STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Ohio State’s dream season was dealt a brutal blow at Penn State on Saturday.
The No. 2 Buckeyes couldn’t protect quarterback J.T. Barrett, and what looked like it would be another solid road win soon crumbled around them. Penn State rallied from a 14-point deficit to claim a 24-21 win in Happy Valley.
Here’s what we learned.
Five things we learned
1. Ohio State’s offensive line play was unacceptable: This game will not be going on right tackle Isaiah Prince’s highlight reel, to say the least. It wasn’t just him, though. Barrett was constantly under siege and even though he made some absolutely magical escapes, Penn State was still able to get to him often enough to disrupt the offense. In the fourth quarter, the PSU defensive line brutalized Ohio State.
2. It’s really hard to play in miserable weather: Barrett drew some fire from Ohio State fans for his first half play, and some of it was certainly justified. But while that was going on, his Penn State counterpart Trace McSorley was putting together a streak of 11 straight incompletions that spanned nearly the entire first half.
I spent the first quarter outside of the press box to get a sense of the atmosphere, and the weather was absolutely brutal. The windchill was in the low 30s and there was a light, steady rain falling. It felt terrible just sitting there, and it showed in the stands. Now imagine trying to play football in that. If it had been even 10 degrees warmer or just not raining, I think you would have seen a different Ohio State offense out there.
3. The slow first quarters might be a forever thing: Or they might not. But Ohio State has struggled in the first quarter of all four Big Ten games, so it’s at least worth considering. The Buckeyes seem to be facing different looks that teams haven’t shown before on film, and that might be something that continues to happen throughout the season. On the other hand, both Wisconsin and Penn State were coming off byes, and that’s not something the Buckeyes will have to go against every week. Stay tuned.
4. This is a young, young team: Reading everyone on Twitter, it’s like it’s been forgotten that this team is still largely made up of starters with exactly one half of a season under their belts. Over the course of 12 games, there will be tests and growing pains and moments where they look like a team that just lost a dozen draft picks. This was all of that rolled into one, and Ohio State couldn’t handle it. But really: Did everyone forget what happened two years ago in this stadium with a national championship team?
5. Offensive touches will vary: It seems like every week there’s a new complaint about the offensive distribution, and the flavor of the night was griping about H-back Curtis Samuel’s lack of touches. Those concerns are at least partially warranted, because the Brooklyn, N.Y., native has shown just how good he can be when he gets the ball in his hands. But Ohio State also has to divvy up touches among Barrett, running back Mike Weber, H-back Dontre Wilson and a group of 10 receivers that were all 4-star recruits.
Ohio State went with a heavy dose of Weber against Penn State, at least somewhat because the weather dictated a heavy run game. They could have involved Samuel more in that area, but he’s just as dangerous in the passing game and those touches just weren’t going to be there as much in these conditions.
Question answered for Ohio State
Can this team survive a game when so much goes wrong? The answer, of course, was no.
Can Ohio State grow from this? The Buckeyes just faced two incredibly tough tests on the road in back-to-back weeks, and I imagine Ohio State fans would have signed away a kid for a 7-0 start (at Oklahoma, at Wisconsin, at Penn State with 16 new starters) before the season. The Buckeyes got close to pulling that off but came up short.
Zero. The first quarter against Penn State was the first time all season that the Buckeyes scored zero points in a quarter. And then it happened again in the fourth quarter.
What it means
Ohio State finally paid the price for its youth and lack of execution. It’s not possible to make as many mistakes as the Buckeyes did and still win a game like this.