Ohio State and Penn State have only been playing regularly since 1993, but the series between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions has produced plenty of classic contests.
Ohio State holds a 15-13 lead in the all-time series, a mark that includes a 13-7 record in Big Ten play.
Several Ohio State records have been set in the series, including Tom Cousineau’s 29 tackles in 1978 (later tied by Chris Spielman against Michigan in 1986). David Boston set a single-game record with 14 receptions in 1997. Two of Ohio State’s top four single-game passing performances came against Penn State – Joe Germaine’s 378 yards in 1997 are second while Bobby Hoying’s 354 in 1995 are fourth. Ohio State set a team record with 459 yards passing in that 1997 game against the Nittany Lions as the Buckeyes used a two-quarterback system with Germaine and Stanley Jackson all season. In 1999 the Buckeyes set a team record for tackles for loss with 19.
We recap the best Buckeye wins in the series in chronological order.
No. 3 Ohio State 17
No. 20 Penn State 9
Archie Griffin and Pete Johnson both eclipsed the 100-yard mark to lead Ohio State over Penn State at Ohio Stadium in the first meeting between head coaches Woody Hayes and Joe Paterno.
Griffin was the leading rusher with 128 yards, but it was Johnson who scored both of the game’s touchdowns in addition to his 112 yards. Johnson’s first touchdown, a 3-yard run, capped a game-opening 80-yard drive that was highlighted by a 49-yard reverse by Brian Baschnagel. Tom Klaban kicked a 45-yard field goal for the Buckeyes to answer the stadium-record 55-yarder Penn State’s Chris Barr kicked, making the score 10-3. A pair of field goals would be all the more the Nittany Lions could muster as the OSU defense, led by Nick Buonamici, held them out of the end zone for the first time in 27 games.
After Penn State pulled to within a point at 10-9, OSU quarterback Cornelius Greene led the Buckeyes down the field to Johnson’s second touchdown, an 11-yarder in the fourth quarter, providing the game’s final margin. On that final drive, Ohio State needed a pass interference call to convert a third-and-15 deep in its own territory, then Archie Griffin made a diving catch for 23 yards on third-and-11 to move the ball into PSU territory.
After the Buckeye TD, Penn State’s last hopes were extinguished when linebacker Ken Kuhn recovered Nittany Lion running back Duane Taylor’s fumble forced by Bruce Ruhl and Buonamici.
No. 2 Ohio State 12
No. 7 Penn State 7
Bobby Hyatt scored the game-winning touchdown on an 8-yard sweep, his only carry of the season, as Ohio State beat Penn State at State College for the first time in front of a Beaver Stadium-record crowd.
Hyatt’s touchdown, scored after quarterback Rod Gerald faked a hand-off to fullback Pete Johnson, was the second of the day scored thanks to misdirection. In the second quarter, Gerald scored on an 8-yard run of his own after a fake to Johnson. Gerald’s touchdown, which broke a scoreless tie, was set up by a 48-yard run by Jeff Logan, the game’s leading rusher with 160 yards, and bruising short runs by Johnson.
The first touchdown drive started after OSU defensive back Ray Griffin intercepted a Johnny Andress pass in the end zone after the quarterback had moved his team to the Buckeye 6-yard line.
Johnson added 60 yards to go with his two touchdowns. The “three yards and a cloud of dust” method was in full effect for OSU, which attempted only three passes, completing one.
No. 5 Ohio State 28
No. 12 Penn State 25
On a day the Buckeyes relied on the arm of quarterback Bobby Hoying, Eddie George’s Heisman-winning legs scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:42 left in the fourth quarter.
The score capped a gutsy drive engineered by Hoying, who enjoyed his best day as a Buckeye. He passed for 354 yards and three touchdowns with perhaps his most important passes coming on the final drive to set up the game-winning 6-yard run by George. Facing third down, Hoying first completed a pass to Buster Tillman to convert, then threaded a jump ball between multiple Nittany Lion defenders to rangy basketball player-turned tight end Ricky Dudley. The play gained 32 yards and put George in position to win it.
That was the second comeback of the day for OSU. After spotting the Nittany Lions ten points, the Buckeyes got their scoring underway early in the second quarter when Terry Glenn caught the first of his two touchdowns from Hoying. After Dudley put the Buckeyes ahead with a 25-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter and Glenn caught another TD (covering 37 yards) in the third, Ohio State enjoyed a 21-10 advantage. The Nittany Lions fought back, however, scoring the next 15 points on a pair of 1-yard runs by Jon Witman, a two-point conversion and an extra point.
For the day, Glenn gained 175 yards on his nine receptions, Dudley added 97 yards receiving on five receptions and George totaled 105 yards on the ground.
No. 3 Ohio State 38
No. 4 Penn State 7
The Buckeyes scored early and often on their way to crushing the previously unbeaten Nittany Lions 38-7 in Ohio Stadium. Buckeye flanker Dimitrious Stanley started the festivities, catching a 42-yard touchdown reception from Stanley Jackson just over five minutes into the game. The Buckeyes went on to score on each of their next three possessions as they amassed a 24-0 halftime lead and outgained Penn State in total yards by the eye-popping 328 to 74 margin.
When all was said and done, Ohio State finished with 350 yards rushing and 216 through the air. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions failed to cross midfield until the third quarter and were held to just 211 total yards for the game.
