The latest Battle of the Banned was the unlikeliest matchup of division leaders in the history of the Big 10, as anyone who expected Ohio State and Penn State to be pacing the Leaders Division at the end of October will be expected to submit their drug-test sample to the proper authorities.
After a first half in which both teams did all they could to prevent their own success, the Buckeyes pulled away in the second half and eased to a 35-23 win, moving to 9-0 for the first time since 2007.
We provided in-game grades and analysis for the Buckeyes today and updated them after every quarter. In addition, we provide further analysis here for each position. Your comments and thoughts are welcomed.
Overall Grade: B
Braxton Miller was a very ordinary quarterback in the first half of tonight’s win against Penn State, but in the second half, he returned to the form that has carried the Buckeyes to a 9-0 record, rushing for 134 yards and throwing for 143 more to lead Ohio State on three consecutive scoring drives.
Miller completed only seven of his 19 throws, but his big one was as pretty as you could hope for as he dropped a 20-yard touch pass right over a Penn State linebacker into the arms of Jake Stoneburner, who turned it into a 72-yard score.
After a first half where Miller looked tentative and hesitant to run the football, he came out and took charge in the second half, scoring on a pair of one-yard runs to finish drives. Miller ran or threw the ball on the first seven plays of the first drive and then capped it with a ridiculous stop-and-start move that opened a path to the end zone.
Overall Grade: B
Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith combined for 103 yards on 26 carries tonight, with Hyde doing most of his damage between the tackles. Hyde’s totals (22 carries for 55 yards) weren’t eye-popping, but his hard running took its toll on the Penn State defensive front later in the game when holes started opening up and pursuit began to slow.
Smith had a big 28-yard run on the second Buckeye scoring march of the second half, but his biggest contribution may have come without the ball. He led Braxton Miller through the hole and into open field on a quarterback keeper that Miller turned into a 38-yard run, which was Miller’s first real sign of life after a moribund opening half.
Overall Grade: C+
Senior Jake Stoneburner made his finest play of the season in hauling in a pretty pass from Braxton Miller and running away from a Penn State linebacker to complete a 72-yard scoring play in the fourth quarter, which sealed the deal on the Buckeye’s ninth win of the year.
Evan Spencer had three catches for 33 yards, but two of them came on Ohio State’s first scoring drive of the day, both on picture-perfect routes where Miller found him in a seam to keep the chains moving.
Corey Brown was wide open for a first-quarter touchdown but Miller overshot him by five yards and Devin Smith was a non-factor. Neither of the two starting wideouts caught a pass.
Overall Grade: A
The brightest surprise of the 2012 season continued its stellar play Saturday night as the offensive line handled a myriad of Penn State blitzes and neutralized a Nittany Lions front four that came into the contest standing second in the conference after giving up just 113 rushing yards per game.
The Buckeyes more than doubled that number on the ground tonight, led by Braxton Miller’s 134 yards. The only real misstep by the O-line all night came on a 3rd-and-1 play where the coaching staff inexplicably went to the Wildcat formation and Corey Linsley snapped the ball over the head of Carlos Hyde.
Overall Grade: A-
As good as the offensive line was for the Buckeyes, the defensive line was equally solid, eliminating the Penn State running game, holding the Nittany Lions to 36 yards on 28 carries.
John Simon had a pair of big plays, sacking Matt McGloin on a busted play to squelch a first-half scoring threat, then stuffing Bill Belton in the PSU backfield on a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Michael Bennett made a significant contribution, and the front four was bolstered by a healthy Nathan Williams.
Overall Grade: B-
Ryan Shazier made a pair of plays on consecutive downs in the third quarter that changed the game for the Buckeyes. The linebacker, who had been quiet throughout the first half, blitzed to sack Matt McGloin on a second-down play, then faked the blitz and dropped back into coverage on the next down, picking off a pass that he returned for 17 yards and a score.
Shazier nearly had another game-changer in the fourth quarter when he sacked McGloin, causing a fumble that would have ended a scoring drive if the Buckeyes had recovered.
Zach Boren had a solid game against the run, a remarkable statement for the senior who was the team’s starting fullback through the first seven games. Boren was exposed a bit in the passing game late in the fourth quarter but played well.
On the negative side, both Shazier and Orhian Johnson were hit with 15-yard personal foul penalties on the night, Johnson’s coming after he was carried for 10 yards by Kyle Carter.
Overall Grade: C
Like a number of games on the Buckeye schedule this year, this could have been a much worse grade if not for some bad drops and misses by the opposition.
It started on the first possession for Penn State when McGloin missed a wide-open Allen Robinson on a play that would have been a touchdown and ended with a fourth quarter that saw Penn State use the pass to convert four third downs and one fourth down to keep drives alive.
The night wasn’t without its highlights however. Bradley Roby made a great recovery after being beaten by Robinson to break up what looked like a sure touchdown pass, but on the whole, the secondary was average at best.
Overall Grade: C+
The Buckeyes suffered a blocked punt early in the game that gave Penn State a 7-0 lead, failing to spot Mike Hull’s rush, allowing him to reach punter Ben Buchanan, who took five steps before trying to punt the ball.
Buchanan averaged 40 yards on his five unblocked punts including one that landed inside the Penn State 20, but he put one in the end zone from midfield that cost Ohio State some field position.
Rod Smith had a couple of solid kick returns that were negated by block-in-the-back calls, but the Buckeye kick coverage did a good job in negating any big plays by the Penn State return teams.
Overall Grade: A-
The coaching staff did a nice job dictating tempo in the second half, allowing the physically-dominant Buckeyes the opportunity to further deplete the Penn State defenders. Ohio State went to the no-huddle on its third-quarter scoring drives, keeping the Nittany Lions from making valuable substitutions and allowing the Buckeyes to punch the ball in the end zone.
The defensive coaches used the blitz sparingly, but they picked their spots well, and those blitzes generally led to big plays for the Buckeyes. As mentioned before, the biggest play came not because of the blitz but because of the threat of it.
Ryan Shazier got a sack on the blitz, then faked the blitz and dropped into pass coverage where he picked off the pass that turned the tide in the third quarter.