UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Don’t worry about Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller’s health – he looked perfectly fine against Penn State.
One week after Miller was sent to the hospital during OSU’s game against Purdue, he returned for Saturday’s contest against PSU and helped the No. 9-ranked Buckeyes muscle past the Nittany Lions, 35-23, at Beaver Stadium.
OSU’s sophomore quarterback surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the season as he rushed for 134 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns to silence PSU’s raucous “White Out” crowd and extend first-year Buckeye coach Urban Meyer’s unbeaten streak to nine games.
The Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) also got a rushing score from junior running back Carlos Hyde and an interception returned for a touchdown by sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier. The four combined scores by Miller, Hyde and Shazier put OSU up, 28-10, heading into the fourth quarter.
Miller’s counterpart, PSU senior quarterback Matt McGloin, helped the Nittany Lions (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten) fight back in the fourth quarter when he found redshirt junior tight end Matt Lehman on a 2-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-16.
McGloin finished the night with 327 yards on 27-of-45 passing, two touchdowns and an interception.
After failing to make much of an impact on the game through the air, Miller clinched the win and sent some members of the Beaver Stadium crowd of 107, 818 heading for the parking lot when he connected with redshirt senior tight end Jake Stoneburner on a 72-yard touchdown pass.
Miller completed 7-of-19 pass attempts for 143 yards, one passing touchdown and one interception on the night. The Stoneburner score put the Buckeyes up, 35-16, and though the Nittany Lions added another late touchdown, the deficit was more than the hosts had time to overcome.
“First time I’ve experienced this stadium and (PSU’s) crowd and it’s a big league atmosphere,” Meyer said after the game. “The one thing about coming on the road, you find out about your team because it’s a gladiator-type mentality… our guys seem to thrive on that. So, it was against a very good, very talented group. Very pleased with the team win.”
Defensively, OSU excelled in the run-stopping phase of the game – the Buckeyes limited the Nittany Lions to 36 total rushing yards on the night.
Shazier said the team was very prepared for the Nittany Lions.
“We knew what they wanted to do and we tried to take that away from them,” Shazier said.
The game began as a defensive stalemate, but PSU was first to threaten. Nittany Lions redshirt senior safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong had two chances at interceptions and potential lengthy returns on the Buckeyes’ second drive of the game. Obeng-Agyapong dropped both passes, but helped stall OSU’s drive, which ended in a punt.
After the first quarter, the two teams combined for just 113 yards. OSU took a 75-38 lead in total yardage, but that advantage didn’t produce points for either squad.
The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions combined for eight punts through the game’s first eight drives.
Nittany Lions redshirt sophomore linebacker Mike Hull blew through the Buckeyes’ line and blocked OSU redshirt senior punter Ben Buchanan’s punt with 6:05 to play in the half. The ball wobbled into the end zone where senior linebacker Michael Yancich fell in for a touchdown to put the home team up, 7-0.
It was the third blocked punt of the season for Buchanan, and this one sent the Beaver Stadium crowd into a fevered state of cheering.
Miller appeared jumpy throughout the game, throwing balls into coverage and hesitating to run at times, but steadied himself in time to help get the Buckeyes on the board before the end of the first half. His 33-yard run on OSU’s first drive after the blocked punt set OSU up with a 1st-and-goal situation, which Hyde converted with a touchdown.
Hyde, who finished the game with 55 rushing yards on 21 carries, plowed into the end zone on a 1-yard run to knot the game at seven with 34 seconds to play in the half. The teams went into the break tied at the same score.
Miller went to half having completed 4-of-12 pass attempts for 45 yards. McGloin was more efficient for PSU; completing 8-of-14 passes for 116 yards. McGloin dug his team into a hole on his first pass attempt of the second half.
On the first drive of the second half, Shazier, who was wearing the No. 48 jersey in honor of the death of a high school friend, picked McGloin off and returned the ball 17 yards to the end zone untouched to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the game at 14-7.
One play prior, Shazier registered a sack. That sequence of events resulted in high praise from Meyer after the game.
“I think (Shazier’s) playing his best football right now. I think anytime you get that kind of lost yardage play and then the (touchdown),” Meyer said of Shazier’s play.
McGloin hardly seemed phased by his error and drove the Nittany Lions into scoring position on the team’s very next drive after finding redshirt junior receiver Brandon Moseby-Felder on a 42-yard pass play. Sophomore kicker Sam Ficken drilled a 27-yard field goal to capitalize on the drive and pull PSU to within four points of the Buckeyes at 14-10.
Miller continued a shaky night under center on the Buckeyes’ ensuing drive, throwing an interception to PSU sophomore cornerback Adrian Amos near midfield.
The Nittany Lions’ ensuing drive ended in a failed fake-punt attempt, though.
What Miller lacked in throwing prowess against PSU, he made up for with his legs, and re-established himself the next time OSU took the ball.
Miller rushed for 22 yards to help send the Buckeyes marching toward PSU’s white-clad student section. It was the 23rd yard Miller rushed for that fans will remember.
On 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Miller and Hyde collided in the backfield and were nearly tackled simultaneously when the quarterback took matters into his own hands. He tucked the ball, dodged an on-coming tackler – the crowd gasped – and dove high into the end zone for the score.
For Miller, it was his 11th rushing touchdown of the season, and it put OSU up, 21-10.
Then, it seemed the Nittany Lions lost complete control of Miller – this was proven on OSU’s next possession. Miller gashed PSU again and again, and went over 100 yards on a drive that he capped himself with another rushing score to put the Buckeyes up, 28-10.
That score held into the fourth quarter, but PSU wasn’t going to go away quietly.
McGloin found redshirt junior tight end Matt Lehman on a 2-yard touchdown pass. PSU’s two-point conversion try failed, but the Nittany Lions drew closer at 28-16 with less than 10 minutes to play in the game.
OSU worked time off the clock and extended its lead on the ensuing drive when Miller found Stoneburner on the 72-yard touchdown play.
McGloin led the Nittany Lions to another score, finding redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Carter on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 1:41 to play. The PSU quarterback set a career best in passing yardage for a single game on the drive, but that and the late score still wasn’t enough to top OSU.
PSU’s two fourth-quarter scores were more than OSU redshirt senior defensive lineman Nathan Williams said he could stomach.
“I’m sick to my stomach … ,” Williams said. “They scored on their last possession – that’s unacceptable.”
OSU co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said the team needed to do a better job at closing things out.
“We’re getting more comfortable as a staff and as a defensive unit,” Fickell said. “So, I think that everything is starting to click a little bit more.”
The game ended shortly thereafter with OSU claiming the victory.
Buckeye sophomore cornerback Bradley
Roby recovered the ensuing PSU onside kick, effectively ending the game. OSU closed out the win on its next possession.
The Buckeyes will return to conference play next Saturday against Illinois at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff for the game against the Fighting Illini has not been announced.