JT Tuimoloau Has His Coming Out Party, Crashes Penn State’s Simultaneously

Story posted October 30, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Zach Donaldson

"This was kind of his coming-out party,” Buckeyes’ head coach Ryan Day said about Ohio State defensive end JT Tuimoloau.

There were a handful of noteworthy performances in No. 2 Ohio State’s 44-31 victory over No. 13 Penn State, on both the winning and losing side. But perhaps none more than Tuimoloau.

Tuimoloau had already pieced together the most impressive performance of his collegiate career, and probably one of the best in program history. But he wasn’t finished just yet, and still had the dagger hiding in his back pocket.

With under three minutes to go on the clock after the Buckeyes just delivered a devastating blow to the Nittany Lions, they got the ball back down two touchdowns.

Tuimoloau trucked right tackle Bryce Effner into the turf and plucked Clifford’s pass out of the air, high stepping 14-yards into the end zone as Penn State fans gazed on in disbelief, while others headed for the exits.


"It happened and I just blacked out," Tuimoloau said.

The fourth quarter pick-6 was one of four turnovers Tuimoloau was responsible for on the day, and it put a cherry on top of one of an already eye-popping performance. Tuimoloau made life miserable for Effner and quarterback Sean Clifford all game long.

In addition to delivering the dagger, Tuimoloau arguably triggered the turning point of the game too. After a touchdown run by TreVeyon Henderson giving the Buckeyes a 23-21 lead, Clifford had the chance to cement his legacy at Penn State and pull off the seemingly impossible with still plenty of time remaining - but Tuimoloau remained firmly in his way.

Clifford dropped back to pass on second down and was stripped by Tuimoloau, who happened to recover the fumble as well.


Tuimoloau gave the Buckeyes the ball back deep in the Nittany Lions’ territory, to which they would then turn into a touchdown.

“You can’t turn the ball over that many times against that type of opponent and think you’re going to be successful,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said. “That’s something we’ve done a good job of this year, but not today.”

It wouldn’t be surprising if Clifford saw Tuimoloau in his nightmares on Saturday night, as he was in the backfield on what seemed like every play, adding two sacks and three tackles-for-loss to an already stuffed stat sheet.

Of all the turnovers Tuimoloau had a hand in, the first one was his favorite.


“It was a huge confidence booster. Just seeing Zach get the pick, it made me very happy,” Tuimoloau said.

Tuimoloau did things that you don’t see every day from a defensive end.

Like, c’mon.


He was five yards down the field in coverage to snag his first interception of the game - it's anything but ordinary in the most outstanding way possible.

“I have to shout out coach [Jim Knowles],” Tuimoloau said. “He’s allowed us to show that versatility and I think his trust in me allows me to do those things, so I’ve got to thank him.”

Clifford didn’t address the turnovers or Tuimoloau’s performance postgame, but both inevitably plagued him in his last crack at the Buckeyes.

It could’ve gone a lot differently as Ohio State got 21 points off those four turnovers – 14 in the fourth quarter that were undoubtedly the catalysts of Penn State’s collapse.

“The game starts and ends with the turnovers,” Franklin said.

Penn State has come dangerously close to defeating the Buckeyes in recent years, and this year was no different. “JTT” just decided to show up and crash the party in its own house.

Zach Donaldson is a fifth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zach.donaldson1@gmail.com.