Five Things We Learned: Ohio State
Saturday’s loss will definitely sting for a while, as No. 2 Penn State could not hold on to an 18-point lead, losing 39-38 to No. 6 Ohio State in Columbus.
Penn State now finds itself on the outside looking in for the national title picture, and will need help to get back into the Big Ten title race as well. The Nittany Lions will have to make adjustments and get ready for a game in East Lansing next Saturday, as they take on No. 24 Michigan State. Here are five things we learned from the Ohio State game:
1. Saquon made big plays, but had nowhere to run for most of the day
Saquon Barkley managed to add a couple Heisman-like plays to his resume, but was largely overshadowed in that conversation by the play of Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett. However, his 97-yard kickoff return and 36-yard touchdown run certainly were highlight reel plays, especially against a defense/special teams unit like Ohio State. But his 36-yard run accounted for nearly all of the rushing yards that Barkley would have on the day, finishing with 44. The offensive line was porous, allowing 13 tackles for loss, completely hindering Penn State’s ability to have any semblance of a running game.
2. James Franklin/Joe Moorhead are incapable of holding tight leads late in games
The fourth quarter of Saturday’s game was considered by many to be eerily similar to the ending of the 2016 Rose Bowl, a contest where Penn State also led by multiple possessions late in the game, only to squander away the game. The play calling in the last few minutes of the game left many Penn State fans wondering whether offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is afraid/incapable of using different formations other than the read-pass option (RPO) to try and at least make a defense guess what Penn State is doing on offense, rather than the very predictable RPO.
3. The Penn State defense could not hold up against the athleticism of Ohio State
The Nittany Lion defense was completely exposed by J.T. Barrett in the fourth quarter. Ryan Buchholz was carted off after the first defensive play, and Penn State’s pass rush never recovered. After seven sacks last week vs. Michigan, the Nittany Lions could only record two against the Buckeyes. Give Ohio State credit for making plays when it mattered, but the secondary allowed Barrett to completely dissect them, and they were exposed in their first test of the season so far.
4. Penn State could not take advantage of good field position
Urban Meyer learned early on Saturday afternoon not to kick the ball off to Saquon Barkley. With that said, Penn State was able to start each drive where they received a kickoff on at least their own 30-yard-line on every drive except one following the opening kick, and still could not convert. After a J.T. Barrett fumble to end Ohio State’s first drive of the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions were forced to punt. Even after the Buckeyes took the lead with 1:53 to play, Penn State still had the ball on their own 41-yard-line, but could not even convert a first down.
5. Penn State will need outside help to reach the Big Ten championship, and even more help to reach the College Football Playoff.
This is probably the most obvious takeaway from Penn State’s loss on Saturday, but is certainly worth mentioning. The Nittany Lions no longer control their own destiny with regard to the Big Ten race or the national title conversation. Head coach James Franklin mentioned postgame just how crazy this sport is, and all Penn State can do is win out. Penn State will be favored in each of its four remaining games, and Ohio State still has to travel to Iowa and Michigan. While very unlikely that Penn State can find their way back into the Big Ten East race, this is college football. Strange things have happened already this season, and there could be more twists and turns down the line.
Zach Kaplan is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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