Saturday’s betting-heavy first quarter had two heavyweight fighters feeling down their vaunted opponents, and the takeaways were pretty clear to the watching public: Penn State and Ohio State are remarkably similar ballclubs.
Both teams relied heavily on their stingy defenses — when was the last time you saw Ohio State kneel in the locker room with three timeouts — and worked through the growing pains inherent in a young, inexperienced quarterback. However, while PSU’s struggling quarterback Drew Allard found no comfort in an unproven receiving corps, Ohio State’s Kyle McCord was able to pull away for the Nittany Lions in a Maserati.
Marvin Harrison Jr. solidified his first-round candidacy on Saturday, making 11 receptions for 162 yards and a late touchdown grab that closed out Ohio State’s 20-12 win on Saturday.
During OSU’s opening drive, McCord seemed completely unfazed as he stared down the best defense in college football early Saturday, cutting down the secondary in blue and white and completing all five of his opening passes. The dump extended all the way to Chip Trayanum for 19 yards inside the red zone, but with the goal line breathing down its neck, Penn State’s defense finally began to match its lineage. McCord would immediately trigger three consecutive incompletions, stalling the Buckeye drive and forcing the field goal.
Both defenses continued to perform at an elite level, forcing nine punts in the first half, and Penn State’s front appeared to deliver a momentum-altering blow when linebacker Curtis Jacobs swatted the ball away from a rushing Kyle McCord and caught a perfect bounce for a 56-yard fumble touchdown on Second Quarter.
Completely unbeknownst to a jubilant Jacobs as he staggered down the sideline in celebration, however, Penn State’s secondary was whistled for a defensive hold, giving Ohio State’s offense new life and a new set of downs. McCord took full advantage, nailing a throw to Harrison Jr. on the four-yard line and then handing the ball off to Mian Williams, who fought through the initial contact and stretched across the goal line for six.
Penn State broke up Williams’ score with a pair of field goals, cutting Ohio State’s lead to 10-6 heading into the locker room.
The same stingy defense consumed the entire third quarter, with seven combined possessions amounting to five punts, a turnover on downs and a fumble recovery. But when Ohio State opened the fourth quarter looking to extend a four-point lead, McCord turned to reliable Harrison Jr. and Cade Stover — the duo combined for 81 percent of OSU’s receiving yards on Saturday — for a pair of 30-yard grabs to push the Buckeyes inside opposing territory. .
Ohio State made a crucial 40-yard field goal, and a huge fourth down stop in front of midfield for the Buckeye defense created a short field that Harrison Jr. eventually conquered with a 13-yard TD score. Penn State managed a comfortable touchdown in the final minute, but the Buckeyes secured the onside kick and improved to 7-0 on the season.
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