pushed a fourth-and-manageable to a fourth-and-10. Miller’s fourth down rush and dive for the sticks came up short and the Buckeyes squandered another opportunity with 1:41 to play.
The false start was symbolic of the rough day the offensive line had as senior center Mike Brewster struggled delivering shotgun snaps all game long.
“You can’t be successful if you can’t get the ball, a good snap at the quarterback,” Fickell said. “And if you jump offsides.”
The Buckeye defense, which rebounded nicely after a rough first half, managed to get Penn State to punt and the Buckeyes had their last chance with 36 seconds to play.
A sack and an intentional grounding flag on Miller was too much for the Buckeyes to overcome and Miller’s three remaining pass attempts fell incomplete and time expired.
After the game, Luke Fickell was asked about the ESPN report that OSU had contacted Urban Meyer.
“I don’t talk about it,” Fickell said. “I don’t think this is the time nor the place. We’re talking about the game, and we’re going to move on and talk about Michigan.”
Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley earned his first victory since taking over for dismissed Joe Paterno.
“This win isn’t about me; it’s about the players and this team,” Bradley said. “I don’t think any team in the history of college football has been through so much in such a time period and to hang in there and fight their way through is great.”
Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey received a loud ovation during his return from suspension and responded with four receptions for 66 yards.
Center Mike Brewster was one of the 24 seniors honored before the game and said the loss in his last game in Ohio Stadium was tough to handle.
“It’s hard to swallow,” Brewster said. “That’s how the game goes sometimes. I was saying downstairs that I’m proud of the way the guys have handled the season and have been through many tough times. I’m just trying to keep my head up and stick with these guys.
“You throw the records out the window, we have Michigan next week.”
BOB STRICKLEY may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 203, or email@example.com.
Scoring: PSU - Green 39-yard-rush 7-0, PSU - Fera 43-yard FG 10-0, OSU - Miller 24-yard rush 10-7, PSU - Green 4-yard rush 17-7, OSU - Stoneburner from Miller pass 7 yards 17-14, PSU - Fera 46-yard FG 20-14.
Rushing: PSU - Green 16-94, Redd 8-63, Drake 3-50, Beachum 4-16, OSU - Miller 18-122, Herron 18-81, Hyde 4-24
Passing: PSU - McGloin 10-18-88, INT, OSU - Miller 7-17-83, TD
Receiving: PSU - Moye 3-40, Green 2-8, OSU - Posey 4-66, Brown 1-10