UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania (WCMH) — The Ohio State offense generates most of the headlines, but it’s the defense that has really stepped into the spotlight this season. The Buckeyes entered today’s game with Penn State fifth in the nation in Yards Per Play allowed, 4.21, and second in Yards Per Game allowed, 239.

So the fact that Penn State, ranked just 43rd in total offense, has averaged 7.03 Yards Per Play against Ohio State, and has broken off six plays of better than 10 yards.

It’s been a chess match between Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, who coached on the same staff at Oklahoma State in 2017.

Yurcich has done a nice job rolling the pocket and getting Sean Clifford away from trouble, and it has resulted in some big plays downfield and kept drives alive.

“If they can roll along, stay on track and on course, now the drives get longer,” Knowles said. “And our job is to get the ball back to the offense as quickly as possible. So, that puts every first down play at a premium to try to knock them off schedule, knock them off pace. And then every third down is gold, because that’s when you can get the ball back.

Parker Washington had a 58-yard touchdown catch and run after avoiding two tackles, and Keandre Lambert-Smith added a 23-yard TD catch on a slant as Ohio State’s safety vacated the hash.

“We talked about explosive plays, right?” Knowles said. “And how I’ve talked before about how they’re somewhat built into the system because they do happen, but that you don’t want to give up any of them. So, you never condone that. And it’s always a concern. And you have to look at it and say, ‘Why did it happen?’ What’s the issue? Was it just a 50/50? ball? Or were we out of position? And if we were on a position, why were we out of position?’ So, every single explosive play is concerning.”

If Ohio State wants to continue on its unbeaten track and vie for a College Football Playoff berth, those explosive plays for Penn State will need to be nonexistent.