What a game, what a win and what an incredible series of events for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Just 24 hours ago, this team supposedly lacked an identity offensively and needed to win back-to-back games against top 12 teams in order to take home the Big 10 title. In the end however, #4 Iowa’s upset defeat at the hands of Northwestern along with #16 Ohio State’s absolute pummeling of #11 Penn State, the Buckeyes are in the driver’s seat for the Rose Bowl.
Coming into the game everyone and their mother knew that the scoreboard battle would be decided by the play of the quarterbacks. Daryll Clark had been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country, let alone the conference, while Terrelle Pryor was only three weeks removed from his four-turnover meltdown against Purdue. For the first time in 2009 however, Ohio sports fans were rewarded for their patience and devotion as the Pryor and the Bucks absolutely tore about the Lions on the road. All this prompted a text from my dad late last night declaring this as the “best win in a long time” and that is very hard to ignore for this program.
Going back to the game itself, the Bucks controlled things from the get-go. Knowing the inconsistency of the passing attack, I wrote in the preview yesterday that it would be crucial for OSU to get on the board first and run the ball from there. That is exactly what the team accomplished, as a 45-yard punt return by Ray Small set up a Pryor rushing touchdown less than four minutes into the game. Controlling the lead and the momentum, the OSU defense was huge in forcing three three-and-outs in three drives and only 12 total yards of offense in the entire first quarter.
The Nittany Lions would finally get on the scoreboard in the second, as a long pass to Graham Zug (seriously, what kind of a name is that??) and a pass interference call by Devon Torrence were the keys. With the score tied at 7-7 mid-way through the second quarter on the road in a tough Happy Valley atmosphere, the rushing attack was the key. Boom Herron’s pounding led to a field goal and despite being unable to score with time running down, OSU still managed a narrow 10-7 advantage at the half.
Offensive ineptitude was the story earlier in the third quarter, as the teams exchanged brutal penalties and punts for the first 13 minutes plus. The key play in the game then was Pryor hooking up with DeVier Posey for a monster 62-yard touchdown towards the end of the quarter, giving the Buckeyes the large lead for good. The very next drive at the start of the fourth, Pryor converted three straight third downs including a six-yard TD pass to Brandon Saine to bring the final margin to 24-7.
Whether you believe that Jim Tressel was too conservative in his play calling all season long, you have to admire how it worked last night at Beaver Stadium. In order to beat an efficient, defensive-oriented, ball-controlling team like Penn State you need to limit your mistakes and punish them in the trenches. That is exactly what the team did from the start and it probably was the most impressive game of the season for the young offensive line. Out-rushing Penn State 228 to 76, the Buckeyes controlled the clock, the momentum and the scoreboard throughout in the dominant performance.
Looking at the big picture, Ohio State seemed to be outside BCS contention last week as the third-ranked team in the conference according to the national radar. As of now however, expect the Bucks to pass Penn State in the rankings while Iowa’s loss means there are only two one-loss teams in the Big 10. A victory next week when the Hawkeyes travel to Columbus next week would guarantee the championship and a place in the Rose Bowl, regardless of the results at Ann Arbor to close the season.
Just like that, Ohio State is back in the national BCS spotlight with a rising quarterback, a top ranked defense and an efficient tag-team running game. Watch out Pasadena, the Buckeyes are one win away from their first Rose Bowl since 1997.
(The photo above of Terrelle Pryor smiling like a little kid following the game was found at this link here. Photo credit goes out to AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster.)
Check out these other links from across the Web recapping the game and discussing where Ohio State goes from here with Iowa next week:
“Seven Point Army” [Eleven Warriors]
“WE OWN… PENN STATE” [The Buckeye Battle Cry]
“Instant Analysis – Ohio State 24, Penn St 7″ [CollegeFootballNews.com]
“Physical, not fancy: Ohio St overwhelms Penn St” [Doug Lesmerises/Plain Dealer]
|Doug Lesmerises of the PD also unleashed this video last night where Jim Tressel and the team jump for joy in the celebration:|