tOSU 39, PSU 38
We thought that the old sphincterball routine had died with St. Joe, but as if to say that old habits die hard, we saw it again on Saturday night. We last saw it in the Rose Bowl against USC. When are they going to learn that playing cement booty conservative late in the fourth quarter, even in a two-possession game, can be fatal against an opponent with a potent offense?
You might recall that the term “full sphincter mode” was probably developed by David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News to describe Joe Paterno’s strategy of playing ultra-conservatively when sitting on a lead. It was said at the time that if Old Joe was to put a lump of coal in his rectum, he could shit out a diamond in ten seconds flat. This game brought back diamond-studded memories, lemme tellya!
Ohio State dominated on both sides of the ball the entire game, but it wasn’t initially reflected by the score. That’s because the Buckeyes tried to give the game away in every way possible, but Penn State wasn’t buying. PSU got the benefit of two turnovers, a few strategically significant dropped passes, and lots of penalties, all of which were spiced up by some Penn State-centric calls by officials. Perhaps that gave the Nits a false sense of security in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, as they gave up a 38-27 lead to be overtaken by tOSU with 1:48 remaining. Even then, there appeared to be no desperation. Sphincterball to the max.
Ohio State’s Sloppy First Half
Oh, sure, we saw some flashes of brilliance like Saquon Barkley’s 96-yard opening kickoff return, but we also saw a lot of sloppy play by our opponent in the first half. Not sloppy enough, though, that Ohio State didn’t break the Nittany Lions’ streak of shutting out opponents in the first quarter. They also scored two touchdowns in the second quarter, so what had looked like a developing blowout for Penn State in the first quarter got a reality check by the end of the first half. The lead was cut to 28-17.
Halftime Adjustments? Or not?
In the half time locker room sessions, Urban Meyer and his assistants made the necessary adjustments, but James Franklin and the boys must have been playing tiddly-winks, because they came out looking like nothing had changed since the first half. They were determined to ride out their lead.
Wait, what? Sit on a lead against an offense they showed they couldn’t stop in the first half? Now, they are starting to get tired, so let’s try to keep running the ball with a tired offensive line that is ineffectual even when it is fresh. Very smart. Penn State wound up with 91 yards rushing, with the biggest chunk of that coming on a single 36 yard touchdown run by Barkley when he was lucky enough to get to the outside. Subtract that one and you’ve got 55 yards on 34 carries for the night, a thoroughly putrid 1.6 ypc average. Now, please tell me why they’re trying to run the ball in the fourth quarter? They’re somehow going to do better than they’ve been doing the rest of the game?
And defensively, they weren’t getting through to J. T. Barrett all night long, so no adjustments there, either? No pressure on Barrett late in the game. Sure, the defensive front seven are tired at that point, and Manny Bowen got beaten badly in a coverage situation. No blitz whatsoever? No disruption at all? Just drop back into coverage and pray?
Not as close as the score…
Ohio State burned the Nittany Lions aerially and terrestrially. Barrett completed 33 of 39 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns. He ran the ball 17 times for 95 yards. And true freshman J.K. Dobbins ran 13 times for 88 yards.
Oh yeah, about that “increasingly irrelevant statistic”, Time of Possession, when Penn State needed a sustained drive in the fourth quarter, they couldn’t produce one — absolutely no discredit intended to the Ohio State defense who kept it from happening. The coaching brain trust apparently had nothing left in their trick bag. The Buckeyes knew what to expect and they handled it.
After out-gaining the Nittany Lions 529 yards to 283, and out-first-downing them 27-17, and in spite of Ohio State’s two turnovers and veritable plethora of penalties and dropped passes, the Buckeyes were the the better team on this night. Penn State sinks to #7 and will need plenty of help if they are to have even a sliver of hope to play in Indianapolis on December 2.
Unmasked as pretenders…
Yeah, #2 put a target on their backs, but Penn State just wasn’t able to live up to that ranking. And, by the way, so-called “good losses” don’t swing a lot of weight with the CFP committee, whose initial rankings will come out in a few days. PSU would appear to have some smooth sailing for the remainder of the season, but let’s not count those chickens before they hatch. However, if they win out, recall that tOSU must deal with Iowa, Moo U., and Michigan. They also have a bye week against the Illini. Penn State could still wind up on top in the Big Ten East, but they need a looooooooooooot of help to get there.
Statistics painted a rather incorrect picture of the capabilities of the Nittany Lions defense, which had me worried at the beginning of the year but caused me to breathe a sigh of relief by maintaining a deceptively decent performance through the first seven games. Thing is, they didn’t play anyone with an offense. After all the trash talk I heard from PSU homeys about Ohio State’s offense, they sure had Penn State’s number in this one. The vaunted Penn State defense was overmatched.
I’m still pissed off about this one.
I’ll be back by mid-week with a preview and prediction for the big clash with Moo U. over who gets the Land Grant Trophy.