It was often times ugly, but Ohio State pulled out a huge win over Penn State in a defensive slug fest. The defense dominated and star receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. came up big for the Buckeyes who added another signature win to their body of work with the first playoff rankings coming out in the not so distant future.
Let’s get to the Instant Observations….
1. Scared money don’t make money. I thought a big early turning point in this game was James Franklin’s decision to punt on 4th and 1 from his own 45. It was a strange play call on 3rd and 1 to throw if they weren’t going to go for it and then after calling a timeout he calls for the punt team. Penn State had just put together its first successful drive, kicking a field goal, and looked like it was on the move again. Thought it was a pretty big momentum killer for PSU.
2. Jordan Hancock. Game Ball. Tremendous performance from Jordan. We’re talking about someone who hasn’t had it easy his first few years on campus and had finally really settled in at the nickel spot this season. Now, as he is finally getting settled in, he’s asked to step in for Burke who had been playing at an All-American level on the outside. Hancock juggled both nickel and outside corner duties throughout the game and made several big plays for the Buckeyes, even getting a TFL on a run-blitz. Ohio State needed guys to step up in the secondary today and they definitely did.
3. And hats off to Jermaine Mathews. Tremendous game for the true freshman who was incredibly composed. That PBU in the 3rd quarter where the ball floated for seemingly an eternity could have made Mathews panic and get a flag or get beat on the 50/50 ball, but he just stayed right with it and trusted his positioning and technique. Looks very much in line to be the next great corner in Columbus.
4. I don’t know what it is about Penn State that brings it all out of J.T. Tuimoloau, but once again the big guy showed up with an excellent performance. A key sack coming off the OSU special teams turnover and then getting to Allar on 4th down in the 4th quarter. He’d be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft if he could play PSU every week.
5. I’ve waited six years to do this. Josh Proctor, STUD! Was one of my favorite prospects back in the 2018 class. It’s taken a long time through position changes, struggles, injuries, and poor coaching. Now that things have stabilized on the defensive staff, Proctor is taking off and becoming the impact player that I thought he could be.
6. Absolutely baffled by the 3rd and 4th down decisions inside the PSU 5 near the 2nd of the third quarter. The 3rd and goal inside the 1 was the absolute perfect time to run a QB sneak. There’s virtually a 0% chance that two QB sneaks don’t get you in the end zone there. Instead, Williams get stuffed in the backfield and at that point, given how the game was going, it made sense to take your medicine and kick the field goal to go up 7. Penn State’s offense hadn’t proven it could drive the field all game long and putting yourself up a touchdown there was the smart play. Then the punt gaffe where Styles gets hit with the ball where Jayden Ballard didn’t attempt to catch the punt and certainly didn’t see to be yelling at Styles to get away. Unbelievably lucky to survive that sequence.
7. Take this however you want to take it. Ohio State has won 52 games under Ryan Day. In how many of those 52 games has a key play on special teams won the game or turned the tide for Ohio State? And in how many of those 52 games did the Buckeyes pull it off despite a special teams gaffe?
Ohio State has lost just six games in the Ryan Day era. In how many of those games did a special teams mistake significantly harm their chances of winning that game? Something has to give there.
8. This was a really wonky game for the offense. I don’t think the offensive line played particularly well. Kyle McCord’s play seemed to vary wildly from series to series, the backs mostly did what they could, but are kind of limited from a big play perspective and the only wide receiver other than Marv that was getting open at all was Carnell Tate. Credit to Penn State who has a really good defense though. I guess I can’t really complain too much about the offense when it scored the exact number of points that I predicted it would score in this one.
9. We got our answer on the Hayden redshirt question. They are clearly going to try to protect it. I don’t understand why he didn’t play today. I like Chip and Williams enough, but Hayden opens up the entire run game. You can’t run stretch with Williams, it just doesn’t work. Even that speed option early in the game where there was nothing but daylight ended up being a four-yard gain because the burst isn’t there. Tough runners between the tackles, but there’s no reason to not have Hayden be a part of this running attack because he gives you the most flexibility of any of the backs that were available today.
10. Ultimately to win games like this, you need your best players to be your best players. Marvin Harrison Jr., early drop aside, came up huge for this struggling offense today. And he’ll have to do the same thing next month in Ann Arbor if they want to win that one.
Two bonus observations today,,,
11. Survive and Advance. We should realize by now this isn’t going to look as pretty as it has in some previous years, but this is a team that already has two wins over teams that I believe will finish in the Top 10 when the dust settles. These close games will build character and pay dividends down the road.
12. Best game Jim Knowles has called since arriving in Columbus. Dialed up the pressure at all the right times. Mixed up the looks upfront and had Drew Allar off balance all game.