On Saturday night, top-ranked Ohio State returned to the scene of its last regular season loss.
This time, though, the Buckeyes handled Penn State and its White-Out without difficulty.
Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns and the Buckeyes rolled to a 37-17 win over No. 24 Penn State before a Beaver Stadium crowd of 110,134 and a national prime time audience on ABC.
“It was nice to come here and get the win,” said OSU coach Jim Tressel. “Penn State is a good football team and this is a hard place to play. It’s a hard place to prepare to play. They came out of the gate and made it tough on us. Our kids hung in there and did a good job of controlling the game with our offense.
“All in all, the kids played hard. They prepared hard and that’s nine ballgames.”
The victory allowed OSU match the Big Ten record for consecutive conference wins at 19, tying a record set by Michigan in 1990-92. The Buckeyes also extended their school-record regular season winning streak to 27 games. That streak dates to OSU’s 17-10 loss to Penn State in 2005 in its last trip to Happy Valley.
How dominant were the Buckeyes, who improved to 9-0 overall and 5-0 in Big Ten play?
* Penn State (6-3, 3-3) was allowing just 279.5 yards per game coming in. Ohio State had 284 yards at halftime on its way to 453 yards total offense.
* The Buckeyes put together three touchdown drives of 80 yards or longer, moving 80, 91 and 87 yards for scores.
* Ohio State had one touchdown and another big play called back – one by penalty and the other on an overturned call by instant replay. Each time, OSU scored a backbreaking touchdown moments later.
* The Buckeyes were 12 of 16 on third-down conversions and they never punted.
* And OSU also held the ball for nearly 38 minutes of clock time.
You get the picture.
“We couldn’t stop them,” said Penn State coach Joe Paterno. “That’s a good football team. They played really well. I thought at halftime we had a shot because they were kicking off to us, but we couldn’t make it happen.”
Boeckman was 19 of 26 passing for 253 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
“He had the one throw he tried to nurse a little bit,” Tressel said. “He tried to slip it in there and didn’t throw it with the authority he threw it with the rest of the game. I thought he had good footwork and he stepped up into the pocket well. I think he threw with a lot of confidence tonight and that comes from not having a lot of guys in his face.”
Boeckman said the Buckeyes prepared well for the noise associated with PSU’s White-Out.
“Back in Columbus, we just played some music all practice,” Boeckman said. “We were kind of getting used to it by communicating with hand signals. We did a lot of silent count out there, too. That also helped us.”
He did business with Brian Hartline, who had four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Ray Small added two catches for 66 yards, while Brian Robiskie had four catches for 59 yards. Tight end Rory Nicol had a career-high six grabs for 39 yards.
Tailback Chris “Beanie” Wells also excelled. He had 133 yards on 25 carries. Wells notched his sixth 100-yard game of the year and ended up just shy of the 1,000-yard mark on the year with 996 yards.
“When his pad level is low, he’s tough to deal with,” Tressel said. “That also says we were knocking guys off the ball.”
The OSU defense stymied Penn State again and again. OSU cornerback Malcolm Jenkins provided the cherry on top by intercepting a pass from PSU’s Anthony Morelli and returning it 24 yards for a touchdown and a 34-10 lead with 9:36 left in the game.
Morelli was 12 of 21 passing for 111 yards with the one interception. PSU tailback Rodney Kinlaw was held to 81 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries.
“We were trying to affect Morelli and get after him a little bit,” said OSU linebacker James Laurinaitis. We didn’t do so well in the beginning. But we kept pressuring him and we kept coming. We kept giving him different looks.”
Penn State won the coin toss, but deferred its choice until the second half. OSU got the ball to open the game and moved 45 yards in eight plays to the game’s first points. On OSU’s second play with second-and-8 from the OSU 24, Boeckman threw down the seam to Robiskie for a 27-yard gain. Boeckman then found Hartline for an 8-yard gain on a screen. Wells’ 4-yard run gave OSU a first down at the Penn State 37.
But Boeckman had a pair of incompletions sandwiched around a 4-yard pass to Robiskie. On fourth-and-4 at the PSU 33, Ryan Pretorius came on and booted a 50-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 12:16 left in the first quarter.
Penn State answered with a sharp nine-play, 78-yard scoring march. Morelli got it started with his 12-yard toss to Norwood. Kinlaw then followed that up with a 21-yard run up the middle to the OSU 34. On first down there, Morelli hit tight end Andrew Quarless on a crossing pattern for a 30-yard gain down to the OSU 4. Three plays later, Kinlaw ran through a huge hole at left tackle for the 2-yard touchdown and a 7-3 Penn State lead with 8:25 left in the first quarter.
