Bottom Line for Ohio State-Penn State: Offense shines in a weird atmosphere

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra

The gap between Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten is beginning to feel like an 800-meter freestyle race in which Katie Ledecky is swimming against some YMCA Pollywogs. The Buckeyes have the goods to lap the field, but they’re still prone to mid-race lollygagging that is causing some drag. Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis. — Ray Stein 

Offense (4 leaves) 

Justin Fields saw his completion percentage plummet to, um, 87.2%, but four TD passes against Penn State gave him six for the season – one fewer than his incompletion total. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are proving too tough to cover, the tight ends showed they can use their hands for more than blocking, and Master Teague didn’t hit home runs but his ringing doubles do damage.

Ohio State defensive Tommy Togiai (72) celebrates a third-quarter sack of Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford with teammate Haskell Garrett.

Defense (3 leaves) 

Star power among the front seven has taken a hit without a Bosa or Chase Young, but that hasn’t stopped the hits from coming. Tommy Togiai delivered the wood against the Lions, and Jonathon Cooper and Pete Werner alternated being shot out of a cannon. The DBs, however, remain suspect in general, and Shaun Wade in particular played a second half as if in a fog. 

Reactions:Ohio State beats Penn State as quarterback Justin Fields throws 4 touchdowns

Special teams (1 leaf) 

Haunted houses are out of fashion in these pandemic times, but Ohio State found itself in one in the second quarter as Blake Haubeil missed a chip-shot field goal, Drue Chrisman launched an ugly-duck punt and OSU was called for holding on a fair-catch punt return. Haubeil’s backup, Dominic DiMaccio, later missed a 23-yard attempt. Clean-up in aisle 3! 

Coaching (4 leaves) 

Ryan Day and his offense set the tone on the first play when Wilson took an end-around 62 yards, and the Buckeyes kept punching the gas pedal – well, at least until it was 21-3. The brain trust dialed up two dandy fourth-down pass calls on OSU’s final scoring drive, and otherwise survived some undisciplined penalties. You gotta keep that mask up, though, coach. 

Fun quotient (1 leaf) 

There is no venue on Ohio State’s schedule that is consistently pulsating as Beaver Stadium at night, so it stands to reason that an empty hull would deliver a phantom punch. It didn’t help that the home team didn’t answer the bell for the first few rounds, and the game-operations crew in State College actually did more harm than good with fake crowd noise that went to 11. 

Opponent (3 leaves) 

That’s a generous grade, considering how anemically the Lions played in the first half, when they looked more like a museum diorama than the real thing. James Franklin’s failed, goofball decision to go for it on fourth down on Penn State’s first drive screamed of desperation. The Nittanys found their legs in the second half – and receiver Jahan Dotson – but it was too late to matter. 

Officiating (1 leaf) 

There was a lot to not like here, starting with two ridiculous personal-foul penalties called on the Buckeyes – one on Baron Browning for tackling Sean Clifford and one on Taron Vincent for a post-play push. Nothing, however, stank more than the late-first half mismanagement that allowed Penn State to get a field goal because Fields took only one second to take a snap, a step back and then kneel. Hmm. 

rstein@dispatch.com 

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