Many commentators said that Penn State hadn't been tested by a real defense this year. They said that Ohio State's spread offense would be too great of a task for the Penn State front seven.
They said that the crowd (Ohio Stadium record 105,711) would be too much for Penn State to handle. They said that Penn State wouldn't be able to break an 0-7 mark in Columbus since joining the Big Ten.
They were wrong.
Penn State silenced all doubters Saturday night with their great 13-6 win in Columbus, what many prognosticators felt would be their greatest remaining test this season.
In what was supposed to be a somewhat high-scoring offensive battle, both defenses rose to the occasion and held the score to a 3-3 tie at the half. Ohio State did its job containing Penn State's great wide receiving corps, allowing only one big play, a 49-yard pass to Graham Zug. This led to a Kevin Kelly field goal, putting Penn State ahead 3-0.
Penn State did its job holding quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Chris "Beanie" Wells to minimal rushing yardage, obviously frustrating Wells.
The second half was nearly the same as the first in a game that appeared to be for the most part a field position battle, which appeared to have Penn State coming up with the slight advantage.
It was about this time that Ohio State seemed to be coming up with a few big pass plays and orchestrated a drive deep enough into Penn State territory for Ohio State to take a 6-3 lead.
Wind taken slightly out of Penn State's sails, the offense punted away and Ohio State had the ball. Penn State had nearly succeeded in stalling the Buckeyes' drive when Pryor was scrambling to avoid a sack...
That's when it happened.
Mark Rubin caused what was undeniably the biggest play of the night when he forced a fumble, which was eventually recovered by linebacker Navorro Bowman. With great field position inside the 50-yard line, backup quarterback Pat Devlin came in after Daryll Clark sustained a minor head injury on the previous drive.
Devlin led the Lions on a seven-play, 38-yard drive, capped by a quarterback keeper from one yard out to put Penn State up 10-6. The Nittany Lions would add a field goal later and hold the Buckeyes on the last drive to secure a 13-6 victory over No. 9 (BCS) Ohio State to keep their National Championship hopes alive.
Breaking Down Penn State's Keys to Victory
By far the major factor in Penn State's victory was its defensive play. The Nittany Lions held Beanie Wells to just 55 yards on the ground (2.5 ypc) and Terrelle Pryor to six yards on nine rushes (0.7 ypc).
Another major factor was that Penn State had zero penalties. Their only miscue was an offensive pass interference call early in the game on Deon Butler, which was declined by Ohio State since it occurred on a third down, opting to have Penn State punt.
Pat Devlin played a good two drives at the end of the game, leading Penn State down a short field to give Penn State the lead and scoring the lone touchdown of the game.
Penn State has their bye this week and then will travel to Kinnick Stadium in a "Greene Out" to take on the 5-3 Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa is 2-2 in the Big Ten with wins over Indiana and Wisconsin and losses to Michigan State and Northwestern. Iowa is 4-1 at home this year so far with a 22-17 loss to Northwestern being the only blemish.
Penn State will again have to stop the rush against the Hawkeyes, as they boast one of the nation's top rushers in Shonn Greene, who has 1,153 yards and 10 TDs on the season (6.5 ypc). Iowa must first travel to Illinois to face the Fighting Illini next week before their clash with Penn State.
I believe that Penn State may have some trouble early on, but as has been the case this season, they will get it together and come out on top by at least 10 points.
Home games with Indiana and Michigan State will follow. I expect Penn State to have no problem with Indiana (3-5, 1-4) whatsoever, but a Javon Ringer-led Michigan State team should be a good game to round out the season.
That being said, I still think that Penn State will defeat the Spartans and finish the season undefeated.