Ohio State came right back with a quick six-play, 80-yard scoring march. Boeckman converted a third-and-1 predicament with a 3-yard gain on a quarterback sneak. On first down from the OSU 32, Boeckman dropped and threw deep down the right sideline to Small. Small got behind PSU’s Lydell Sargeant and hauled the bomb in at the PSU 20. Sargeant recovered to make the touchdown saving tackle at the PSU 8.
“The corner rolled up and I shot off,” Small said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, man, I know what’s coming.’ By the time I look up, the ball is coming down and there it is.”
But the Buckeyes soon found the end zone, though, as on second-and-goal from the 9, Boeckman threw a perfect out pass to Robiskie in the right side of the end zone. Robiskie hauled it in front of PSU’s Justin King for the 9-yard touchdown and a 10-7 OSU lead with 4:59 left in the first quarter.
“That was just a good read by Todd,” Robiskie said. “We had a route called where I had an option to go inside or outside. Todd did a good job of sitting back and letting me work to get open and he made a good throw.”
On Penn State’s ensuing possession, defensive end Vernon Gholston made a key third-down sack on Morelli to force a punt. The Buckeyes took over after that punt on their own 9-yard line.
Ohio State then went on a determined 15-play, 91-yard scoring march that lasted nearly 6-1/2 minutes. This was a mixture of nifty passing by Boeckman and hard running by Wells. On the drive, Boeckman completed 4 of 6 passes on the drive for 52 yards. Wells added 35 yards on six carries on this possession. Boeckman converted a pair of early third downs with throws of 6 yards to Small and 11 yards to tight end Rory Nicol.
Wells then took over and had consecutive punishing runs of 7, 9 and 7 yards to give the Buckeyes a first down at the PSU 31. On first down there, Boeckman threw a deep out down the right sideline to Robiskie for 19 more yards down to the PSU 12. On third-and-4 from the 6, Wells took a toss right, cut back and appeared to score a touchdown. But OSU tackle Kirk Barton was flagged for holding on the play.
Undaunted, the Buckeyes faced third-and-14 at the 16. Boeckman faked a give and threw a screen right to Hartline. He had linemen Steve Rehring and Alex Boone leading the way and he rolled into the end zone for the 16-yard touchdown and a 17-7 lead with 9:53 left in the first half.
“It was nice,” Hartline said. “It was nice to get one on the board after we had been stopped for a field goal earlier. It was good to get that one. To have those guys out in front blocking for me, that was icing on the cake. I didn’t know what to do. It was so clear. I wanted to run and dive, but it was so clear I couldn’t.
“It was a good play and it worked out. It was a good call. I always like to see those big huge guys out in front of me.”
Tressel said it was important to go up by two scores early in the game.
“That was big,” the coach said. “If you only go up six there, that’s almost a moral victory for the defense. To go up 10, that was a big play.”
Ohio State had a chance to add to the lead late in the half. But a holding penalty on guard Ben Person pushed OSU back to a first-and-20 on its own 45. Boeckman tried to fit a pass into a covered Hartline, and PSU linebacker Dan Connor made the easy interception at the PSU 41 with 4:57 left. The Lions got one first down on their ensuing possession, but could not threaten.
Penn State came into the game allowing 279.5 yards per game. At the half, OSU had 284 yards total offense. Boeckman was 11 of 17 passing for 189 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, while Wells had 68 yards on 15 carries. OSU held the ball for nearly 18 minutes in the first half.
Penn State had the ball to start the second half, but had to punt after driving to midfield. This is when OSU embarked on a 13-play, 87-yard scoring march. This drive was keyed by 17-yard runs by Chris Wells and Maurice Wells. On first down at the PSU 23, Boeckman stood in under blitz pressure and lobbed a pass to Robiskie at the PSU 1. However, upon further review by the instant replay official, it was ruled that Robiskie had bobbled the pass and it was incomplete.
That did not matter to OSU, though. On third-and-2 from the PSU 15, Boeckman executed a play fake and threw a perfect 15-yard touchdown pass over the top to tight end Jake Ballard. Ballard got behind PSU’s Sargeant on the play. OSU led 24-7 with 6:10 left in the third quarter.
“It was a play-fake, a fake power,” Ballard said. “As soon as I walked up to the line, I saw the safety and the corner bite on it just enough for me to get past them and get into the end zone. The fullback is supposed to be the first read, but I didn’t see him. I think Todd just trusted me and threw it up to me.
