Ohio State’s 38-14 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday featured two entirely different Buckeye defenses.
The first half featured a bullied and broken-down defensive unit that gave up 14 points and 212 yards of total offense.
But in the second half, the vaunted Silver Bullet defense returned.
“We didn’t play great in the first (half) and we knew we could obviously play better,” linebacker Andrew Sweat said. “There were some miscommunications and stuff, but we sured that up in the second half.”
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Matt McGloin and the Nittany Lions offense had their way in the first half. McGloin shredded the OSU defense for 141 yards and two touchdowns before halftime.
“He played really well altogether,” said Penn State senior wide receiver Brett Brackett. “He made some great plays and put us in a good position early.”
Trailing 14-3, the Buckeyes were down but not out.
With the Nittany Lions once again driving in Buckeye territory, OSU produced a big fourth-down stop at their own 20-yard line to deny PSU points.
“We talked at halftime about the fact that the turning point in the game was when we stopped them on fourth down in the second quarter and that all the stories were going to be written as that being a turning point,” OSU coach Jim Tressel said. “Our guys went out the second half and took over, but I think it was fueled by how hard that defense fought in that last series that they had to stop them.”
That stop, coupled with an intense halftime speech from an emotional head coach, seemed to be just the momentum OSU needed.
“The halftime locker room was not a fun place, but it was not a place that looked like there was any quit in anybody,” Tressel said. “We heard a lot this week from folks during Veterans week about the fact that you just keep going and you lay it on the line for your teammates and I thought that’s what our kids did today.”
They certainly did. The Buckeye defense came out of the locker room in full force and was relentless in the second half, allowing just 60 yards.
“We didn’t execute quite as well. Ohio State played the run better,” Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. “I didn’t think they did much different but maybe played with more intensity. I give Ohio State some credit. They played better in the second half.”
The OSU defense got in on the scoring in the second half as well. Generating two interceptions for touchdowns, the Buckeye defense contributed 14 of the team’s 35 second-half points.
“We weren’t a great first-half team, that’s the facts,” Tressel said. “I guess we do a bad job after open weeks or something, but they played their fannies off in the second half and I’m awfully proud of them.”