A game of wild momentum shifts in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday night ended with the pendulum swinging in the home team's favor as No. 5 Ohio State won its sixth consecutive game this season and its 22nd straight Big Ten game overall in a 33-24 defeat of No. 20 Penn State.
The Buckeyes fell behind out of the gate after giving up a touchdown on Penn State's second possession of the game and mustered only one score, a field goal, over their first five possessions. But a touchdown strike from quarterback C.J. Stroud to wide receiver Chris Olave in the second half gave them the lead for the first time, and a scoop-and-score just before halftime made it a double-digit game at the break.
Penn State abruptly erased that deficit with a field goal as time expired in the second quarter and a touchdown score early in the third quarter. As was the case all night, it triggered a reaction with Ohio State getting a field goal and score of its own only for Penn State -- sensing a theme here? -- to battle back to cut the lead to 27-24 with another score.
That was as close as it got all night. Ohio State kicked -- and made -- a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Buckeyes freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson stole the show late in the game after finding little room early. He finished with 152 yards rushing and a touchdown. Stroud added 305 yards passing and a touchdown through the air.
Penn State's struggles on offense were at least partially because it was not able to find as much balance as its foe. Quarterback Sean Clifford finished his day with 361 yards passing and a score while completing 35 of 52 attempts, but the team rushed for 33 yards on 29 carries in the losing effort against a stout defensive front for the Buckeyes.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
1. Ohio State's defense stands tall
During its six-game winning streak, Ohio State's explosive offense has helped propel it into the conversation as one of the most fun -- and arguably one of the best -- teams in college football. But Saturday it was the defense that stood tall. The Buckeyes held Penn State and its ground attack, which was averaging nearly 120 yards rushing per game, to 33 yards on 29 total carries for the game. Through the air, Clifford had a huge stat line with 361 yards passing but he tossed an interception and the team gave up two fumbles including one from Clifford which was returned for a score. Clifford was under duress throughout the game and it hampered his decision-making throughout to the benefit of Ohio State. OSU finished with four sacks and eight tackles for loss.
2. TreVeyon Henderson the hero
Penn State learned firsthand that you can, in fact, bottle up freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson. It also learned that you can only do so for so long. Henderson had only 20 yards rushing on his first 14 carries of the game but turned his final 14 carries into 132 yards and a score, breaking open Ohio State's ground attack late when it was needed. He's scored at least once in all eight games this season and leads the Big Ten in touchdowns.
3. Penn State shows life
Penn State looked listless against Iowa earlier this month, especially after losing Clifford, and then again last week against Illinois in a nine-overtime (!) thriller. So it would've been acceptable -- heck, even expected -- if it had not looked crisp on the road against a red-hot Ohio State team. Instead, Clifford came out dealing through the air to record the second-most passing yards in a Big Ten game of his career. The defense largely held up well, especially early, against an Ohio State team that was averaging 54.4 points per game in its last five games. The schedule doesn't loosen up from here in the no-days-off Big Ten, but Saturday was at least an encouraging showing that could help the Nittany Lions build confidence moving forward into the final month of the season.