Penn State Nittany Lions bump off No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes in a “White-out”, 24-21
State College, PA – In front of a fired-up home crowd of 107, 280 garbed mostly in white on Saturday evening in the mystical land called Happy Valley, the Penn State Nittany Lions overcame a stingy Ohio State Buckeye defense when they needed to and relied on big plays by special teams in the final period to come back from a 14-point deficit to upend the undefeated No. 2 team in the nation, 24-21.
It is the first time since 1990 that the Nittany Lions defeated a N0. 2 ranked team. The victory vaulted the Lions (5-2, 3-1) into the AP 25 at No. 24, and the loss dropped the Buckeyes (6-1, 3-1) down to No. 6. For Collegefootballfan.com, it was great day with friends to tailgate and bar-hop around State College before the highly anticipated game in Beaver Stadium.
The two teams played to a scoreless draw in the first period, but a fumbled punt by the Lions’ John Reid set the Buckeyes up at the Lions’ 38. Five seconds into the second period, PK Tyler Durbin put OSU up by three with a 33-yard FG. Later in the period, OSU Heisman hopeful J.T. Barrett (28 of 43, 245 yards and 1 TD) connected with TE Marcus Baugh who took the 26-yard pass into the end zone to extend the Buckeye lead. With a missed PAT, the lead stood at 9-0. Ohio State’s defense held the Lions to a three and out, and the offense put Durbin back on the field to convert from 30 yards away and a 12-0 lead.
With 1:14 remaining in the half, from their 26 the Nittany Lion offense moved the ball via the airwaves efficiently as QB Trace McSorely (8 for 23, 154 yards, 1 TD) looked down field on three occasions to connect 19 yards to WR Chris Godwin., 34 yards to DaeSean Hamilton, and finally to Godwin once again into the end zone for a 20-yard scoring play to put the Nittany Lions on the scoreboard with nine ticks left. Going into half time, the Lions had cut the Buckeye lead, 12-7. Their defense played tough enough to keep Barrett and the offense in check, and HC James Franklin needed his offense to start generating more points. It looked as if the Lions had found some opportunities to make big plays with their passing game. We would see if this would establish some precedent in the second half.
It was a fired-up crowd for sure in Beaver Stadium with the 8 pm kickoff. Long-time Guest Game Analyst, PSU alum, and cohort John Massimilla and I met in the Beaver Stadium parking lot about 11 am. With a cool and prevailing wind whipping through the parking lot, we decided to tour downtown State College and go bar-hopping. We headed out with John’s fellow Penn State alums, his son Brian, future son-in-law, Dex Koser, and their friend Shayne Sexton. The recent alumni led us on a guided tour and a nostalgic romp through State College. We stopped at the Shandy Gaff (drinks only there, no food) where Dex worked as a student. At the Phyrst, we feasted on great cheesesteaks and shared a huge Phrench Phries platter. The guys introduced John and I to “Irish Trash cans” made with vodka, Curacao, Red Bull, and other stuff. I helped Shayne polish off a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 (Yuk!). Never had it before, but I knew it was infamous in certain parts of town when I grew up in Boonton, NJ. On the way, out we were given white, plastic Phyrst hats in honor of the White-out. People in town were either wearing white or searching the stores for white PSU apparel. Next we went to the Ye Olde Cigar Shop for a few good cigars and watched some games on TV already under way. I was surprised John didn’t insist that we all walk out because the guy behind the counter was wearing an Ohio State shirt.
For old times sake, we stopped at the Rathskeller, well known for its “Buckets of Rocks” now priced a $19 for a bucket full of Rolling Rock nips. John remembers when they used to cost seven bucks. The place was packed. We caught up on scores while having a round of Rolling Rocks. We then returned to the parking lot to imbibe in what we’d brought with us to tailgate, and eventually started to pack up for the game. Before heading into Beaver Stadium, we met up John’s friend, Josh, who owns the refurbished Penn State Tailgate Ambulance we were introduced to at last year’s Rutgers game here. Josh designed it and outfitted it to bring to games to host his tailgate parties. Great set-up! We and over 100,000 others were well-prepared to head in to cheer on the Nittany Lions! We were all ready for Ohio State, and I predicted an upset! The Nittany Lions always play the Buckeyes tough at home.
