As the clock ticked down to the start of the Ohio State game, the clock struck zero for the Iowa Hawkeyes, who fell to Northwestern, 17-10. The outright Big Ten title was back up for grabs for the Buckeyes. With a 24-7 victory over Penn State, OSU took one step toward that goal.
Defense ignites the Bucks early and often
The Buckeye defense handed the Nittany Lions a quick three-and-out at the beginning of the first quarter. Junior Cameron Heyward set the mood for the game when he sacked PSU quarterback Daryll Clark for a loss of six yards on the first play of the drive.
Then, early in the third quarter, Heyward sacked Clark for a loss of seven yards, as the Buckeyes led 10-7.
“I just wanted to play,” said Heyward, who finished the night with two sacks and an additional tackle for loss, combining to push the Lions back a total of 17 yards. “We have a great defense, and I just wanted to help.”
The defensive goal coming into Saturday’s game was to hold down Penn State’s run game. And they did just that, holding the Nittany Lions to 76 yards.
“We talked about outplaying their defense. That’s how we go into every game, we have to outplay their defense,” senior linebacker Ross Homan said. “Our defensive line made the difference for us tonight.”
Going into the game Saturday, the Buckeyes led the nation in forcing three-and-outs, and they came out of the game with seven more to their name, forcing PSU’s first three drives to end short of a first down.
“Defensively, there was no question that they were going to have a tough time moving it on us,” coach Jim Tressel said.
Pryor to Posey partnership is grounds for success
With just more than a minute left in the third quarter, quarterback Terrelle Pryor connected with receiver DeVier Posey for a 62-yard touchdown, increasing the Buckeye lead to 17-7.
The 62-yard pass is the longest pass play by a Penn State opponent this year.
“It was big for me, it was big for the offense, and we definitely needed something like that,” Posey said. “It was a big momentum changer.”
It has become quite apparent that Posey has become one of Pryor’s favored receivers when the game is in a tight spot.
“That’s one of my great friends. We’re really close. We live right next door to each other, and he’s just one of my boys,” Posey said. “It only helps that he’s the quarterback and I’m the receiver.”
Huge production out of ‘Small’ returner
Senior Ray Small returned seven punts for 130 yards, with his longest setting up a touchdown drive in the fourth that cemented the Buckeye lead, 24-7.
The 45-yard return put Pryor and the offense at the 47-yard line with a straight shot to the goal line.
The return wasn’t Small’s only 40-plus-yard return. He opened the game with a 41-yard return on OSU’s second drive, bringing the ball all the way to the 9-yard line.
“It’s huge. It’s a big thing to be on the team in this tradition, and to come back and just redeem myself,” Small said. “That’s what I think of this as: a redemption.”
Offense seizes opportunity in two quick touchdown drives
The Buckeyes had two different touchdown drives that were each less than a minute long.
The first, a 6-yard touchdown run from Pryor after Small’s return, was the result of two plays and 44 seconds. It was a pivotal starting point for the momentum of the game.
“That was huge. If we had been limited to a field goal there, I think, emotionally, in their stadium, that would have been almost a victory for them,” Tressel said.
The drive with Posey’s touchdown lasted nine seconds, and the final touchdown drive was a little more than five minutes long.
Bucks hold onto the ball, no turnovers for the Scarlet and Gray
When last year’s fight against PSU at home boiled down to a fumble from Pryor, the name of the game this year became avoiding turnovers. And that is exactly what OSU’s offense did.
For the first time this season, the Buckeyes went without a turnover the entire game.
Both teams held onto the ball surprisingly well. PSU’s only turnover was a fourth-quarter interception by OSU linebacker Ross Homan.
“From a turnover standpoint, it was the best we’ve done, having none. If we can do that, we will have a chance,” Tressel said.
Barclay fills in at kicker
Last week, after Aaron Pettrey left the New Mexico State game with an injury that resulted in season-ending surgery, junior Devin Barclay stepped in with a shaky performance, missing two field goals.
But the 26-year-old former collegiate soccer player left no call unanswered Saturday, making good on three extra points and a 37-yard field goal.
“I’m pretty speechless. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’m just happy to have gotten the opportunity to do it,” Barclay said. “I just wanted to hit my kickoffs well and swing nice and easy on extra points and field goals and just make them all.”