On a gloomy Saturday afternoon, No. 2 Ohio State left Ohio Stadium unscathed, defeating No. 8 Penn State 28-17 in a grueling Big Ten showdown that earned the Buckeyes a spot in the conference title game. Here are The Lantern’s five takeaways from the game:
Against, the then-No. 1 ranked Nittany Lion rush defense, Ohio State junior running back J.K. ran wild.
Dobbins, who dashed for 157 yards and two touchdowns, spearheaded Ohio State’s rushing attack.
Setting the tempo early, Ohio State did all of their damage on the ground, rushing for 91 yards on the first drive, capped by a 4-yard Dobbins touchdown.
Dobbins’ second score of the day came five drives later on a 2-yard dive into the endzone, giving the Buckeyes a 14-0 lead late in the first half.
Head coach Ryan Day used the speed and agility of quarterback Justin Fields to accent Dobbins by calling plays where Fields could read the defense.
“I thought that they had a very good run defense,” Day said. “In order to get an extra number in there, you have to equate with the quarterback, and there was a good number of those that weren’t designed for him. The draw certainly was and there was a couple others, but for the most part you’re reading somebody.”
Fields analyzed the defense and kept the defense honest by scrambling, giving Dobbins opportunities to burst through the Penn State secondary.
With 36 carries, Dobbins shouldered a heavy load for the Buckeyes. Even so, Dobbins is embracing the workload.
“I’ll take more,” Dobbins said.
Despite not playing a heavy amount of second half snaps earlier in the season, Dobbins is fourth in the NCAA in rushing with 1,446 yards.
The highly anticipated reinstatement of Chase Young did not disappoint. The junior defensive end picked up right where he left off, once again shredding the opposing offensive line and crumpling the pocket.
After a two-game suspension kept him on the sidelines against Maryland and Rutgers, Young was hungry for action and ready to make a difference in his return.
The NCAA leader in sacks, Young usurped former Buckeye pass rusher Vernon Gholston to claim the Ohio State single-season sack record. With three on the day, Young pushed his season total to 16.5.
“I just tried to give it all I had today,” Young said. “We won the game and that’s all we care about.”
Young swallowed Nittany Lions behind the line, recording 4 tackles for loss. His constant pressure was crucial for the Buckeyes, putting pressure on the Nittany Lion quarterbacks and forcing two fumbles, which killed Penn State drives.
“In-game, it’s a switch you’ve got to flip,” said Young. “That’s what I tried to do and you saw the outcome.”
Day recognized the innate talent and focus of Young, back in action, and the energy that he had infused into the defense, as a Heisman caliber member of a dangerous Buckeye defense.
“Oh my gosh, I just think Chase Young deserves to be in New York,” Day said. “How dominant of a player is Chase Young? And the impact he has on the game is just unbelievable.”
In this past year’s matchup at Penn State, Nittany Lion wide receiver KJ Hamler caught four passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. In Columbus this weekend, Hamler caught just three passes for 45 yards, and didn’t sniff the end zone.
Hamler didn’t get much of a chance to break the game open the way he did a season ago, as the Ohio State secondary stood firm against the pass to allow just 128 yards through the air.
Redshirt sophomore cornerback Shaun Wade shadowed Hamler throughout the afternoon, allowing little separation between the two.
Day praised the mental willpower necessary to stay locked in throughout the taxing match.
“I thought Shaun Wade did a tremendous job on Hamler,” said Day. “He’s a really good player. I thought [junior cornerback Jeff] Okudah and [redshirt senior cornerback Damon] Arnette were excellent.”
Toughness transcends turmoil
Ball security evaded the Buckeyes as rain played its part in the outcome.
The Buckeyes coughed up the football three times –– all on rush attempts. The first of the day prevented an Ohio State touchdown, as Fields attempted to score late in the first quarter.
On back-to-back drives in the second half, Dobbins and Fields lost control of the ball deep in Buckeye territory.
“We were pushed, but we made a lot of mistakes, and it was on us,” Dobbins said. “Credit to them, they did a good job, but we messed up a lot.”
Self-confidence and positive mindsets helped the offense steady itself.
“We knew we could move the ball, and we were just killing ourselves,” Dobbins said. “We just rallied around each other and told each other that we were going to fix it.”
Coach Day recognized the experience endured, useful for matchups down the line against Michigan, the Big Ten West Champion, and potentially a top four team in the College Football Playoff.
“To win a game like that that was not clean shows the toughness that we have, because you walk out of that game thinking, “Oh, we probably could have won a lot bigger than that”,” Day said.
Armed for Ann Arbor
Following the win against Penn State, next week’s matchup against archrival Michigan is the next challenge.
Even though Ohio State clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Saturday, that doesn’t make The Game any less important for those involved.
“It definitely matters,” Dobbins said. “It’s another big game for us, and we gotta go and win it. Me, personally, I want the big one.”
A win against Michigan would give Ohio State its 14th undefeated regular season in program history, and would bring the Buckeyes within seven wins of even evening up the all-time record against the maize and blue.
“It’s big,” Young said. “ If you can’t get hyped for this, then you’re just not that type of dude, so we’re gonna go to the drawing boards and prepare the best we can.”
Ohio State has shown that it can weather the storm against a talented and skilled team. It must now continue to execute and be physically dominant against a Michigan unit that has climbed back into the top 15.
“We live it every day, the Team Up North is something that we talk about every single day,” said Day. “And the best way to respect a rivalry is to work it every day. And we do.”