Jack looks back | Consecutive single-point wins against Penn State a first for Ohio State

Jack Park For The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State receiver K.J. Hill Jr. high-steps into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown catch during the fourth quarter against Penn State on Sept. 29, 2018. The Buckeyes won 27-26. [Adam Cairns]

Ohio State (10-0) will host Penn State (9-1) Saturday in the most significant Big Ten regular-season game of 2019. A Buckeyes victory will assure coach Ryan Day's squad a Dec. 7 trip to Indianapolis for the conference title game, regardless of the outcome of next week's Ohio State-Michigan clash. If the Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes, OSU will play in Indianapolis only if they win at Michigan and Penn State suffers an unlikely home loss to Rutgers next week.

Ohio State accomplished thrilling come-from-behind single-point triumphs over Penn State the last two seasons, winning 27-26 last year at Beaver Stadium and 39-38 at home in 2017. It is the only time in school history the Buckeyes have defeated the same opponent by single points in consecutive seasons.

Against the Nittany Lions each of the last two years, the Buckeyes rallied from double-digit fourth-quarter deficits for the seemingly impossible victories. Last year, Ohio State trailed 26-14 with exactly eight minutes remaining. Quarterback Dwight Haskins and receiver Binjimen Victor combined for a 47-yard score that made it 26-21 with 6:42 to play. Victor showed tremendous poise by skillfully weaving his way through the PSU secondary for the touchdown.

Penn State was not able to sustain a drive on its next possession but buried the Buckeyes at their 4-yard-line with 4:35 left. Haskins magically led his team the needed 96 yards in eight plays for the winning touchdown, a 24-yard pass to K.J. Hill with 2:03 remaining. He finished the game completing 22 of 39 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

In the 2017 game, Ohio State entered the final quarter tailing Penn State by 15 points at 35-20. Quarterback J.T. Barrett then threw three fourth-quarter touchdowns to engineer the single-point victory. His third TD, a 16-yard throw to tight end Marcus Baugh with 1:48 on the clock, gave Ohio State its single-point victory at 39-38, and also its first lead of the game. Barrett finished going 33-of-39 passing for 328 yards and four touchdowns.

OSU also won at Maryland last year by a single point, 52-51, making 2018 just the second season in school history with two single-point victories. In 1916, Ohio State won 7-6 at Illinois and defeated Wisconsin 14-13 at home. Maryland's 51 points are the most the Buckeyes have surrendered while still winning. Ohio State has played a total of 37 single-point games, winning 23 and losing 14.

Illinois is the Buckeyes opponent with the most single-point games at five — three OSU victories and two loses. Penn State is next with four. In addition to the 2018 and 2017 games, Ohio State won at Penn State 21-20 in 2003 and lost at home to the Nittany Lions 7-6 in 1956, 37 years before PSU began play in the Big Ten in 1993.

Three of Ohio State's most significant single-point losses have been 29-28 at home to Oklahoma in 1977 and Rose Bowl loss to Southern California at the end of the 1974 (18-17) and 1979 (17-16) seasons. Memorable victories include a 17-16 win at Michigan State in 2012 that was Urban Meyer's first Big Ten game as OSU's coach, and 42-41 at Michigan during Meyer's second year in 2013.

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