Penn State’s 38-25 loss to Ohio State Is Becoming All Too FAMILIAR
After a Penn State timeout, the Nittany Lions down by 11 took the field for a crucial 3rd and Goal from their own ten yard line. Ohio State spreads out five wide–there is confusion–who is supposed to blitz? You? Me? Okay I’ll go. Touchdown. Ohio State. A wide-open TE Ruckert was Justin Fields’ easiest pitch and catch of the evening.
For those that know me, know I am optimist when it comes to Penn State football almost to a fault. Even though I took the Nittany Lions to lose on Saturday, I thought they could hang with the Buckeyes. And while the game wasn’t put to bed until the 4th Quarter, it took a heroic effort from Jahan Dotson (8 catches, 144 yds, 3 TDs) to even keep it close.
Even though the final was a 13-point victory for the Scarlet and Grey, it was evident that Ohio State was a better team. They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball–it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the Penn State defensive line get manhandled upfront from the get-go. Then, there was QB Justin Fields (28-34, 318 yds, 4 TDs). The one-time Penn State commit, was the salt–no–hydrogen peroxide in the wound of “What if?” for head coach James Franklin & Co.
Flashback to when Fields was committed to Penn State and the Nittany Lions lost to the Buckeyes by a single point in 2017. What if they would have won that game? Would Fields have stayed committed? How many other 2019, 2020, and 2021 recruits that Franklin’s staff have missed out on would have reconsidered if Penn State finds away to win in 2018?
Instead, the Buckeyes rolled into an empty Beaver Stadium with a far superior roster led by a quarterback who failed to make more than one mistake–I think Joey Porter Jr.’s dropped interception was the only one I counted. If that was the only thing going against the Nittany Lions I think Penn State fans would OK. But as not to bury the lead too much, that wasn’t the only issue last night.
Instead we saw something that was all too familiar–a slow start coupled with lack of preparation and sprinkled with stale play calling.
It’s not that Penn State always starts slow, for example they jumped out to a quick lead against Michigan last year in the White Out, but it seems to be enough of a theme dating back to 2016. Surprisingly, it was the defense that came out on their heels, giving up a touchdown before I could even crack open a beer. The Penn State offense got a field goal in their second possession, but that was aided by a very questionable roughing the passer penalty on third down. All in all, Penn State managed just 5 first downs (none in the second quarter), 46 rushing yards (4 in the second quarter), and 29 passing yards (none in the second quarter) in the first half.
Then how about that weird sequence after a Penn State timeout, where they couldn’t get lined up properly, then they blitzed both linebackers only to set up an easy touchdown over the middle to make it 21-3. Critics of Franklin will point to that play specifically when discussing whether or not this program is regressing or progressing.
Finally, let’s talk about the play calling and man, was it a tale of two halves. Offensive coordinator, Kirk Ciarrocca wants to run the football to set up the pass. James Franklin, post game said they stressed the QB run in practice this week, which wasn’t a bad idea since Ohio State had given up over 100 rushing yards Nebraska’s QB. But how many times did Sean Clifford and Devyn Ford run into a pile of bodies for 1 yard? It was stale and I kept waiting for him to take a shot and he didn’t in the first half. Then in the second half they introduced some crossing routes and some isolation routes for Jahan Dotson and it changed the game on that side of the ball. But it was just too little too late especially when the defense couldn’t get off the field.
Penn State wasn’t supposed to go toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes on Saturday, but the way in which they continue to lose is becoming all too familiar.
Photo by Kami Brand