Not only was it one for the record books, No. 1 Ohio State’s 37-17 win over Penn State Saturday evening was one to serve notice: these Buckeyes mean business.
The top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) tied a Big Ten record with a 19th straight Big Ten win and increased a school record with a 27th consecutive regular-season triumph, all while killing off any lingering thoughts of the game that preceded that streak, a 17-10 loss in Happy Valley in 2005.
However, the win over No. 24 Penn State (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) in Beaver Stadium served as even more: a message to the rest of the country that these Buckeyes are for real and don’t plan to fall victim to the upset bug that has stricken college football this season, even if they have to do so in front of more than 110,000 enemy fans and against a ranked team on the road.
“It was great coming in here and getting a win,” OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. “Penn State is a good football team. This is a hard place to play.”
Junior quarterback Todd Boeckman completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards, a career high, as well as three touchdowns and an interception as the Buckeyes moved the ball at will on one of the nation’s top-10 defenses, statistically, heading into the game. The Buckeyes piled up 453 yards overall, nearly 200 more than Penn State was allowing on average.
“I felt real good about the plan that the staff put together that it was going to be the right things at the right time,” Tressel said. “I really felt that Todd knew what we were trying to do. I thought the guys had a good plan put together.”
Boeckman helped OSU put together scoring drives on all but the three drives, two of which were ended by the ends of the halves. The Buckeyes never punted.
“I just have all the confidence in the world in our team,” Boeckman said. “We had a great game plan. The line did a great job this week. We worked really hard in practice and I think it carried over into the game.”
Ohio State’s opening drive of the game ended in a 50-yard field goal by Ryan Pretorius, but Boeckman would make sure the Buckeyes would go for touchdowns until the game was put away.
After the Nittany Lions marched 78 yards to score on their first drive to make the score 7-3, the proceedings had a decidedly scarlet and gray tint. Boeckman started things with a 60-yard bomb to Ray Small that moved OSU inside Penn State’s 10, then the junior tossed a 9-yard scoring pass to Brian Robiskie to make the score 10-7 with 4:59 to play in the first.
Ohio State’s next drive also found paydirt. This one was an epic 15-play, 91-yard jaunt that saw four third down conversions by OSU, the last of which was a 16-yard touchdown pass on a screen to the left side from Boeckman to Brian Hartline.
The first half was mere foreshadowing for the second half. OSU opened play by going 87 yards on a drive that belonged to the running game and the tight ends. Chris Wells carried the rock four times for 29 yards on the drive, Maurice Wells added 25 yards on three carries, and Boeckman completed four passes to tight ends, the last of which was a 15-yard play-action score to Jake Ballard on third-and-2.
After the teams traded field goals to push the game into the fourth quarter, Penn State had its back broken with 9:52 to play. Already in a 27-10 hole, the Nittany Lions saw that deficit become unmanageable when senior quarterback Anthony Morelli’s pressured pass went right to Malcolm Jenkins, who for the second year in a row ran down the left sideline with a fourth-quarter pick six that sealed OSU’s win over the Nittany Lions. This one went for 24 yards to make the score 34-10.
At that point, Morelli was done, having completed 12 of 21 passes for 111 yards and the interception.
Ohio State saw success from just about every part of its offense. Beanie Wells had 133 yards on 25 carries, while Maurice Wells added 55 yards on 13 carries. Three Buckeyes – Hartline, Small and Robiskie – topped 50 yards through the air, while tight end Rory Nicol led OSU with six catches for 39 yards and often continued drives with important third-down catches.
“We did a good job controlling the tempo of the game with our offense,” Tressel said.
The Nittany Lions scored the game’s first touchdown 6:35 into the game on a 2-yard run by Rodney Kinlaw, and A.J. Wallace had a 97-yard kickoff return for a score with 3:16 to play. In between, Penn State’s offense pushed the Buckeyes a couple times but OSU always seemed to respond with enough big plays to keep the Nittany Lions off the board.
“We stopped a few things they were trying to do, and our offense got up on them so I think in that sense it might have made them a little bit one-dimensional,” said OSU’s James Laurinaitis.
Laurinaitis made just two tackles, but junior linebacker Marcus Freeman led the Buckeyes with 14 stops, including two for loss.
OSU puts its No. 1 ranking back on the line when it returns home Nov. 3 to face Wisconsin, which is 7-2 and on a two-game winning streak.