Penn State Travels to Ohio State Looking for Critical Leaders Division Win

Story posted November 19, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by Matt Lawrence

Penn State Travels to Ohio State Looking for Critical Leaders Division Win

In his second week as head coach following the firing of Joe Paterno, Tom Bradley leads a grieving Penn State squad into Columbus to take on first-year interim head coach Luke Fickell and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes need a win along with a Wisconsin loss to remain in contention for the Leaders Division title whereas a Penn State can clinch at least a tie with a win.

Both teams are attempting to rebound following heartbreaking losses a week ago. In the first game in 46 years that Paterno was not head coach, the Lions’ second half surge fell short in a 17-14 loss to Nebraska. On the other hand, Ohio State may have blown their chances at the division crown when they were upset by Purdue, 26-23 in overtime.

Penn State’s struggles at “The Horseshoe” are well documented. The Buckeyes have won seven of the past eight meetings in Columbus including a 38-14 thumping last season. What has turned into one of the premier rivalries in the Big Ten will have a completely different feel this Saturday.

Following the Ohio State scandal that saw numerous Buckeye players receiving benefits from local boosters, head coach Jim Tressel stepped down after ten seasons. And the Penn State child abuse scandal that has scanned the country leaves the Lions with a new face at the top. The classic matchup that has produced so many defensive struggles over the years will not be seen this year.

On the football side of things, the Lions and Buckeyes are nearly mirror images of each other. Offensively, both rely heavily on the ground game. Penn State’s Silas Redd was averaging nearly 130 yards per game in conference play until injuring his shoulder last weekend. For the Buckeyes, since returning from suspension, senior Dan “Boom” Herron has rushed for 477 yards in four games.

Continuing with the similarity theme, both teams started the season without a starting quarterback and utilized a two-quarterback system for the first few weeks. Freshman Braxton Miller has taken the reigns of the Ohio State team and has gradually improved each week. Miller has only thrown for 679 yards in nine games, but most of his work comes on the ground where he ranks second on the team with 490 yards.

For the first time all season, Matt McGloin is listed as the lone starting quarterback. McGloin has yet to perform at the same level as he did in the second half of last season, and Penn State’s 195 yards per game through the air places them eighth in the conference. With the status of Redd still unknown, look for McGloin to target star wide out Derek Moye more than normally.

But like always, defense is what carries both squads. Devon Still, recently named as one of five finalists for the Nagurski Award for top defensive lineman in the country, anchors the Penn State defense which ranks third in the country in scoring defense at 12.9 points per game. After back-to-back career high performances, linebacker Gerald Hodges struggled a bit last week against the Nebraska option attack. He still leads the team with 86 tackles on the season.

The Buckeyes will be without their leading tackler Andrew Sweat this weekend. The senior linebacker is still lingering from a concussion suffered against Purdue. Ohio State has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 30 straight games and with a secondary that proved vulnerable in last week’s loss, the Buckeyes will need to shut down the Penn State ground game. Up front, they are led by defensive tackle John Simon whose six sacks ranks third in the Big Ten.

The game will be broadcast live on ComRadio. Tune in at 2:30 p.m. for the Pregame Show and then at 3:30 for kickoff and the complete live broadcast from Columbus.

Matt Lawrence is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email mdl5249@psu.edu.