Not content with 19 straight victories? Desperate for style points to sway doubters nationally?
Ohio State apparently got the message.
The Buckeyes dismantled Penn State, getting touchdowns on six of seven first-half possessions and rolling to a 63-14 victory at Ohio Stadium.
The 20-game winning streak is the second-longest in Ohio State history. The Buckeyes won 22 straight from 1967 to ’69. The victory probably won’t bump Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) up from its No. 4 ranking this week, but a dominating performance against a credible opponent should quiet any talk that the Buckeyes are a paper tiger.
“I like where we are as a team,” coach Urban Meyer said.
It was the most points Penn State (4-3, 1-2) has surrendered in a game since 1899 and matched the most lopsided margin in the 28 games played between the schools. Penn State routed Ohio State by the same score in 1994.
Although the Nittany Lions still are short-handed from the heavy NCAA sanctions leveled against them because of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, they did defeat Michigan in four overtimes in their last game.
With Penn State coming off a bye week, Meyer expected the game to be a “street fight.” It was a one-sided street fight. The Buckeyes totaled 686 yards, third-most in school history.
Carlos Hyde ran like he usually does — like a truck — gaining 147 yards in 16 carries and scoring two touchdowns. Braxton Miller ran for two touchdowns and threw for three more. Miller was sharp again in the passing game. He completed 18 of 24 passes for 252 yards before yielding to Kenny Guiton, who scored on a 2-yard run to finish a drive that made it 56-7 with 4:01 left in the third quarter.
“I feel comfortable in the passing game,” Miller said. “It’s just exciting to see the guys get the ball and do something with it.”
Added Meyer, “I love where Braxton’s at right now as a quarterback. Last year, I felt he was an athlete playing quarterback. Now, he’s a quarterback.”
That the offense rolled isn’t a big surprise. It has been purring since Hyde returned from a season-opening three-game suspension and Miller returned from a sprained knee. With an offensive line that now is routinely mashing opponents, the Buckeyes are scoring almost at will.
It has been the defense that has caused much consternation. Last night provided some comfort. In Penn State’s first five possessions, Ohio State forced two three-and-outs and had two interceptions.
The first one was huge. The Buckeyes scored after taking the opening kickoff, and Penn State drove to Ohio State’s 12. Facing third-and-5, freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg tried to throw to tight end Adam Breneman in the end zone.
But senior safety Corey Brown read Hackenberg’s eyes and intercepted the pass.
“He didn’t put much air under it, so I knew I’d have a chance to get it,” Brown said.
When fellow senior safety C.J. Barnett intercepted Hackenberg late in the first quarter to set up another Buckeyes touchdown, the rout was on. Ohio State got touchdowns on its last five possessions of the first half.
Miller made it 14-0 on a 39-yard run, aided by fierce blocking by Devin Smith for the final few yards.
Miller scored again on a 6-yard run following Barnett’s interception, and then threw to Chris Fields for a 3-yard touchdown to cap a 60-yard drive to make it 28-0.
If Penn State had no answer for Miller’s elusiveness, they were as powerless against Hyde’s power on those rare times that the offensive line didn’t plow through the Nittany Lions.
Penn State finally scored on a 12-yard pass from Hackenberg to Brandon Felder, but the Buckeyes put the game away with two scores in the last four minutes of the half.
Hyde ran 39 yards for the first score. The Buckeyes got the ball back with 55 seconds left in the half. Ohio State drove to Penn State’s 25 with 9 seconds left. Miller then zipped a pass to Brown for a touchdown to give Ohio State a 42-7 lead.
Hackenberg’s night ended early like Miller’s did, for a different reason. Hit often by Buckeyes pass-rushers, particularly Noah Spence, he left the game in the third quarter with his right shoulder wrapped. Hackenberg, who was 12 for 23 for 112 yards, was sacked four times.