Iowa was a pretender. Penn State was a pretender. They both went down today, while Ohio State showed that they can play football.
This Turkey had nagging suspicions each time he sat down to preview a game this season, suspicions that Penn State had not yet played a decent football team. That instinct proved to be accurate.
Meanwhile, Iowa, the Kardiac Kids, kept winning and somehow made it up to #4 nationally. Each game they played made me wonder how they managed to keep winning. Turns out that they, too, had been playing against chumps. All it took was an injury to their starting quarterback and they were exposed for what they really are.
I’m not saying that Ohio State’s 24-7 victory over Penn State on Saturday puts the Buckeyes up there among the college football elite. This year’s team is not even close to being among the best they have put on the field at Ohio Stadium. They did what they had to do to win, and that’s what good teams do.
So, yeah, in one fell swoop, Iowa (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) and Penn State (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten) wind up sucking hind tit while Ohio State (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) puts itself in a position to snatch up yet another Big Ten championship with a win over Iowa next week in Columbus.
Of the two vaunted defenses, Penn State indeed proved itself to be the pretender. The Nittany Lions, who appeared slightly better on paper than the Buckeyes, wound up surrendering 228 rushing yards, while they were only able to run for 76 yards themselves. The Ohio State front seven is the most competent the Lions have faced this season, and they pushed around the hapless PSU offensive line pretty badly.
Penn State was 4-16 on third down conversions and had only nine first downs to OSU’s 15. This, of course, meant that there was a lot of punting going on, which is a very dangerous thing for Penn State, in that the punt coverage has sucked all year.
Ohio State’s Ray Small had a damn field day returning punts. He had 130 yards on seven returns, the longest being a 45-yarder at the end of the third quarter which would have gone all the way were it not for punter Jeremy Boone’s saving tackle. On an earlier big play back in the first quarter, Small scampered for a 41 yard return that put the Buckeyes in the red zone, from whence they scored their first touchdown of the day.
Here’s Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s take on how big Small was for a small guy: “It was big. Ray Small, no one understands how big of a player Ray Small is. He’s small but he makes a lot of plays, and he’s so fast. For him to take it down there and for us to punch it in and take care of the opportunity, it was huge for us to go up 7-0.”
From the small Small’s big return forward, Penn State was in the hole, and they kept digging themselves in deeper. The defense could not contain Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor — either passing or running. He had 5 rushes for 50 yards and a touchdown, and was 8-17 passing for 125 yards and two touchdowns. His was a competent performance without any serious errors.
Meanwhile, Daryll Clark had a miserable day behind a mediocre offensive line that could not afford him the protection he deserved. Clark was 12-28 for 125 yards and one inconsequential interception.
The Penn State running game, as I alluded above, was not present. Evan Royster, who had hurt himself in practice and had shaken off the injury to play, had only 13 carries for 36 yards. His long run was 8 yards. Daryll Clark was the second leading rusher with 20 yards.
Derek Moye had no catches, as the Ohio State secondary chose to cover him closely. Thus, Graham Zug was the leading receiver with 7 catches for 96 yards.
Say what you will about Pryor, but this Turkey says that he played a good game, and the proof is on the scoreboard. He hit the passes he needed to hit and he was a slippery runner, as usual.
Unfortunately, our hitherto quasi-untested Nittany Lion secondary proved itself to not up to today’s big time test, as Ohio State’s DeVier Posey slipped behind the safeties for a third-quarter touchdown reception that broke the Lions’ spirit. That made it 17-7. Ohio State would score one more touchdown; Penn State would not score again.