Throughout this season of maximum production from the Ohio State Haymaker Factory, the big question was what would happen when the Buckeyes themselves got hit in the face. But who knew they would strike themselves? Hey, that hurts. The solution was twofold: One, stop doing that. Two, stand up, brush yourself off and keep punching. Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis. — Ray Stein

Offense (3)

This tune would sound a lot more peppy, positive and Sunny 95 appropriate if the Buckeyes hadn’t struck a number of bad chords — namely, three lost fumbles, a couple of bad sacks and some misses in the passing game. J.K. Dobbins earned each of his 157 hard yards, and Justin Fields was a dandy dual-threat quarterback — until he wasn’t.

Defense (4)

The Buckeyes had one series — Penn State’s first in the second half — when they resembled the air-grasping tacklers of a year ago. Turnover-fueled short fields contributed to two other Lions scores, and then OSU unleashed the beast. Chase Young was a presence all day, but it’s nigh unfair when he knows the opposite QB has to pass.

Special teams (4)

KJ Hamler returned Blake Haubeil’s short opening kickoff to the 40 — an inauspicious start. Thereafter, OSU’s specialists were tidy: Haubeil found his depth, and Drue Chrisman twice pinned the Lions inside the 20 on his three punts. Return man Garrett Wilson took some chances on bouncing punts but got away with it.

Coaching (3)

To this point of the season, Ryan Day and his staff have been Michael Phelps racing against a pool full of pollywogs. But the HMS Buckeye was taking on water after two ghastly turnovers turned a 21-0 blowout into a 21-17 squeaker. Day’s answer was to dial back the aggression on offense — mostly — and ride his defense. It worked this time.

Fun (4)

Emotions ran high 90 minutes before kickoff as players from both teams — including some shirtless Penn State dudes — engaged in some pregame jawing. The game itself was a knuckle-buster of hard hits, and the fans ate it up until the noose started to tighten in the third quarter. In the end, relief. And students rushed the field? Go for it, kids.

Opponent (3)

It’s hard to imagine James Franklin delivering speeches after that one about the difference between great and elite teams. His group didn’t have enough muscle for this arm-wrestling match, but they clearly know what to do when handed early holiday gifts. Backup QB Will Levis is a game, bullish runner, but he throws like an actual bear.

Officiating (2)

The on-field and replay crews were busy, and hit-and-miss in their duties: Fields’ first lost fumble was a proper overrule, but on the second it looked like his knee was down. OSU fans bemoaned that call, and holds that were called and apparently missed. And the Nittany nuts griped about missed face masks and bumped-into punters.

rstein@dispatch.com