Game Grades: Ohio State
Penn State’s 17-point third quarter wasn’t enough to overcome a highly talented Ohio State team. Backup quarterback Will Levis sparked a quick comeback, as the Nittany Lions produced 17 unanswered points after starting quarterback Sean Clifford exited the game with an injury. However, the more complete Ohio State team dropped Penn State’s record to 9-2 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten with a 28-17 victory. Let’s discuss this week’s game grades.
The mismatch between Penn State's average offense and Ohio State's elite defense was evident from the first snap. Penn State lacked its normal explosiveness and failed to find any weaknesses in Ohio State's defense until the third quarter. Before Clifford's injury, he was only playing OK, passing 10-for-17 for only 71 yards. Journey Brown played fairly well, rushing for 64 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries. The Nittany Lions also converted 6 of 15 tries on third down against one of the best defensive units in the country, which isn’t terrible. Nevertheless, backup quarterback Will Levis rejuvenated a dull Penn State offensive unit. Levis looked calm and prepared, rushing for 61 yards and passing 6-for-11 for 57 yards. Ultimately, Penn State's options on offense were limited, but the Nittany Lions were able to make something out of it.
The defensive unit didn’t neutralize the electric Justin Fields, but it did make the plays necessary to provide the offense with chances to get back in the game. The defense held an electric Ohio State offense to just 28 points, allowing only a single touchdown per quarter. Lamont Wade played a huge role, forcing three turnovers, along with Micah Parsons and Garrett Taylor, who both tallied 10 tackles. In the trenches, Yetur Gross-Matos picked up two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. Overall, forcing four fumbles and limiting a highly-skilled Ohio State offense made the Penn State defense worthy of a good grade.
Special Teams: C
On the bright side, Jake Pinegar drilled a 42-yard field goal to make it 21-17 in tough winds, and Jordan Stout performed well on kickoffs, as all four of his went back for touchbacks. The issues on special teams began after KJ Hamler had a nice 26-yard return on the opening kickoff. Hamler called for a fair catch every other kick that went toward him, including a few that could have been returned. Blake Gillikin found himself in tough punting situations throughout the game, but he didn’t do much to help himself. Gillikin struggled, as only two of his six punts landed inside the 20. He did have a 40-yard boot, but Ohio State generally started with great field position.
The defensive unit returned to form after a few bad weeks by containing Ohio State to 14 points in each half. At times, it looked like Ohio State could have run away with the game, but the defense was able to hold its own. Accounting for how skilled Ohio State is offensively along with past struggles in the secondary and pass rush, the defense was clearly prepared, signaling that the coaching staff made sure to know that the defense couldn’t take this game lightly. James Franklin and the other coaches didn’t make any irrational decisions either. The biggest issue within the coaching was the lack of consistency and creativity in the offense. As bowl games loom, the offensive play-calling needs to be addressed.
Jordan Hession is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.