Ohio State football: A Penn State football refresher course


The Ohio State football team has a tough task versus Penn State in Week 9. As we wait for the game to get here, let’s look back at their recent history.

This week’s tilt against Penn State is shaping up to be the biggest game of the Big Ten East in 2017. Penn State notched a decisive victory over Michigan this past week. Meanwhile, Ohio State has looked every bit as good as the preseason pundits said they would since Oklahoma left Columbus a winner.

But before we can look ahead at what this year’s game will entail, it’s important to look back at the last few years to understand the history of the match up.

In 2013, Bill O’Brien was finishing up his final season before jumping back into the NFL. In the weeks prior, Ohio State dodged bullets from Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Iowa. The Penn State game that season saw Ohio State get over the issues that plagued them in those previous games.

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Braxton Miller scored four total touchdowns and the Buckeyes were up 42-7 at halftime. The game ended as a 63-14 blowout. This was the last time O’ Brien coached this game.

Say what you will about James Franklin, but the series has changed dramatically since his arrival. The very next season was arguably J.T. Barrett’s greatest moment as a quarterback. Nursing a sprained knee, Barrett, then a redshirt freshman, helped the Buckeyes survive blowing a 17-0 lead.

Barrett wasn’t perfect. His pick six in the third quarter started the Penn State rally. He threw for only 74 yards with one score and two interceptions. The Happy Valley crowd seemed to overwhelm Barrett and the Buckeyes.

After a late field goal by Penn State forced overtime, Barrett remembered that he was a pretty good quarterback. Bill Belton’s run gave Penn State an early lead in the first overtime, but consecutive Barrett touchdown scoring runs sealed the deal for Ohio State.

2015 was a better score for the Buckeyes. The 38-10 victory in Columbus was one of the last games of the two quarterback experiment. Barrett went a perfect 4-4 passing with two touchdowns and went over 100 yards rushing. Ezekiel Elliott himself had a huge game, running for 153 yards and a touchdown himself. Neither player, though, was the star of the night.

Saquon Barkley ripped through the Buckeye defense like no back had done all season long. While Ohio State kept him out of the end zone, they didn’t keep him out of the box score. 26 carries and 194 yards later, Ohio State fans were well aware of a new nemesis in the Big Ten to worry about.

It’s fair to say Barkley has earned that level of respect thus far in his Big Ten career.

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2016 brought the only blemish on the regular season record. The 24-21 loss in Beaver Stadium to a then unranked Penn State felt like a game that just never should have been as close as it was. The weather was awful, but that’s no excuse. Ohio State fumbled twice, but was lucky enough not to lose either of them.

Barkley was kept under 100 yards, albeit 99 yards on only 13 carries. It was a winnable game that just fell through. There was the missed extra point after Marcus Baugh’s second quarter touchdown.

Luckily, the Buckeyes were able to get that back on a safety later in the game. With less than five minutes left in the game though, the Nittany Lions blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown, scoring the final points of the game. Eight penalties for 45 yards didn’t help matter either.

There’s a lot more to be taken from that game. Perhaps the reliance on Barrett as a runner hurt the team. He carried the ball 17 times for only 26 yards, causing too many drives to stop short on designed runs from the quarterback. Maybe it was the not so special teams again.

Either way, the loss to Penn State hurt more than the playoff loss to Clemson.

The story for 2017 figures to be much of the same. Can Ohio State contain Barkley and Trace McSorley? Will Kevin Wilson’s offensive tweaks continue to give us the best of Barrett? Will the special teams issues continue to cause problems even after an off week?

Next: Lots to like about the second half of the season

The issues raised by our team here at FoS has already talked about what we’ve seen week to week for the Buckeyes to work on. That all comes to a head at 3:30 PM Saturday.