Ohio State gets off to fast second half start
Starting the second half, the blinding crowd seemed poised for a Penn State comeback, but the Buckeyes’ Curtis Samuel put a brief damper on the spirit as he broke through off right tackle and sped 74 yards all the way for quick TD. He carried the ball only twice the entire game, and netted 71 yards in the end! OSU now led, 19-7. Things started to look a little bleaker for the Nittany Lions to comeback as the Buckeyes forced another PSU punt after a three and out. The snap from center sailed far out of P Blake Gillikin’s reach. He raced into the end zone to recover it for a safety, avoided a damaging Buckeye touchdown, and gave the Buckeyes a 21-7 lead.
Throughout the game, Ohio State held the upper hand in time of possession (39:17) and total yards (413-276). The Nittany Lions needed to show some signs of life, especially on offense. Despite the deficit, the white-out crowd cheered loudly throughout the game and did not let up. Fans clad in white lifted the team’s spirits with more than a full quarter to go and down by “only” two scores. The Nittany Lions defense held the Buckeyes to three plays and a punt after the free kick following the safety.
Entering the final period, Penn State started to drive from its own ten. McSorely became efficient again. He came through with a 16-yard completion to TE Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, NJ – Southern Regional HS). RB Saquon Barkley (12 carries for 99 yards) picked up 37 yards on a carry to the Buckeye 37. WR Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan, NJ) hauled in a 35-yard completion from McSorely at the two. From there, McSorely raced toward the right pylon to cross the goal line for a PSU TD to put the Nittany Lions within a touchdown with 13:32 left on the clock. The White-clad crowd was clamoring louder than ever that evening. The PSU defense thrived on the roar. OSU punted from the 28 after only three plays, and Cameron Brown on the punt-block team blocked the kick to have it recovered right at the original line of scrimmage. Nittany Lion Tyler Davis booted a 34-yard FG to close the gap to 21-17. The home crowd roared for the navy blue-clad Lions on every play. You could feel the anticipation of the upset growing within the delirious crowd. Some spurts of cold rain fell intermittently during the second half, but the crowd was not affected. The Buckeyes started their next drive from the 13, and J.T. Barrett led his offense down to the Nittany Lion 28 where they faced a fourth and seven. HC Urban Meyer elected to add three points to extend the lead to six rather than go for a first down. Lion Safety Marcus Allen went high to block the attempt and CB Grant Haley picked up the ball and outraced potential Ohio State tacklers for a 60-yard TD to give Penn State a sudden 24-21 lead with 4:21 left. John was afraid his Nittany Lions had left to much time on the clock.
OSU went on offense after the return was stopped at the eleven. The Buckeyes needed a FG to tie. They got the ball out to their 42, and on third down, LB Jason Cabinda (Hunterdon Central, NJ) who returned from injury to play today, sacked Barrett for a 13-yard loss. On the next play, Barret dropped back and DE Evan Schwan and DT Kevin Givens combined for a six-yard sack. PSU went into the victory formation as time wound down. As the final seconds ticked off, the green turf of Beaver Stadium was covered in streaks of white. The celebration into the night at State College was just starting! The undefeated Buckeyes had fallen to 6-1,3-1 in the Big Ten. Penn State celebrated its first win over a top team for the first time in years. It seemed to have been a step in the right direction for a team trying to rebuild after several years of sanctions, especially after a 49-10 loss earlier at Ann Arbor against the Wolverines. The return of LBs Jason Cabinda (12 tackles) and Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, NJ; 19 tackles) definitely bolstered the Nittany Lion defense.
Penn State heads to Purdue (3-4, 1-3) next Saturday. We plan to be back in State College on November 26 for the Nittany Lions regular season finale when the host the imploding Michigan State Spartans. Ohio State heads back to Columbus to host improving Northwestern (4-3, 3-1). Look for the Buckeyes to make a statement here. Collegefootballfan.com will drive up to Poughkeepsie, NY for the first time for an FCS Pioneer League match. The Marist Red Foxes (4-3, 4-0) will host a foe from the farthest reaches of this nationally scattered conference when the University of San Diego Toreros (6-1, 5-0) come calling in the Empire State. The Red Foxes’ team captain and starting MLB is Jimmy Braun, a former player from our local Lenape Valley Regional HS football program. We look forward to seeing him play in this battle for first place with a possible FCS playoff bid on the line for the eventual league champion.