In a successful homecoming for Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (8-2, 5-1) avenged last season’s 13-6 loss to Penn State, leaving Happy Valley with a 24-7 victory Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Brandon Saine’s six-yard touchdown reception with 9:37 remaining put the Buckeyes up by the final margin, as the whiteout crowd — the fourth largest in the stadium’s history — filed for the exits.
Pryor, a native of Jeannette, Pa., had a hand in all three OSU touchdowns.
“Terrelle Pryor came in here and did a heck of a job,” coach Jim Tressel said. “He was a little bit banged up, but he gutted it out and did what he had to do.”
Receiver Ray Small returned a punt 41 yards to the Nittany Lions’ 9-yard line, setting the table for the Buckeyes’ first score, a seven-yard rush by Pryor.
“I always go out there and do my part, and coach [Tressel] always preaches special teams,” Small said. “So every time I’m back there, I’m thinking big. The first drive, I sparked it, and it just got me going from there.”
Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark spent the evening under pressure from the OSU defensive line. Junior Cameron Heyward led the Buckeye charge with 11 tackles, including three for loss and a pair of sacks. In all, OSU held Penn State to just 201 total yards.
“It seemed like every time I looked around, Cam [Heyward] was back there bull-rushing over a guy, using brute strength,” senior linebacker Austin Spitler said. “It was unbelievable to see these guys. We have a great defensive line, and everybody’s aware of that. They played lights out.”
The lone Penn State score came early in the second quarter. Clark punched it in from less than a yard out to tie the game 7-7.
The Bucks answered with a 10-play drive, culminating in a 37-yard field goal by 26-year-old walk-on kicker Devin Barclay, who replaced starter Aaron Pettrey, out for the regular season with a knee injury.
“Devin’s been good all year,” Tressel said. “He’s been good when called upon in games. He’s a veteran.”
OSU had one final chance to tack on a score in the first half, but
Pryor overthrew a wide-open Dane Sanzenbacher near the end zone, and the Buckeyes settled for a 10-7 lead at the break.
“No one is harder on themselves than [Pryor],” Tressel said. “The fact that he had a chance to hit a home run and didn’t, you know that was eating at him.”
Pryor got his opportunity to atone for the overthrow.
With 1:47 left in the third quarter, Pryor connected with sophomore DeVier Posey for a 62-yard touchdown strike, nudging the OSU lead to 10.
“We had been running a lot on first downs,” Tressel said. “We felt like, if we had decent field position, that it was time to try to strike.
We were out near the 40, and we felt like we could get behind them.”
Penn State never got in an offensive rhythm, especially in the second half, when held scoreless. Clark completed just 12 of 28 passes, and the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack averaged just 2.5 yards per carry.
“Going up against a great offense like that, you don’t expect to hold them to such few yards and such few points,” Spitler said. “We always talk about how we want to outplay their defense if we want to win the game. Obviously, we did that tonight.”
With the victory — and Iowa’s first loss of the season, 17-10 to Northwestern — the Buckeyes control their own destiny in the quest for a Big Ten championship. OSU hosts Iowa Saturday, and with a Buckeye victory, both the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions would have two conference losses to OSU’s one, guaranteeing OSU at least a share of a Big Ten title.
“November is for contenders,” Tressel said. “That’s why it’s hard to get too ecstatic now, because we know the Hawkeyes are coming to town.”Oh