Wednesday, November 11

Big Plays, Lockdown D Lifts Bucks Past PSU

Ohio St went into Happy Valley this past Saturday and avenged last season's loss and silenced many critics by beating (dare I say, dominating?) the Lions, 24-7. Daryll Clark and the Penn St offense could not move that ball a lick. Sprinkle in a few big plays by the OSU offense and special teams and this wasn't even much of a contest. With the win, the Buckeyes are now the front-runners for the Big Ten title yet again. A win at home this week against Iowa would clinch an astounding fifth straight conference title, and wins against the Hawkeyes and that school up north would give it to the Bucks outright. But we'll get to all of that later - for now, let us enjoy this one.

Game Recap

Ohio St jumped out of the gates when Ray Small returned a short punt 41 yards to place the Buckeyes inside the PSU 10-yard line just a few minutes into the game. Terrelle Pryor quickly put OSU on top with a seven-yard TD run. Ohio St's early lead was not only set up by Small's good return, but the fact that Penn St was punting from their own goal line. This would become a theme for the entire game, as the Nittany Lions could never establish any kind of field position.

After a PSU three-and-out (something we would see a lot of today), the Buckeyes moved the ball down to the Lion 26 yard line. Boom Herron lost three yards on third down, then OSU took a delay of game penalty and punted from the 34, a punt that Jon Thoma landed squarely in the end zone for a touchback. Big-legged kicker Aaron Pettrey was lost for the season in the previous game, and apparently Tressel didn't have enough confidence in Devin Barclay to attempt the 46 yarder. This is not a good sign. If we're going to punt from this part of the field, Thoma has to at least pin the opposing team inside their own ten. Giving a team the ball at the 20 when you have it at the 26 is the equivalent of a turnover. Let's hope this doesn't get to be a problem.

After the Fighting JoePa's began the game with three three-and-outs, Clark marched PSU down the field to begin the second quarter. On third and goal from the one, the 240-pound quarterback attempted to sneak it in himself, but was denied. Penn St ran another sneak on 4th down, and this time Clark was ruled in. This play was reviewed and confirmed, but I wasn't so sure. Immediately after taking the snap, Clark extended his arm to try and "break the plane" with the ball, but from my view I didn't think it crossed. It would have been a tough call to overturn, though, because it was so close. So Penn St ties the game at seven apiece, and that was about all we'd see from the Nittany Lion offense from there on out.

Ohio St responded by driving 61 yards, 39 of it on the ground, and setting up a 37-yard FG attempt. Barclay connected, putting the Buckeyes up 10-7, a lead they would never relinquish. There wasn't much else noteworthy in the first half, and OSU went into the locker room with a three-point lead.

Ohio St's defense just smothered PSU in the third quarter, but their offense couldn't move the ball much either. That was until two minutes left in the period, when OSU had a one-play, 62-yard drive. DeVier Posey beat the Lion secondary deep and Pryor threw an absolutely perfect ball, hitting Posey right in stride for the big score. This put the Bucks up 10, and with the way their defense was playing, basically sealing the deal.

At the end of the 3rd, Ray Small received a punt near his own goal line and had another great return, taking it into PSU territory. This would lead to another Buckeye touchdown, thanks to a good run by Small on an end-around. There was also a screen to Zach Boren that only went for 5 yards, but offered a fantastic highlight. When Boren turned around after the catch, he was staring down one of the nation's fiercest linebackers, Sean Lee. Boren went right after him, lowered his shoulder, and just leveled the All-Conference LB. Lee hit the deck, and Boren keep moving to the sideline. Great stuff. Going into the season the publicity was on Zach's brother, OL Justin Boren, who transferred from michigan. Zach came in as a freshman back up fullback/tight end, but has since taken over full-time FB duty and has quietly done a very good job. He is a terrific blocker, has solid hands, and obviously isn't afraid of anyone. The drive was capped off when Pryor hit Saine for a TD toss to make it 24-7. Of course, this game wouldn't be the same unless Ohio St got at least one turnover, so Ross Homan got his third INT of the year by picking off Clark late in the game to finish things.

Game Notes

Game Ball
Terrelle Pryor played mistake-free football and came up with some big plays, really all you could ask from him against the conference's top defense, but the GB has to go to someone on the defensive side of the ball. Cameron Hey(Ma)ward was all over the field this game, recording 11 tackles, 3 for a loss, and 2 sacks, and basically made Daryll Clark's life hell for 60 minutes. Cam'ron wasn't the only defender to dominate in this one. Ross Homan and Brian Rolle also had double-digit tackles, as OSU held the Big Ten's top offense to a mere 201 total yards, less than half of their season average, and forced 8 three-and-outs. I also like to keep updating this stat, because it gets more impressive by the week. In the 40 quarters that Ohio St has played in this season, they have not allowed a single point in 26 of them. Wow.
(Yes, I did make two separate Cam'ron references in this post)
Game Balls to date: Pryor, Defense (2), Saine, Coleman, Posey, Heyward

This Just In
For those that are unaware, Terrelle Pryor went to Jeannette High School, which is located in Pennsylvania. He was highly recruited by Paterno and Penn St, but turned them down to go OSU, and Lion fans are pretty bitter. Ironically enough, Daryll Clark is an Ohio native, so these two signal callers were playing against their home states. In case you didn't know any of this, ABC was kind enough to point it out a couple of different times during this telecast, and even had some helpful graphics to show where these QB's came from. In other breaking news, A.J. Hawk was dating Brady Quinn's sister at the time the two played each other in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, and Jerome Bettis is from Detroit, so he kind of had a homecoming when he played his final game there in Super Bowl XL.

Big Ten Dominance
In case the four (about to be five) straight conference titles didn't tell you enough, this game's trivia question told you how much Jim Tressel has owned the Big Ten. The question was "Which is the only Big Ten team that has defeated Tressel in back-to-back years?" The answer (which I got, go me) was Wisconsin in '03 and '04. 2003 was after OSU had just won the national title and returned the bulk of their starters, seemingly poised for a repeat. The Badgers ended those hopes when Lee Evans caught an 80 yard touchdown in the closing minutes of the game (I drunkenly left my high school's Homecoming dance early for that?) Either way, Penn St unsuccessfully tried to be the second one to do that last week. Tressel has only lost 12 conference games in his tenure in Columbus, and improved to 11-1 against those teams the following year.

Up Next: vs. Iowa, 3:30, ABC
Iowa (9-1, 5-1 in Big Ten) has been a fraud all year long, and should have at least three losses by now. Finally, Northwestern exposed the Hawkeyes last week, after QB Ricky Stanzi went down with an injury in the first half. Stanzi, who frankly isn't very good to begin with, will be out for this game, and Iowa will be starting redshirt freshman James Vanderberg (expect several Dawson's Creek jokes in next week's article). Iowa's loss last week sets up this winner-take-all matchup for the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth. Because of the championship appearances and BCS tweaks over the past decade, Ohio St has not played in a Rose Bowl since the epic win over Jake Plummer and Arizona St in the 1996 season. Iowa is simply an average football team, and I expect the Buckeyes to prove that to everyone this Saturday.
Prediction: Ohio St 32 Iowa 19


(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Author's Note: I had to go with this picture, if you remember the photo of a devastated Pryor with his head down on the sideline after last year's loss.

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