Robert Landers took down Penn State running back Saquon Barkley behind the line of scrimmage twice in the fourth quarter Saturday.
The second one, especially, ranks among the biggest plays Landers has ever made. With Penn State facing 2nd-and-17 from its own 8-yard line, he tackled Barkley for a loss of two yards. Two plays later, Penn State punted, setting the stage for the Ohio State Buckeyes’ game-winning touchdown drive.
“That one felt great,” Landers said Tuesday after practice. “I knew that was a big play we needed, especially after that blocked field goal. We already had a momentum changer. Being able to have them backed up and making a big stop to get our nickel package on the field, there’s not a better feeling.”
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The Wayne grad Landers, a redshirt sophomore defensive tackle, led the Buckeyes with two tackles for a loss in the 39-38 victory. Eleven other players recorded tackles for a loss or assisted on one.
Landers showed a knack for making those kind of plays last season, his first on the field for the Buckeyes. He had 7 ½ tackles for a loss in 2016. He has three this season. He’s just one part of perhaps the strongest position unit in college football.
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While J.T. Barrett was the single biggest star in the comeback victory, throwing three of his four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, the defensive line’s dominance helped turn the tide. Penn State ran seven plays on its last two possessions and lost nine yards.
“We just stayed true to ourselves,” Landers said. “Up front, we got off the ball. We played aggressively. We tried to establish a new line of scrimmage. It wasn’t about getting out of our element or doing anything special for Penn State. We just played Ohio State football.”
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The defense held Penn State to 10 points in the second half after giving up three touchdowns in the first half. However, Penn State had only one extended touchdown drive (seven plays for 81 yards) in the first half. A turnover and a long kickoff return set the Nittany Lions up for two other scores.
“We know throughout the course of a game we’re going to face adversity,” Landers said, “no matter who you’re playing, where you’re playing. We didn’t let it get to us. We didn’t let the score get to us. It was a matter of, ‘It’s time to go back on the field. Let’s go make a play.’”
Ohio State at Iowa, 3:30 p.m., ESPN, 1410