Ohio State is in the driver’s seat for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
In what some called the game of the season, a battle between the nation’s top scoring offenses, the No. 9 Nittany Lions and No. 4 Buckeyes were locked in a traditional Big Ten slugfest — and Ohio State prevailed. In front of a record-setting White Out crowd, the Buckeyes triumphed 27-26 on Saturday night at Beaver Stadium.
Ohio State is now the lone undefeated squad left in the Big Ten, while the Nittany Lions are left licking their wounds.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, who entered Saturday night with a perfect 16-0 record at home as a starter, finished with 461 total yards. He completed 16 of 32 passes for 286 yards, adding 175 yards on the ground. After breaking out with 200 yards and three touchdowns at Illinois a week ago, Nittany Lions running back Miles Sanders was kept in check. The former five-star prospect finished with 43 yards on 16 carries. Redshirt freshman KJ Hamler — aptly nicknamed “The Human Joystick” ripped off a 93-yard catch-and-run touchdown and finished with 138 receiving yards.
For the Buckeyes, Heisman Trophy contender Dwayne Haskins managed 270 yards passing in his first true road game, a raucous trip to Beaver Stadium. The redshirt sophomore — widely considered a top quarterback prospect in the 2019 NFL draft — led an Ohio State offense that tallied 389 total yards. Penn State, meanwhile, put up 492 total yards.
Player of the game
Trace McSorley: Sure, 93 of his passing yards came on Hamler’s absurd display of breakaway speed. But with Sanders pretty much negated and receivers dropping passes left and right, McSorley willed Penn State’s offense.
The fifth-year senior recorded his first-ever 100-yard rushing game. He found true freshman tight end Pat Freiermuth for a red-zone touchdown connection in the fourth quarter. And he showcased the leadership qualities that James Franklin has talked about for years.
McSorley significantly outperformed Haskins — and vaulted himself into the Heisman conversation.
One-handed stunner: Take a bow, Juwan Johnson. The 6-foot-4 redshirt junior wideout pulled off a leaping, one-handed catch that surely made Odell Beckham Jr. proud and forced Saquon Barkley — and all of college football Twitter, for that matter — to tweet about it.
One series after yet another drop, an ongoing issue for the talented pass-catcher, Johnson responded. Facing one-on-one coverage down the Nittany Lion sideline, Johnson created separation with Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette, leaned back, threw his right hand up there and — somehow, someway — hauled it in.
The 31-yard connection set off Beaver Stadium and dropped jaws across the country. ABC commentator Kirk Herbstreit called Johnson’s snare the catch of the year through Week 5. Wouldn’t be surprised to see that hold up through December.
Stat that mattered
5: That’s how many three-and-outs Ohio State’s offense had in the first half. The Buckeyes had five three-and-outs in their first four games combined. Say what you will about the lulls against Pitt, Illinois and Appalachian State, the Nittany Lion defense swarmed like crazy from the start.
Haskins was rattled, completing 5 of 14 passes with an interception through seven first-half drives. The likes of Micah Parsons, Cam Brown, Kevin Givens and Shareef Miller shot after the football, holding the Buckeyes to 2.7 yards per play. Without JK Dobbins’ 26-yard screen pass touchdown late in the second quarter, Ohio State managed 67 yards on 29 plays.
Props to Brent Pry’s much-maligned unit.
The bye: The first five weeks — an upset scare against App State, three blowouts and a primetime tilt with Ohio State — are in the books. Now, the Nittany Lions have a week to recuperate before the rest of their Big Ten schedule. And it’s a grueling slate. Penn State returns to action against Michigan State on Oct. 13, travels to Indiana and then hosts Iowa. After that, it’s a trip to Michigan and a home game against Wisconsin. Facing at least three ranked teams in a four-week span should make for some compelling football.