“Our game is all about the power running game. If they don’t respect our running game, we’ll run it down their throats. Todd fakes pretty well, too.”
Penn State then drove from its own 28 to the OSU 10. But Morelli threw a pair of incompletions there, the second one forced by pressure from Gholston. Kevin Kelly’s 27-yard field goal cut the OSU lead to 24-10.
Ohio State got those points back by driving 58 yards down to the PSU 20. Wells had runs of 12 and 13 yards on this possession, which was capped by Pretorius’ 37-yard field goal to make it 27-10 with 9:52 left.
Just two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Morelli threw his pick in the right flat to Jenkins. Jenkins, who also had an interception return for a touchdown off Morelli a year ago, took it 24 yards to the house. OSU led 34-10 with 9:36 left.
“We got great pressure from the D-line and it was a bad throw,” Jenkins said. “Luckily, I was able to come up with the ball and make the score.”
Ohio State quickly regained possession as OSU safety Kurt Coleman hit PSU receiver Jordan Norwood, forcing a fumble that teammate Donald Washington recovered with 8:11 left. That led to Pretorius’ 35-yard field goal and a 37-10 lead with 3:30 left.
A.J. Wallace then returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, trimming the gap to 37-17 with 3:16 left.
* The crowd of 110,134 is the second largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history.
* The touchdown drive by Penn State in the first quarter gave PSU a 7-3 lead. OSU found itself trailing for the first time since it fell behind Washington 7-3 at halftime – a span of 22 quarters over five-plus games.
That touchdown also marked the first points scored against the OSU defense in the first quarter this season. Akron had a safety for the only previous points scored against OSU in the first quarter.
With Penn State’s other touchdown coming on the kick return, the OSU defense has allowed only five offensive touchdowns in nine games this season.
* Pretorius converted all three field goal attempts Saturday and is now 16-for-19 on the season (.842) and 6-for-7 from 40 yards and beyond (.857).
* Junior Marcus Freeman led the Buckeyes with a season-high 14 tackles Saturday, which were one shy of his career high.
* Jenkins’ interception return for a score was Ohio State’s third defensive touchdown of the season and Jenkins’ second career interception return for a touchdown against Penn State. He returned a pick 61 yards for a score last season against the Nittany Lions in Ohio Stadium.
* Penn State is now 4-10 all-time against the nation’s No. 1-ranked team. The last two times Penn State faced the nation’s No. 1 team, Ohio State provided the opposition. That includes a 28-9 OSU win in 1998 in Columbus and a 28-6 OSU win last year in Columbus.
This was just the second time Penn State has ever hosted the No. 1 team. The other time was in 1989, when then-No. 1 Notre Dame won 34-23 at Beaver Stadium.
Paterno’s teams are now 4-8 all-time against No. 1 teams.
* OSU is now 27-8 all-time against ranked teams under Tressel, including a 23-7 win at Purdue earlier this year.
* Under Tressel, the Buckeyes have now compiled a conference record of 43-10 (.811). That includes a road record of 20-7 (.741) in Big Ten games under Tressel.
* Under Tressel, Ohio State is now 8-4 in regular season night games. That includes a mark of 6-3 in road night games. OSU got road night wins at Northwestern in 2002, Texas and Iowa last year and Minnesota and Purdue this season. The road losses were at Wisconsin in 2003, Northwestern in 2004 and Penn State in 2005.
OSU is now 25-10 in road night games since 1959 and 31-11 in night games all-time.
* Ohio State has now won 12 straight road games dating to the 2005 loss at Penn State.
* The Buckeyes have now won 27 consecutive regular season games, dating to the 2005 loss at Penn State. The previous school record for consecutive regular-season wins was 21, set from 1967-69.
* With this win, Ohio State tied the Big Ten record for consecutive conference wins with 19. That streak also dates to that 2005 loss at Penn State. Michigan set the record for consecutive conference wins with 19 from 1990-92.
* Ohio State now has an all-time record of 66-9-1 as the nation’s No. 1 team, including 2-0 this season.
* This victory gives Ohio State a 12-11 edge in its all-time series with Penn State. OSU now leads the Big Ten series since 1993 at 10-5. PSU still holds a 5-4 all-time edge in games played in University Park, Pa.
* The Buckeyes return home to host Wisconsin (7-2, 3-2) next Saturday. The time and television assignment has not been announced. It will either be at noon on the Big Ten Network or at 3:30 p.m. on a regional broadcast by ABC. The Badgers defeated Indiana 33-3 on Saturday.
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