COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State moved to 8-0, 4-0 in Big Ten play, with a 44-31 victory at Penn State Saturday afternoon. The game was tight until the fourth quarter when the Buckeyes exploded for 28 points to pull away and win in convincing style.
Here are three takeaways from the victory:
The Venue Made A Difference
For the second straight week against a swarming defense, the Buckeyes struggled a bit in the red zone and to put together explosive plays.
Unlike against Iowa, which was at home, this one was in the raucous environment of Beaver Stadium, typically among the loudest and most difficult stadiums for opposing teams to play in.
“Nothing comes easy in this environment,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said. “This is totally different. To respond the way we did was great. That’s the recipe in matchup games.”
Ohio State had two delay-of-game penalties, which can be attributed partly to having trouble hearing the signals and partly due to the frantic nature of the contest, which always seems to be rich with odd moments.
“It was crazy,” Day said. “We expected playing this game here to be like that. We knew that it was going to come down to the fourth quarter. There’s a lot of things we wish we did better in the first half. It doesn’t come easy. With that being said, I am very proud of this team, especially in the fourth quarter. CJ stroud was unbelievable in the fourth quarter.
Though you wouldn’t know it by recent results – Ohio State has won five of the last six in Happy Valley – Day said, “This is a hard place to play. It always is.”
JTT Has Himself An Afternoon
There were a ton of expectations for defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau when he entered Ohio State. He was touted as one of the top prospects in America, at a position where the Buckeyes routinely churn out next-level players.
He had flashed at times during the 2022 campaign, but his day against Penn State is going to be hard to top.
The sophomore had six tackles, three tackles for loss, a pair of sacks, a forced fumble, and two interceptions – one of which he returned for a score late in the game, reaching up with one hand to pick off PSU quarterback Sean Clifford.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like that before,” Day said. “This was kind of his coming-out party today. He was off the charts.”
Even though the Buckeyes haven’t gotten to opposing quarterbacks as much as they usually do, the front has been able to create pressure and havoc. OSU came into the game first in the nation in pressures without blitzing, and the uptick in play by Tuimoloau is a big reason for that.
“He’s wanted it,” Day said. “He’s believed in (defensive line) Coach (Larry) Johnson and believes in the scheme and believes in his teammates. He’s an unbelievable player, but he’s a better person. You can see his talent. He’s been working really hard. Nobody wants it more than he does. In this stage, the way he played means a lot to him.”
The victory was just moments old when the California native was asked about his performance.
“I mean, it hasn’t hit yet,” Tuimoloau said about having an all-time great game on such a big stage. “I just take it as a great team win right now.”
Returning Home As A Visitor
Pennsylvania native Marvin Harrison Jr. was one of the biggest thorns in Penn State’s side, making 10 catches for 185 yards and repeatedly picking up first downs against any coverage the Nittany Lions threw at him. PSU recruited him, and he attended an Ohio State-Penn State game in Happy Valley years ago. But he bypassed his home state school in favor of what many have dubbed “Receiver U.”
The 6-4, 215-pounder has dazzled almost from the outset of the season, and many have proclaimed him to be the best receiver in college football.
Harrison Jr. had three gains over 20 yards against a Penn State secondary known for physical play and shutting down talented receivers. Even when it was obvious to everyone in Beaver Stadium that number 18 was getting the ball, Penn State was helpless to do anything about it.
“Obviously, the one guy we struggled with is Marvin Harrison,” PSU coach James Franklin said. “He’s a really good player. They went to him time and time again.”
Harrison Jr. grew up idolizing his father, Pro Football Hall of Famer and Indianapolis Colts standout Marvin Harrison. It’s uncanny at times how similar their playing styles are – from the choppy stops in route running to incredible hand strength and control. The younger seems to have an unlimited ceiling and gained praise from Nittany Lions cornerback Joey Porter Jr – himself a standout and son of a former NFL star.
“He’s a good player,” Porter said of Harrison Jr. “I thought I would get a little bit more matchups with him. Little more balls my way come in, especially when I was on him. He’s going to be a really good player in the future.”
That future appears to be now for Harrison Jr., who enters November with 48 catches, 783 yards, and 10 touchdowns.