Big Ten: Buckeyes-Lions 110709

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The Iowa-Ohio State clash next Saturday in Columbus will be the closest thing we'll see to a Big Ten championship game.

The winner will not only earn a share of the league title but gain the Big Ten's automatic berth to a BCS bowl, almost certainly the Rose Bowl. If Iowa wins, the Hawkeyes will have beaten Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, the only teams that can tie them for first place in the league. So Iowa will hold all the tiebreakers. The same goes for Ohio State. If the Buckeyes win, they will have beaten Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin. Even if the Buckeyes lose to Michigan on Nov. 21, they will win the tiebreaker at 6-2 in league play.

Thanks to Big Ten assistant commissioner for communications Scott Chipman for passing along this note.

Buckeyes back in the BCS mix

November, 7, 2009
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- If it’s November it must be time for the Ohio State and its BCS worthiness discussions (read: diatribes) to begin.

That’s right, the Buckeyes -- aka America’s in perpetuity BCS guest -- is now piloting the Big Ten’s BCS automatic bid with two games to play. And all that stands between the currently 8-2 Buckeyes and a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl is next week’s home game vs. conference co-leader Iowa (likely without QB Ricky Stanzi) and the regular-season finale at reeling Michigan on Nov. 21.

“November is for contenders, that’s what we always say,” Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel after his team’s 24-7 domination over Penn State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. “But it’s kind of hard to get too ecstatic because the Hawkeyes are coming to town and they’re going to be in a nasty mood.

“But this is a gratifying win because we’re becoming a better team.”

And more importantly, sophomore Terrelle Pryor took a step toward developing into a better quarterback -- if Saturday was any indication.

Against a Penn State defense that came in ranked nationally in total defense (6th), rushing defense (5th) and pass defense (12th), Pryor directed an Ohio State offense to 353 total yards, three touchdowns and zero turnovers.

For the game Pryor was 8 of 17 for 125 passing yards with two touchdowns, and he rushed five times for 50 yards with one TD and never took a sack.

Still, he wasn’t completely satisfied with the performance.

“Throwing the ball was a little poor,” Pryor said. “It seems like we had some communication issues. But we ran the ball very well. And no turnovers.”

Ohio State led 10-7 at the half but Pryor’s numbers were sub-pedestrian, going just 3-for-9 for 33 passing yards. On the ground he had three carries for 42 yards and a touchdown.

But the second half was a different story, particularly through the air.

Pryor went 5-for-8 for 92 passing yards and two TDs. The big play came on a 62-yard TD strike to wide receiver DeVier Posey with 1:47 left in the third quarter.

It was the first play of a drive and it caught Penn State off-guard. On the eight previous drives Ohio State started off with a running play. So the Nittany Lions must have been thinking run.

“We were in a coverage where the corner just got a little careless,” Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. “Pryor is a good football player and I thought he played well."

Pryor followed up the long touchdown pass with another score when he led Ohio State on a 10-play, 47-yard drive that culminated with a 6-yard pass play to RB Brandon Saine. The drive chewed up 5:23 on the clock to start the fourth quarter.

“This was my first time to lead the team and take the offense down the field and score some touchdowns against another big team and a ranked team,” Pryor said.

It was also a good performance in a hostile environment.

Saturday was the 300th game in Beaver Stadium history and the 110,033 in attendance marked the fourth largest crowd in Happy Valley history. And the vast majority of fans were hoping the Jeannette, Pa., native had a rough afternoon playing back in his home state for the first time since high school.

“It was big to come back home,” Pryor said. “I haven’t been back to Pennsylvania in a long time and just to play in front of all the people who came to see me play was big. It felt good.”

And it must feel good for Bucknuts nation to know it’s back in the BCS mix -- even if the rest of America is collectively groaning.

Ohio State defensive tackle Doug Worthington discusses the Buckeyes' approach to stopping Penn State's offense following OSU's 24-7 win on Saturday.