Stanley finished the day with 105 yards on five catches with two touchdowns. Running behind an offensive line headlined by Orlando Pace, Pepe Pearson spearheaded the ground attack, gaining 141 yards rushing and a touchdown while Joe Montgomery added 84 yards off the bench. OSU’s quarterbacks, Stanley and Joe Germaine, each threw a pair of touchdown passes.
Coupled with their win the previous week at No. 5 Notre Dame, the Buckeyes’ victory over Penn State marked the first time since 1980 that any team defeated a pair of top five teams in back-to-back games.
No. 4 Ohio State 13
No. 18 Penn State 7
On a day when defense ruled, a flanker stole the show. With his team trailing 7-3 at the half, Chris Gamble picked off a pass thrown late over the middle by Penn State’s Zach Mills, then dodged and weaved his way down the west sideline to a 40-yard touchdown that electrified his home stadium and allowed the Buckeyes to lean heavily on their national championship blueprint for the year: a conservative offense and a stifling defense.
OSU held the Nittany Lions and record-breaking tailback Larry Johnson to 179 total yards, 58 in the second half. PSU gained only three first downs in the second half and its eight total first downs were the fewest they had made in the Joe Paterno era to that point. As Penn State’s running game earned a net loss of six yards in the second half, the Buckeye defense, led by Will Smith, harassed Mills into a career-high three interceptions to go with his career-low 98 yards passing. The Buckeyes gained only 253 yards themselves, but held a time-of-possession advantage of nearly a full quarter (37:27 to 22:31).
Craig Krenzel was the game’s leader in total yards with 151.
No. 8 Ohio State 21
Penn State 20
Trailing by six points with less than two minutes to play, Ohio State backup quarterback Scott McMullen connected with wide receiver Michael Jenkins for a 5-yard score and Mike Nugent converted the PAT to give the Buckeyes their first lead since the first quarter. Penn State offered one last gasp, but David Kimball’s 60-yard field goal was short and wide right as time expired, allowing the defending national champions to escape with a 21-20 victory.
The heavily-favored Buckeyes jumped out to an early lead, scoring on the game’s opening drive as they leaned heavily on tailback Lydell Ross. They marched 74 yards in 14 plays, capped by a 1-yard Ross TD run. However, Penn State answered back with a Zach Mills to Sean McHugh 2-yard touchdown pass to tie the score with 12 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Nittany Lions then abruptly seized the momentum on OSU’s next drive when, with OSU driving for another score, Alan Zemaitis intercepted a Craig Krenzel pass in the flats and raced 78 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
The Buckeye offense struggled for much of the rest of the game, losing Krenzel to a concussion and getting just one sustained drive before McMullen’s heroics.
Ross finished the game with 110 yards on a career high 24 carries and McMullen completed 12 of his 17 passes for 112 yards and two scores.
No. 1 Ohio State 28
No. 24 Penn State 6
The 22-point final spread is deceiving as the Buckeyes faced one of their tightest regular season games for about 57 minutes. Top-ranked Ohio State clung to a 14-6 lead with the Nittany Lions holding possession with a chance to tie the game, but things fell apart quickly for the visitors.
First, Malcolm Jenkins leapt high to haul in an errant Anthony Morelli pass, then the Ohio State All-American cornerback returned the pick 61 yards down the west sideline for a game-clinching touchdown (though instant replay was needed to see if Jenkins had dropped the ball before crossing the goal line). Then on the ensuing possession Antonio Smith stepped in front of a Morelli slant pass and saw nothing but green grass in front of him. Smith cruised 55 yards to the end zone for another score that made the final outcome look more lop-sided than it was.
This contest also featured a signature moment of Troy Smith’s Heisman Trophy season as the senior quarterback escaped the pocket with a spin move then fired a deep pass to Brian Robiskie for a 37-yard touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter to put Ohio State on top 7-3.
Penn State held Ohio State’s high-powered offense to only 253 total yards, and Tony Hunt ran for 135 against the Buckeyes. Smith completed 12 of 22 passes for 115 yards and two interceptions while Antonio Pittman ran for 110 yards on 20 carries.
No. 15 Ohio State 24
No. 11 Penn State 7
Ohio State prevailed in an emotionally charged battle of defending Big Ten champions in Happy Valley. With Iowa having lost early to Northwestern, the Nittany Lions had a chance to take control of their own destiny in the race for the Big Ten title. Instead, it was Terrelle Pryor and the OSU defense that carried the day and put the Buckeyes back on a path to Pasadena.
Fans eager to greet native son Pryor with scorn for calling State College “too country” during his recruitment and remind the Ohio State quarterback of his late-game fumble and sideline tears in the 2008 game went home disappointed. Pryor was an efficient game manager until midway through the third quarter when he unleashed a 62-yard touchdown pass to DeVier Posey that created some breathing room in a tight game.
The wind never returned to the Penn State sails as Ohio State’s defense squeezed the life out of Daryll Clarke and the Nittany Lion offense. Clarke was 12 for 28 passing for 125 yards and an interception. Penn State managed only 201 yards of offense and punted 10 times.
Pryor also ran seven yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Saine in the fourth. The QB received a big boost from an Ohio State running game that pounded out 228 yards on 49 carries. Saine led the way on the ground with 68 yards while Dan “Boom” Herron added 58 and Pryor totaled 50 despite still feeling the effects of a knee injury suffered a week earlier against New Mexico State.