The hopes of an unprecedented third straight outright Big Ten title and National Championship appearance for the Buckeyes were dashed with this past Saturday's 13-6 loss at the hands of Penn St. The game essentially came down to one play, when Terrelle Pryor fumbled in his own territory in the 4th quarter, leading to Penn St's game winning touchdown.
I'm getting so sick and tired of everyone in the national media saying that Ohio St can't win "the big game" and that these losses are somehow Tressel's fault as a result of a lack of preparation. This is starting to get ridiculous. This may sound crazy, but let me throw this out there. Maybe it's not that Ohio St can't win big games, maybe they just lose to teams that are better than them. I know, that theory is a bit out there, but just follow me here. Did we lose to Florida, LSU, USC and Penn St because we "choked," or was it simply because Florida, LSU, USC and Penn St are better than us? If anything, Tressel deserves extra credit for always beating the teams that he should beat. I digress, onto the game.
The first quarter saw both teams combine for 109 yards and four punts. Real exciting. This was a sign of things to come, as the entire game was dominated by defense. Three more punts started the second quarter until Penn St drove 76 yards and settled for a Kevin Kelly field goal. Points! Ohio St got the ball back with under a minute and a half to go, and actually managed to move the ball for the first time all game. Pryor hooked up with Brian Robiskie twice and Aaron Pettrey capped off the drive by nailing a 41 yard field goal. The teams went to the locker room tied at 3.
On their first possession of the second half, the Bucks rode Beanie, as he carried the ball 7 times on a 12 play drive. The Penn St D held up again however, and OSU settled for another Pettrey field goal. PSU responded by moving the ball on the ensuing possession, but the drive stalled with a missed field goal by Kelly. The game changed with about 11 minutes to play, when Penn St DL Mark Rubin hit TP and the ball squirted out. The Lions jumped on the ball at the OSU 38 yard line, and led me to start chugging Southern Comfort straight out of the bottle. Due to Daryll Clark's vagina being sore, backup QB Pat Devlin entered the game and led Penn St down the field, punching it in himself, giving his team a 10-6 lead. Ohio St promptly went three-and-out, and Evan Royster carried the Penn St offense on his back to set up another field goal. Ohio St got the ball back with just over a minute to go, trailing 13-6 and needing a miracle drive by an eighteen year old. Pryor hit Ray Small twice for gains of 23 and 14 yards, putting the Bucks at the PSU 43. With one last shot, TP launched one to the end zone, but was picked off by Lydell Sargeant as time expired. Final score: 13-6 Penn St.
In even, low-scoring games like this, the advantage usually goes to the home team. This was not the case here, as Penn St came into The Shoe and won for the first time since 1978. There's not too much to be said here, Penn St was a slightly better team and they slightly came away with the win. PSU's goal going into the game was obviously to stack the box and shut down Wells, which is exactly what they did. Beanie finished with 22 carries for a season low 55 yards, averaging out to a season low 2.5 YPC. Pryor managed to do even worse, rushing the ball 9 times for 6 yards. No, that's not a misprint, that's 0.7 YPC. Pryor did have a solid game throwing the ball, going 16/25 for 226 yards. Dane Sanzenbacher had a big game and led the receiving corps, catching 6 passes for 82 yards.
With the loss, Ohio St could be looking at their first non-BCS bowl game since the '04 Alamo Bowl. However, if Penn St runs the table (they better) and make it to the title game, OSU could still find themselves in the Rose Bowl (please, please don't make us play USC again).
The Bucks get a needed week off before heading to Welsh-Ryan Stadium to face Northwestern on November 8. Ohio St needs to bounce back with a big game, and a meeting with the Wildcats is just what the doctor ordered. Northwestern currently stands at a respectable 6-2, but they hold the nations 1,369th toughest schedule. The 'Cats have been the Big Ten's whipping boy since their Rose Bowl appearance in '95, and nothing has changed this year. Expect the Buckeyes to roll in this one.