Video: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor

November, 7, 2009

The Buckeyes' sophomore QB discusses his performance and his team's 24-7 victory at Penn State on Saturday.

Final: Ohio State 24, Penn State 7

November, 7, 2009
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Ohio State dominated the line of scrimmage and the second half, cruising to a 24-7 win over Penn State at Beaver Stadium.

After a tight first half, Ohio State outscored the Nittany Lions 14-0 in the second half of a game that provided Buckeyes’ quarterback Terrelle Pryor the signature win he had been seeking.

The victory for Ohio State (8-2, 5-1 in Big Ten) sets up next weekend’s game against Iowa (9-1, 5-1) in Columbus which could be for the Big Ten title and the conference’s automatic BCS bid.
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Fire up the RV, this one is over.

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor found Brandon Saine on a 6-yard touchdown pass play to give the Buckeyes a commanding 24-7 lead over Penn State with 9:37 left to play.

It was Pryor’s second touchdown pass of the second half. He is now 8 of 17 for 125 yards passing with those two scores. He’s also carried the ball four times for 54 yards in leading the Ohio State attack.

The Buckeyes now have 156 yards in the second half, including 92 through the air by Pryor.

Pryor gives Ohio State bigger lead

November, 7, 2009
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- It was the longest pass play against Penn State this season.

And the 62-yard strike from Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor to DeVier Posey on the first play of the third drive of the second half gave the Buckeyes a 17-7 lead late in the third quarter.

Right now Ohio State owns the line of scrimmage and if something doesn’t change quickly in the final 15 minutes of play then most in the fourth largest crowd (110,033) in Beaver Stadium history are going to go home unhappy.
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A few quick thoughts at halftime in Happy Valley as Ohio State leads Penn State 10-7.

Stat of the half: 4.9. That’s how many yards per passing attempt the two teams have combined for so far. With both defenses in the top 10 nationally in total defense a low-output affair was expected by many. And there has only been 280 total yards through the first 30 minutes so it’s likely to be tight the rest of the way. This could clearly come down to the special teams units, both of which played a role in the first half.

Best player in the half: You could make an argument for Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark, who scored the Nittany Lions only touchdown, or for Ohio State punt returner Ray Small, who set up the Buckeyes’ only touchdown. Also, any number of players on either defense has delivered as expected so far. But I would go with the unconventional choice of Ohio State backup kicker Devin Barclay. He’s the difference in the game as his 37-yard field goal gave the Buckeyes the 10-7 lead. But more importantly he may have convinced coach Jim Tressel that he’s up to the task if this game comes down to a late field goal try.

What Ohio State needs to do: Find a passing attack -- even a little one. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was just 3 of 9 for 33 yards in the first half. By the end of the second quarter it was clear that Penn State didn’t respect the Buckeyes’ passing game and it made even tougher for Boom Herron (13 carries, 51 yards) to find anywhere to run. If Pryor can’t loosen up the Nittany Lions defense a bit the yards are going to be hard to come by in the final two quarters. Ohio State also needs to cut down on the penalties (6 for 46 yards).

What Penn State needs to do: Find a running game. Just like Ohio State’s dearth of passing, the Nittany Lions haven’t found a consistent way to move the ball on the ground (18 carries, 44 yards). That’s not a huge surprise as the Buckeyes came into the game with the nation’s sixth best rushing defense (86.4 yards per game). If that continues then the pressure on Clark to create something through the air is going to continue to mount.

Penn State's Clark sets record

November, 7, 2009
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark tied the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter with a 1-yard touchdown on a 4th and goal play.

The score was Clark’s 21st career rushing TD which established a new school record for quarterbacks.

Ohio State then retook the lead at 10-7 after a 10-play, 61-yard drive resulted in a 37-yard field goal by Devin Barclay. Jim Tressel had Barclay lined up to try a 42-yard field goal but Penn State was flagged for being offside and that made the try -- which would have been good from close to 50 yards -- five yards shorter.

