This time, there was no fourth-quarter comeback engineered by the freshman phenom.
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor could not find the magic Saturday night against third-ranked Penn State, as his fourth-quarter fumble led to the only touchdown in the game as the Nittany Lions scored a hard-fought 13-6 victory. The game was played before an Ohio Stadium record crowd of 105,711.
With 10:45 left in the game and the Buckeyes driving, Pryor got too greedy on a third-and-1 sneak. He pounded into the middle of the line, and then seeing daylight off to his right, popped around the end. Waiting for him was Penn State safety Mark Rubin, who dislodged the football from Pryor’s grasp.
That triggered a wild chase for the ball which was recovered at the OSU 38 by Lions linebacker Navorro Bowman. Seven plays later, Penn State backup quarterback Pat Devlin scored on a 1-yard sneak to provide for the winning points.
“Our kids played as hard as they could, and in a ball game like that, it’s the slimmest of margins,” OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. “Tip your cap to Penn State. They came in and played extremely hard and didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes.”
The game was a classic defensive battle between two even matched teams, one that produced only five scoring possessions – four that resulted in field goals. Most of the contest was waged in the trenches with Ohio State gaining 287 total yards and Penn State finishing with 281.
Things were fairly balanced for the Nittany Lions, who had 160 yards rushing and 121 through the air. Still, their total of 13 points and 281 yards were far below the team averages of 45.4 points and 482.1 yards per game.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes struggled throughout the game to get any kind of traction in their running game. Ohio State finished with only 61 yards on the ground.
OSU junior tailback Chris “Beanie” Wells was held to a season-low 55 yards on 22 carries. Pryor was stuffed to the tune of just 6 yards on nine scrambles. Last season in a 37-17 victory at Penn State, Wells rolled up 137 yards on 25 carries.
“Penn State did a nice job of moving and attacking the line of scrimmage,” Tressel said. “We didn’t run the ball nearly as well as we needed to.”
In the passing department, Pryor completed 16 of 25 attempts for a career-high 226 yards and an interception. The pick came in the final seconds as the Buckeyes were making a last-ditch effort to pull out the victory. With time running out the ball at the Penn State 43, Pryor tried to get the ball to a receiver at the goal line but the pass was intercepted by cornerback Lydell Sargeant to clinch the win for the Lions.
It marked the first victory for Penn State at Ohio Stadium since it had become a member of the Big Ten, and ending a seven-game losing streak in the Horseshoe. The win also protected the Lions’ perfect season, moving them to 9-0 overall and leaving them the only remaining unbeaten team in conference play at 5-0.
The loss dealt a blow to the Buckeyes’ hopes of gaining an unprecedented third straight outright Big Ten championship. And with a second loss, OSU (7-2, 4-1) is now the longest of long shots to make a third consecutive trip to the BCS National Championship Game.
After a scoreless first quarter that produced only 96 yards of offensive by the two teams combined, Penn State finally dented the scoreboard with only 1:33 remaining in the opening half. They marched 76 yards in 11 plays before settling for a 31-yard field goal from kicker Kevin Kelly.
Ohio State was able to match the score thanks to a 37-yard kickoff return by freshman Lamaar Thomas and a short drive that resulted in a 41-yard field goal from kicker Aaron Pettrey as time expired.
The Buckeyes took their only lead of the game in the third quarter, going 72 yards in 13 plays before netting a 36-yard field goal from Pettrey. That made it 6-3 Buckeyes with 3:19 left to go in the third period.
That was the way it stayed until early in the fourth quarter when Pryor fumbled. Wells looked as if he would have a chance to fall on the loose ball but was blocked away from making the play by PSU defensive end Josh Gaines. Senior receiver Brian Robiskie also appeared to have a shot at making the recovery, but the football squirted away from him and into the grasp of Bowman.
“From where I stood, I think (Terrelle) saw a couple of gaps and tried to slide outside,” Tressel said. “Something hit the ball or whatever, and it was unfortunate.”
Penn State started with a 9-yard run by tailback Evan Royster, then got a 15-yard pass interference penalty against OSU cornerback Donald Washington to move the ball to the 14. From there, the Lions kept the ball exclusive on the ground as Devlin subbed for starting QB Daryll Clark, who was sidelined after appearing to take a blow to the head early in the quarter.
The Lions got a first-and-goal at the 2, and three plays later Devlin squeezed his way over the goal line for the touchdown. Kelly added the PAT to give his team a 10-6 lead with 6:25 remaining in the contest.
OSU had a pair of late possessions to try and make the comeback. The first ended when a Pryor scramble was stopped for no gain on third-and-4 and the Buckeyes were forced to punt. And the second, which began at the 20 following a 35-yard field by Kelly at the 1:07 mark of the fourth period, ended when Pryor was intercepted by Sargeant.
Royster was the game’s leading rusher with 19 carries for 77 yards. Clark scrambled for 39 yards on eight carries and completed 12 of 20 passes for 121 yards. He had entered the game averaging 191.4 yards per contest.
In addition to the game marking Penn State’s first victory in Ohio Stadium since it became a Big Ten member, it was also the second straight defeat for the Buckeyes in a home night game. Eventual national champion Texas dealt OSU a 25-22 loss in 2005. Before the defeats to the Longhorns and Lions, Ohio State had been a perfect 6-0 in home night games.
The Buckeyes will take next week off from competition and return to action Nov. 8 at Northwestern. The Wildcats were 21-19 losers at Indiana earlier in the day.