COLUMBUS, Ohio - A beautiful day at Ohio Stadium started off with ominous tones as the Buckeyes took a 14-3 deficit into the locker room at the half. But 35 unanswered points behind 190 yards of rushing by Dan Herron made all the difference as Ohio State kept its hopes of a Big Ten title alive with a 35-14 over Penn State in front of a sellout crowd.
The Buckeyes came out flat and only mustered 147 yards of total offense including 89 yards on the ground but in the second half erupted for 225 yards on the ground in the second thirty minutes.
Saturday's comeback also marks the largest comeback of Jim Tressel's career at Ohio State. But while there was room for celebration after the game there is no denying that this team didn't get it done in the first 30 minutes.
"We weren't a great first half team," Tressel said. "That's the facts. I guess we just do a bad job after open weeks or something. But they played their fannies off in the second half and I am proud of them."
The play of the game that everyone kept referring to happened in the second half when the Buckeyes stopped the Nittany Lions on a short 4th-and-1 play when the Buckeye defense swarmed Silas Redd and forced a turnover on downs. While Ohio State did not get any points out of the play it did stop Penn State from taking larger than a 14-3 lead into the half and the Buckeyes were able to build upon that.
"We had great penetration up front," defensive end Cameron Heyward said. "The corners it in the backfield. We just shut it down."
"We knew we had to stop them," linebacker Andrew Sweat said. "We didn't play great in the first half. We have to know how to handle adversity and handle success."
The first half of the game however looked like a totally different contest with the Buckeyes squandering opportunities and allowing Penn State to exert its will at will.
The Buckeyes squandered a trip into the red zone early and had to settle for a Devin Barclay field goal to go up 3-0. With 4:10 left in the first quarter the Nittany Lions passed for their first ever touchdown reception at Ohio State during the Big Ten era when quarterback Matt McGloin hit Justin Brown from 23 yards out. Derek Moye was the beneficiary of the second ever TD reception from six yards out.
With that being said the Buckeyes were fortunate to go into the locker room only down 11 points but after coming up short at Wisconsin there was a fear that this book had already been written.
"We were there before with Wisconsin and we didn't get the outcome we wanted," defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said. "Since then we have assessed how we can come back and really applied it tonight."
And Ohio State's success was Penn State's downfall.
"We didn't execute quite as well," Penn State head coach Joe Paterno said. "I give Ohio State some credit. They played better in the second half."
The Buckeyes ran off 35 straight points including a pair of 'pick sixes' by Devon Torrence and Travis Howard. Torrence had been picked on in the first half several times and got a dose of redemption with his score.
But it was Ohio State's first score of the half that showed that this team had learned something when the Buckeyes went 96 yards on 11 plays and capped it off with a five yard Boom Herron run to get back into the game. After that point the crowd got back into the game and it seemed as if it were only a matter of time before the tides would completely turn.
Now the Buckeyes have to put this game behind them and quickly prepare for the final road game of the season at Iowa. The Hawkeyes lost a close game to Northwestern in Evanston (Ill.) and are essentially out of the Big Ten chase. Now they would love to play spoiler for the Buckeyes and it will take Ohio State's best effort to keep in the chase for the BCS.