Trying to win field position game

November, 7, 2009
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Interesting bit of strategy from Jim Tressel.

With a 4th and 11 at the Penn State 29, Tressel opted not to try a 46-yard field goal against a slight breeze. Remember, kicker Aaron Pettrey is out after MCL surgery. Backups Ben Buchanan and Devin Barclay both hit from 47 yards in warmups, but those kicks were in the other direction with the wind at their backs. Makes you wonder if 40 yards will be the outside limit on FG tries for Ohio State.

Instead of trying for three points, Tressel took a delay of game penalty that moved the Buckeyes back to the PSU 34 and then tried to pin the Nittany Lions deep in their own territory. No such luck as punter Jon Thoma kicked it into the end zone for a 14-yard net play.
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Joe Paterno talked about the kicking game being a big factor in this game and early on that's proving true.

After a pair of three-and-outs by each offense, Ohio State’s Ray Small took a short 37-yard punt from Penn State’s Jeremy Boone and returned it 41 yards to the Nittany Lions 9.

Two plays later it was Ohio State 7-0 as QB Terrelle Pryor used his legs to scramble and find the end zone for the early Buckeyes lead.

If Jim Tressel turns Pryor loose today and lets him create with his legs it could be Ohio State’s best chance against Penn State’s tough defense.

Big Ten race back in play

November, 7, 2009
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Still about 15 minutes until kickoff but the crowd that will eventually top 100,000 just got an unexpected boost.

The public address voice just announced the final score from Iowa City: Northwestern 17, Iowa 10.

It may not end up being the loudest cheer of the day but it was one thing that both the Penn State and Ohio State fan bases could agree on.

The Big Ten race is back in flux. With Iowa’s loss the winner of this game will be tied for first place with the Hawkeyes at 5-1. And Ohio State hosts Iowa next weekend in Columbus.

Fasten your seat belts Big Ten fans because November just got more interesting.

Hello from Happy Valley

November, 7, 2009
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Who says there’s no playoff in the top division in college football?

Tell that to No. 16 Ohio State (7-2, 4-1 in Big Ten) and No. 11 Penn State (8-1, 4-1), who meet this afternoon at Beaver Stadium (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). The winner will still be in the hunt in the Big Ten race, not to mention for a BCS bowl bid. The loser can prepare to play out the regular-season string before heading to a less-than-anticipated bowl game.

The Buckeyes control their own destiny and can earn the conference’s automatic BCS bid by winning out. Even with a win today the Nittany Lions will still need Big Ten leader Iowa to lose twice because the Hawkeyes won here back in September.

It’s a gorgeous day in Central Pennsylvania. The sun is shining; temperatures are in the 40s and are expected to climb into the 50s by kickoff. It’s quite a difference from the rain and snow that was a part of several Penn State home games earlier this season.

The conditions promise to be much less hospitable for Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor. The Jeanette, Pa., native spurned a scholarship offer from Joe Paterno and this will be the quarterback’s first trip into a Penn State atmosphere that should be electric and geeked up to rattle the home state signal-caller.

The all-time series between OSU and PSU is tied at 12-12 and each team has won the last game on the road in this rivalry -- Penn State 13-6 last year in Columbus and Ohio State 37-7 in 2007 in State College.

Thanks to our friends in ESPN Stats & Information, here are three things you should know heading into the game:
  1. Over the past two seasons, Penn State is just 4-3 against teams ranked in the top 50 in total defense, while it is 15-0 against non-top-50 teams. Ohio State is ranked sixth in total defense.
  2. Penn State, which beat Ohio State in Columbus last year, can become only the second Big Ten team to beat the Buckeyes in consecutive seasons under Jim Tressel. The only one to do it so far is Wisconsin in 2003-04.
  3. Ohio State is 10-1 under Jim Tressel in games against Big Ten opponents which defeated the Buckeyes in the previous meeting. The only Big Ten team to win two straight against Ohio State under Tressel is Wisconsin (2003-04).

