In one of the most dramatic, come-from-behind wins in recent memory for Ohio State, there are a lot of statistics to unpack. The No. 6 Buckeyes won 39-38 against No. 2 Penn State, holding the Nittany Lion offense to just 283 total yards and racking up 529 yards against one of the best defenses in the nation. Here are some important statistics from the game.
16 – consecutive completed passes by J.T. Barrett to finish the game. From the final minutes of the third quarter through the entire fourth quarter, Barrett completed 16 straight passes, setting an Ohio State record. Just when he needed to be, Barrett was at his finest and systematically picked apart the Penn State secondary, completing three touchdown passes during that span and completing Ohio State’s comeback.
The term “surgical precision” is often used to describe a quarterback fitting passes into tight windows. Such a term could be accurately linked to Barrett against Penn State, as the redshirt senior completed 33-of-39 total passes. His teammates said it could have been even more.
“I don’t know his stats but we had four drops so those weren’t completely on him,” redshirt junior Terry McLaurin said. “We kind of left some plays on the field, but the way he played, that’s Heisman candidate right there.”
41 – average starting field position by Penn State. Ohio State’s struggles with kickoffs has been well documented. It nearly cost them the game Saturday against Penn State. Right out of the gate, running back Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Later in the game, another Ohio State kickoff resulted in linebacker Koa Farmer taking the football to the Ohio State 23-yard line.
Ohio State’s issues with flipping the field extended beyond the kickoff coverage, however. The Buckeyes had two turnovers, which put Penn State in Ohio State territory. The Nittany Lions also were the beneficiaries of a muffed punt that redshirt freshman punter Drue Chrisman dropped, then shanked before it rolled to the Penn State 38-yard line. Only two of those aforementioned issues did not see the Nittany Lions put up seven points. The special teams and overall sloppiness of Ohio State nearly cost the Buckeyes in the end. Given that a loss from this point forward ends the Buckeyes’ hopes of winning a championship, they cannot afford to have many more games littered with similar blunders.
44 – rushing yards by Saquon Barkley. Ohio State has never fully stopped Barkley before. It allowed him to gain 99 yards on the ground last season. In 2015, he had 194 rushing yards. Saturday was a different story. Barkley had 21 carries and mustered only 44 yards in the midst of a season that has many clamoring for him to win the Heisman Trophy.
Perhaps even more remarkable than the 44-rushing-yards statistic would be the fact 36 of those came on one carry. Remove that one carry and his 2.1 average yards per carry dips to 0.4. His lack of success was not necessarily due to him being ineffective, but rather the result of an Ohio State defensive line that simply bullied Penn State’s offensive line all game long. Barkley was on the receiving end of nine of Ohio State’s 13 tackles for a loss. Heading into the game, the Buckeyes needed to slow down Barkley if it had any chance of winning. They not only slowed him down, but they effectively stopped him. And they won.
13 – carries by J.K. Dobbins. Penn State handed the football off to a running back who proved largely ineffective. Ohio State seemingly refused to hand the football off to a running back who was one of its most productive weapons. In the second quarter, Dobbins did not touch the football. In the fourth quarter, Dobbins rushed it once. Yet he finished the game with 88 rushing yards (6.8 yards per carry), including four rushes for 10-plus yards.
This has become somewhat of a trend for Ohio State this season. Despite head coach Urban Meyer often stating his willingness to run the freshman running back into the ground with how often he is used, the coach has appeared reluctant to turn to his budding star. Perhaps the Buckeyes wish to save their prized talent for games later this season. Maybe they’re resting him for the next two seasons when he is counted on as their top offensive weapon. But after his fifth game with an average of more than six yards per carry and fewer than 15 carries, Ohio State fans have to wonder if Dobbins is being maximized to his full potential.
9 – receptions by Ohio State players.
This has been a statistic that has been featured plenty in this series of articles. However, it usually receives a qualifier that the primary reason for the high number of players to receive a catch was due to the blowout lead Ohio State had, and that many of the backups were in because the Buckeyes played against a weaker opponent.
That wasn’t the case Saturday. Nine players made receptions in this game largely because that is just how Ohio State is going to play moving forward. The high number of players having an impact on the game might not be solely because Ohio State has played lesser opponents. Perhaps it is simply because it has a wide array of players capable of making plays.
At the beginning of the year, many doubted the players and coaches who said all six wide receivers were good enough to start for Ohio State. Perhaps the players and coaches were right. Every week, someone new happens to step up and make plays for the Buckeyes. This week and last it was redshirt sophomore H-back K.J. Hill. Against Maryland, it was sophomore Binjimen Victor. Against Rutgers, it was redshirt junior Johnnie Dixon. Any game, against any opponent, any receiver might step up. Perhaps it’s time to stop doubting that and accept that the Buckeyes’ receiving corp might be championship-caliber.