Another Ohio State-Penn State game came down to the fourth quarter Saturday, but for the sixth straight time in the all-time series, the Buckeyes walked off the field with a win.
Trailing by five points as the final frame neared its midway mark, Ohio State needed to turn things around in a hurry. It did exactly that in Happy Valley, receiving major contributions and monster individual performances on both sides of the ball to explode for 28 points in the final nine minutes of action.
The Buckeyes had to come back from a halftime deficit for just the second time this season, and the first time on the road. Needless to say, the win was an emotional one for Ohio State, which saw its mettle tested against perhaps the best team it’s played all year. Ryan Day said as much during his post-game press conference at Beaver Stadium.
“Can we clean things up? Yeah, but that’s football and you see it every single week, you see games go back and forth. And again, a lot of respect for Penn State. This environment is a hard place to play, and it always is. So for us to do that was – I mean that locker room was on fire afterwards. They really deserve it.”
Central to Ohio State’s efforts was the play of sophomore defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau, who truly announced his arrival and confirmed the highest hopes for his collegiate potential with a game in which he caused a whopping four turnovers. Tuimoloau picked off two passes, returned one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, tipped another pass that was intercepted and recovered a fumble that he caused on a strip sack.
— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) October 29, 2022
After the game, Day said he’s never seen anything like it.
“It’s all kind of a blur the way it happened. But to intercept balls like that as a defensive end and go get a defensive score, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before. That’s big time. J.T.T. has put so much hard work into this. He’s an unbelievable player, but he’s a better person. And you can see his talent. This is kind of his coming-out party today. And he’s been working at it. Nobody wants it more than he does. So in this stage, for him to play the way he did, it means a lot to him and I think his teammates are very proud of him.”
Tuimoloau, who finished with six tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, a pass breakup, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery (!), said his favorite play was the tipped pass that led to a Zach Harrison interception. But he said his 14-yard interception return touchdown, which sealed the deal for the Buckeyes late, caused him to blackout due to the emotion.
“I mean I just blacked out. Just give glory to God, and he was watching over me. … It hasn’t hit yet. I’m just taking in a great team win right now. When the play happens, you kind of just black out.”
Harrison, who led the way for the Buckeye defense with a huge game against Iowa last week, said every player on the Ohio State defensive line is capable of breaking out for a game-wrecking performance.
“That’s what I’ve been telling all the guys on the team. I said it only takes one, one of us just to go crazy and to play how we can play and just dominate the game and see what happens, the game is wrecked,” Harrison said. “Any of us, all of us have that capability to do that.”
Still, the Buckeye defense gave up a season-high 31 points in the matchup, and the Ohio State offense – which ranked No. 2 in the country in scoring entering the weekend – mustered only 16 points through the first three quarters before springing to life late.
If there was one offensive player who dominated throughout, though, it was Buckeye wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. Just ask Penn State head coach James Franklin.
“The one guy we struggled with is Marvin Harrison. He’s obviously a really good player and they went to him time and time again,” Franklin said after the game. “But overall, we played really well.”
Marvin Harrison hauled in a career-high 185 yards on 10 catches, topping his 184-yard Week 3 showcase against Arkansas State versus a much higher-caliber secondary. C.J. Stroud hailed Penn State corner Joey Porter Jr. as the “best DB in college football” before this weekend’s matchup, but Porter couldn’t stop Harrison from torching the Nittany Lions on their home turf.
Harrison said he heard some of the chatter about how good Porter and the Penn State secondary were coming into the weekend, and that it only further motivated him to put on a performance to remember on Saturday.
“I kind of saw a lot of things being said. Obviously they’re a very talented secondary, probably the best we’ll see all year. We just had to be prepared, had to bring our A-game for it, for sure.”
Stroud finished with 354 yards on 26-for-33 passing, and his 24-yard touchdown pass to Cade Stover gave Ohio State a two-score cushion with 8:17 to play in the fourth quarter. Stroud’s one touchdown was his lowest single-game total of the season, but Day praised his quarterback for making a number of clutch plays on three straight touchdown drives during Ohio State’s fourth-quarter comeback.
This Cade Stover touchdown was beautiful in every way.pic.twitter.com/ib2Vu51E5V
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) October 29, 2022
“Very proud of the way the team played, especially in the fourth quarter. I thought C.J. Stroud was unbelievable in the fourth quarter, how he played.”
While Day found flaws in the Buckeyes’ win, he said the most important goal was accomplished nonetheless.
“Some things certainly we want better, but at the end of the day, great to get a win. When we go into these games, the expectation is to win,” Day said. “I know that’s not everybody’s expectation. That’s alright. Do we want to play perfect? Yeah. Do we want to win by four touchdowns? Yeah. But the expectation coming in here has to be to win, and that’s what we did.”