Penn State Football

No. 2 Penn State drops stunner to No. 6 Ohio State in fourth-quarter collapse

Saturday night lived up to the hype.

In what some called the biggest game of the college football season, No. 2 Penn State fell to No. 6 Ohio State 39-38 at The Horseshoe in front of a “Blackout” crowd of 109,302. The Nittany Lions entered the final quarter with a double-digit lead, 35-20, but the Buckeyes stormed back for the unlikely victory.

With the win, Ohio State has a clear path to the Big Ten title game and a heightened chance at the College Football Playoff.

Meanwhile, Penn State’s road got a bit more difficult.

Player of the game

J.T. Barrett: Ohio State’s veteran quarterback proved why he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

After being shut down in Happy Valley last season, Barrett didn’t let the same happen on Saturday. He tore up Penn State’s defense with 423 total yards (328 passing, 95 rushing) and four touchdowns.

And of course, Barrett really did his damage in the fourth quarter.

The Buckeyes’ leader had two touchdown passes — both to Johnnie Dixon — in the final frame before a late-game drive that would decide it.

With less than three minutes to go, Barrett was rolling. He found Terry McLaurin for 20 yards, then K.J. Hill for gains of six and 14 yards, respectively.

For his encore, Barrett found Marcus Baugh for a lead-changing score. His 16-yard connection with 1:48 remaining in regulation ignited Ohio Stadium. Barrett was electric on the biggest stage.

Turning point

Final drive: Ohio State’s defense stood tall when it mattered most — and the Penn State offensive line was eaten alive.

On the game’s final drive, the Buckeyes’ pass-rush forced Trace McSorley out of the pocket on first down. Incomplete.

On second down, Jalyn Holmes brought down the quarterback for a five-yard sack.

Third and fourth down came around. Both incompletions.

With 1:22 remaining and Penn State having only one timeout, Ohio State only needed to kneel it out. The game was over.

Unsung hero

K.J. Hill: The Buckeyes’ redshirt sophomore receiver came up with a couple critical catches on Ohio State’s final drive — but that wasn’t the extent of his impact.

Hill was a thorn in Penn State’s side all night, finishing with 12 catches for 102 yards. Seven of those catches came in the second half, and four of them resulted in first downs.

Hill’s performance was somewhat of a surprise. He entered the night with only 28 catches through seven games this season.

He picked the right night to break out.

Top highlight

Saquon’s stunner: A mere 15 seconds into the biggest game of the year, Ohio Stadium’s Blackout crowd — amped and singing “Seven Nation Army” — were silenced.

Barkley did what he does best: Leave jaws on the floor.

The Coplay native fielded the opening kickoff at the 3-yard line, briskly glided forward and turned on the jets at Penn State’s 15.

From there, he was off. No one was catching him. No one would even touch him.

Barkley dusted Ohio State’s marred kickoff coverage team for a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, his second special teams score of the season.

Whoever is keeping track of Barkley’s Heisman ceremony highlight reel, this one ought to be near the top.

What’s next

Sparty Stadium: The Nittany Lions are on to their final test in this devilish three-game stretch: A trip to East Lansing. After blowing out Michigan and losing to Ohio State, Penn State turns its attention to Michigan State. Saturday’s game at Spartan Stadium will be played at either noon or 3:30 p.m.

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9

Related stories from Centre Daily Times