And here’s one bonus fun fact: This game will mark the first time two FBS coaches with a combined 600 wins have met in a regular-season game. Paterno currently has 391, while Tressel has 225. It also happened in the 2006 Orange Bowl, when Paterno (353) faced Bobby Bowden (359) in a game that featured more than 700 wins between them.

Rally in the Valley

November, 7, 2009
Posted by’s David Albright

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Don’t stop believing.

That was the message and the sentiment on Friday night at the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus of Penn State University.

It’s where a crowd of more than 7,500 gathered to watch a football coach play the headliner at a college pep rally (apparently they still exist).

Students walked over from nearby residence halls like Bigler and Hastings and Pennypacker. And the locals drove over from nearby towns like Frackville and Lucky Furnace and Snow Shoe.

And on this crisp November night Happy Valley was transformed into Rally Valley.

Thanks to an 82-year-old messiah named Joe Paterno.

The opening act at the BJC was Ed DeChellis’ basketball team, which dispatched Slippery Rock by a score of 82-51 (it was 19-0 in favor of the Nittany Lions before the Rock scored).

JoePa’s football team, currently 8-1 (4-1 in Big Ten) and ranked No. 11 in the BCS standings, will have a much tougher task on Saturday afternoon when No. 16 Ohio State (7-2) comes calling at Beaver Stadium (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) in what on paper is an elimination game in the Big Ten -- not to mention the world of BCS bids.

No. 4 Iowa (9-0, 4-0), which beat Penn State back on Sept. 26, is still in the driver’s seat in the conference. The Hawkeyes travel to Columbus next Saturday in what could be another huge Big Ten game if the Buckeyes can leave central Pennsylvania with a victory.

And that’s why the white T-shirt-wearing students -- Saturday has been declared a "white out" for the student section -- and the blue-and-white clad adults gave up their Friday night to sit inside a basketball arena to witness what for all practical purposes should be considered a non-event.

When there’s a big game at Penn State, Friday night turns into a Rally in the Valley to try and set the tone for a positive outcome on Saturday.

It didn’t work back in September before the Iowa game. On that Friday night over at Rec Hall (the old basketball gym) a slightly smaller crowd gathered to kick off the football weekend but 24 hours later it was the visiting Hawkeyes who left with a 21-10 win.

Since then, Penn State has reeled off five consecutive wins -- albeit against lesser competition -- but the Nittany Lions are still in search of a signature win and Ohio State represents the last best chance to get one.

Win, and JoePa’s team is still in the hunt for a BCS bowl bid. Lose, and all that’s left are games against Indiana and Michigan State before it collects a postseason bowl bid to a nice but lesser destination.

Friday night’s pep rally included all of central casting's accoutrements.

There were cheerleaders. And the dance team. The Big Blue Band played. And the Nittany Lion mascot ran around. Videos were played. And T-shirts were given away. The crowd went back and forth with cheers of “We Are” and “Penn State.”

Even Jared from Subway fame made an appearance. If he could transform his life then why couldn’t Penn State beat an Ohio State team that’s 11-1 in November games since 2005 (the only loss coming in 2007 vs. Illinois)?

The last piece of the pep rally puzzle was the entrance of the football team and then Coach Paterno took his turn to address the crowd.

JoePa thanked the crowd and made special mention of the scout team and how the starters and the high-profile players couldn’t be successful without the efforts of the player who help them prepare each week. And as is his custom, he asked the crowd not to boo the Buckeyes on Saturday but rather to focus its energy on cheering for Penn State.

For a coach that’s been patrolling the sideline in Happy Valley longer (43 years) than many of the people in the crowd have been alive, he still possesses a captivating and commanding presence less than two months shy of his 83rd birthday.

Whether this latest edition of the Rally in the Valley is enough to translate into a résumé-building win remains to be seen.

Either way the meaningful portion of the 2009 football journey will effectively end for one team in Beaver Stadium on Saturday while the other will keep on believing -- at least for one more week.