Ohio State-Penn State review: 10 takeaways from rewatching the Buckeyes’ win

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Buckeyes rallied from 12 down in the fourth quarter

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Ohio State’s comeback win at Penn State on Saturday night was too good not to watch again.

>>RECAP: How Ohio State rallied to beat Penn State

Here are 10 takeaways from a second viewing of the Buckeyes’ 27-26 thriller:

1. Television did not do justice to Binjimin Victor’s catch-and-run touchdown.

From the press box I could see all the blocks coming together around him and the cut-back lane develop just before he hit it, but a field-level replay also revealed just what an amazing catch he made.

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins said this was against a blitz they were apparently worried about being able to handle, and he definitely looked like he did not trust the protection the way he dropped and bailed on it almost right away. But he stepped up in the pocket, gave Victor a chance to do something and was rewarded.

Haskins rarely appeared to panic in the face of the rush, but there were times he seemed to be hearing footsteps. Penn State’s blitzes did a good job of disrupting the timing of plays and distracting Haskins early on. More quick hitters and attacking the edges negated this and helped him calm down.

2. The screen pass to J.K. Dobbins to open the final Ohio State drive was really something to see. 

Penn State wasn’t blitzing this time.

The Buckeyes just got it blocked up and Dobbins showed off his open-field running ability, weaving in and out of traffic, seeing cuts ahead of time and getting to his spots before defenders like a young Derrick Rose.

3. This drive was Urban Meyer’s Ohio State offense in full bloom. 

Even in a late-game situation, everything was on display, including the running game taking advantage of space created by the formations.

They used multiple screens, got good reads and throws from the quarterback who can hit any spot on the field and ultimately won on a combination of great blocking and individual ability on the last play.

Penn State had three guys out there to defend three receivers, but K.J. Hill made one miss and the other two were blocked. Meyer spoke early and often after arriving at Ohio State about the need for a receiver who can make someone miss and go downfield. Hill did that.

4. Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne was correct to tell The Associated Press he lost his one-on-one battle with OSU DC Greg Schiano on Penn State’s last fourth down. 

Ohio State was initially in nickel before calling timeout, but the Buckeyes came back in their base defense and looked like they were going to play it straight up before Penn State called its second timeout.

Then the Buckeyes were moving around at the snap and stunted the front, which seemed to confuse the Penn State offensive line because they didn’t come close to handling it. Three guys didn’t block anyone. Quarterback Trace McSorley I’m sure would have rather kept it, but he had no choice because there was someone on him immediately.

5. The most amazing thing about Penn State running zone-read on the Nittany Lions’ most important snap of the night was that it didn’t work most of the other times they called it, either. 

Running back Miles Sanders was bottled up most of the game, and most of McSorley’s yards came on scrambles and draws.

Sanders did hit one long run off a zone-read give, but it was against Ohio State’s nickel defense on third-and-long.

6. McSorley probably is not not accurate enough to play quarterback at a high level in the NFL, but he could be a heck of a slot receiver. 

That is not a knock. Playing quarterback well in the NFL is hard, and there are only so many spots in the league.

Meanwhile, an elite slot receiver is really valuable.

He’s just so shifty and quick, plus he runs very hard. (And don’t compare him to Baker Mayfield, either.)

>>RANDOM THOUGHTS: NFL’s war on football continues, Dalton steps up, Buckeyes prevail, etc.

7. Upon further review, Ohio State could have controlled this game from the start. 

Missed tackles were an issue for the defense in the first half, and dropped passes played a big role in the inability of the offense to get going early.

It’s hard to imagine how much that deflected interception hurt Ohio State because it not only killed another drive but set up Penn State for a field goal.

Ohio State’s tight ends had a rough night all around, though Rashod Berry (the intercepted pass went off his hands) had a nice block on Dobbins’ touchdown run in the third quarter.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Quarterback engineered two scoring drives in the fourth quarter.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

8. Ohio State’s advantage both ways in the trenches was more apparent on replay than live. 

Both sides got their shots in, but the Buckeyes in general did a better job of blocking and beating blocks.

Ohio State misses Nick Bosa’s pure disruptiveness, but the Buckeyes are still strong across the front with athletes who are hard to block and can erase space and close gaps that appear to be there.

9. Regarding Ohio State on short yardage: I’m not sure Haskins being more of a run threat would have mattered much. 

Penn State had them outnumbered and was accounting for him and the running back.

This is an example of zone-read being a play that no longer works against more athletic modern defenses, particularly if you don’t have someone like Braxton Miller or Trace McSorley (and sometimes even when you do) to bring their own blocker.

Perhaps quarterback "power" is an option? Can Haskins do that? Some guys have a better knack than others for setting up blocks and finding the hole, but it doesn't require an elite runner by any means.

10. Both targeting calls were poor, and in both cases the replay official is to blame for the ultimate outcome. 

Slow motion replay made the contact by Penn State’s Antonio Shelton look worse than it was (though it was high in the “strike zone,” I don’t believe it was forcible contact, so it should have just been a regular personal foul for a late hit out of bounds).

The bang-bang nature of the call against Ohio State’s Isaiah Pryor made throwing a flag there reasonable, but on replay it looked like the contact was incidental. It was certainly not intentional, though that alone doesn’t negate it being a penalty.

Nonetheless, this nuance exemplifies my problem from the start with the way the targeting rule is written. It is too broad and too ambiguous, and my assumption from the start the humans who serve as officials would have a hard time separating right from wrong has turned out to be correct.