STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - When Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller went down with an injury last weekend it made the entire Buckeye fan base wonder if Miller would be up to his old tricks this week at Penn State. Three touchdowns later and 277 yards of total offense proved that the sophomore signal caller was feeling no ill effects as the Buckeyes (9-0, 4-0) took care of Penn State (5-3, 3-1) 35-23.
The Ohio State defense held Penn State to 36 yards on the ground and sacked Matt McGloin four times.
"We are getting more comfortable together as a staff and as a defensive unit," Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. "I think that everything is start click a little bit more."
McGloin passed for 327 yards against the Ohio State pass defense with two touchdowns while Kyle Carter led the way with six receptions for the Nittany Lions. Evan Spencer was the leading receiver for Ohio State in receptions with three but Jake Stoneburner made the most out of his two catches with one going for a 72-yard score when the Buckeyes were looking to put more separation between themselves and the Nittany Lions.
"This is the first time I have experienced this stadium and their crowd and this is big league atmosphere," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. "The one thing about coming on the road is you find out about your team because it is s glad type mentality that it is us against the world and our guys seem to thrive on that."
Things didn't start off to Ohio State's liking after a scoreless first quarter when Mike Hull got in and blocked a Ben Buchanan punt and Michael Yancich fell on it for the first score of the game. It is the third straight game where the Buckeyes have made a major blunder on the special teams.
But the Buckeyes came back late in the half and got the benefit of a hold during a punt to extend a drive. It was a steady dose of Miller and Carlos Hyde rushing on that series and Hyde went behind the right tackle to plunge in from a yard to tie it at 7-all with less than a minute to go.
The Buckeyes only had 145 yards in the first half but the defense held PSU to 149 yards of total offense by comparison. Penn State held the ball for nine more minutes of possession during the first 30 minutes, all things considered the Buckeyes were doing well to be tied up at that point.
"I thought our defense played great in the first half," Meyer said. (By a) slow start you might mean the offense. I think their defensive personnel had a little something to do with that. they are good players... we were a little bit close to the vest."
Things heated up for the Buckeyes in the 2nd half on offense, but it was all sparked by the defense. Ryan Shazier had back-to-back big plays, first sacking McGloin and then stepping in front of a pass for an interception and 17 yard touchdown. The Buckeyes were up 14-7 before having an offensive series in the half and Shazier made plays happen.
After yielding a Penn State field goal the Buckeyes would start to pour it on with Miller. Miller had a pair of 1-yard TD runs but one of them will make the highlight reels for some time as it appeared the ball was going to Hyde, who got stuffed, but Miller kept it and made several players miss from five yards out (the TD was credited from the one-yard-line) and a diving play into the end zone. The 107-thousand PSU fans in the building were left speechless and Ohio State's brought the energy (a.k.a. 'juice') and stained Penn State's plans with the White Out.
"I was just trying to get the touchdown," Miller said after the game. "My adrenaline was just pumping because I saw the touchdown like five yards away so I got to do what I got to do to get the touchdown."
Miller's 143 yards on the ground pushed him over the 1,000 yard mark for the season. Oddly enough, Miller is Meyer's first 1,000 yard rusher ever.
Penn State would not go away however and McGloin hooked up with Matt Lehman from two yards out to draw the game to 12 points. Penn State would miss the 2-point try and the score was 28-16 with close to ten minutes left.
Miller picked up half of his passing yards on the 72-yard TD reception to Stoneburner when the Ohio State tight end/wide receiver flashed over the middle and made the catch and pulled away from the Penn State defense.
In the final two minutes the Nittany Lions tacked on a score to draw it back to 12 points but the damage had been done and the Buckeyes got out of town with a big win to stay unbeaten. But the Buckeye defenders still were disappointed to yield late points.
"They we were giving us a run for our money there at the end," defensive end John Simon said. "We are not supposed to get tired but maybe sometimes it happens."
The defense however will take the run defense numbers with 36 yards on the ground after sack yardage. Earlier this season at Michigan State the Buckeyes gave up 34 yards to the Spartans.
"We put our hard hats on, on the road. Michigan State and here we held them to low yardage on the rush so we did a great job with that," defensive lineman Nathan Williams said. "We just have to fix up a couple of things in the back end and we will be good."
The Buckeyes will have a chance to work on that next week when they host Illinois at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff will be announced next week.