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Highs & Lows: Ohio State

Penn State fought back in the second half but ultimately fell short, losing 28-17 against No. 2 Ohio State. Nate Bauer recaps both the highs and lows from Penn State's second loss of the 2019 season. 

Lamont Wade chases J.K. Dobbins
Lamont Wade chases J.K. Dobbins (Associated Press)

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PLAYER OF THE GAME Justin Fields was everything as advertised, and more, in the Buckeyes’ 28-17 win against Penn State on Saturday afternoon. He finished completing 15 of 21 passes for 183 yards and two perfectly thrown touchdown strikes. But it was his running that helped keep the Nittany Lions off balance throughout the afternoon.

PLAY OF THE GAME Within striking distance at 21-17, Penn State’s back broke when the Buckeyes saw Fields connect with receiver Chris Olave for a 24-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone over John Reid. Unable to make a play on the ball, Reid could only watch as Olave came down with the reception and effectively put the game out of Penn State’s reach.

BEST PASS Stuffing the ball down Penn State’s throats to open the second half, Fields delivered the dagger with his 24-yard beauty to K.J. Hill in the corner of the end zone. Hitting his receiver perfectly in stride, Fields’ pass helped build the Buckeye lead to 21-0.

BEST RUN On their first possession, the Buckeyes found themselves facing a third-and-12 at their 48-yard line. Having picked up just one first down on the series, a stop would force the ball back to the Nittany Lions were it not for Fields’ 17-yard carry on the ensuing play. Spreading Penn State out down the field, Fields only had to beat Jan Johnson in a pure open-field look, which he did easily.

BEST CATCH Ohio State had two of the best on the same possession in the second quarter. The first wasn’t a big pickup for the Buckeyes, but Binjamin Victor’s 10-yard reception needed full extension to reel it in. The second was a 16-yard completion four plays later, this time from Fields to Chris Olave right along the Buckeyes’ sideline. Olave had the awareness to make the catch and get both feet in bounds.

WORST DROP - Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins tried to make something out of nothing and Lamont Wade made him pay the price in the third quarter. Reversing field, Dobbins was met by Wade at the line of scrimmage, knocking the ball loose and, after a scrum, into Penn State’s hands. Two plays later, the Nittany Lions scored their second touchdown in 25 seconds to turn a 21-0 game into a 21-14 score.

- Journey Brown’s quick pass in the red zone in the third quarter, owning all of the game’s momentum, was similarly detrimental to the Nittany Lions. Perfectly delivered by Will Levis, Brown simply couldn’t bring it in on a play that looked like it was heading into the end zone.

- Levis’ first-down drop of the snap, backed up against his own end zone, also loomed large over field position in the fourth quarter.

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BEST SACK Yetur Gross-Matos needed to be a big factor in disrupting Ohio State’s offensive flow, and when the Buckeyes backed themselves into a second-and-20 in the second quarter, the Nittany Lion defensive end was able to do exactly that. Shedding his block, Gross-Matos landed on Fields from his blindside to set up a third-and-long and eventual Ohio State punt.

BEST EFFORT Chris Olave wasn’t done making big catches, and his fourth quarter touchdown could not have been more critical. With the Buckeyes allowing their lead to whittle down, a second-and-8 perfectly placed pass from Fields to Olave required an up-and-over move on Penn State defensive back. To make the play on the ball in the air, catch it, and come down with it in one motion was remarkable.

BEST KICK Jake Pinegar sent home a 42-yard attempt to cut Penn State’s deficit to 21-17 with 4:22 left to play in the third quarter. Pinegar made the kick with plenty of leg to spare.

BEST DECISION Whether or not Sean Clifford was physically able to get back into the game, that Penn State head coach James Franklin stuck with Levis to finish out the game was the right call. Clifford and the Nittany Lion offense had very little going and Levis provided a spark that helped make the game as tight as it was.

WORST DECISION Levis, in relief for Clifford, more than lived up to anything Penn State could have hoped for out of its backup QB. Even so, his first-down play-action dump pass to Pat Freiermuth, before Freiermuth got loose of his jam at the line, proved to be enormously costly. The Buckeyes intercepted the pass to steal whatever hopes the Nittany Lions had left at an upset, trailing 28-17.

MOST TELLING MOMENT Ohio State fans rushing the field afterward suggested this one was as much or more than the Buckeyes bargained for out of Penn State. By no means did the Nittany Lions do much offensively throughout the game, but the defense held the Buckeyes to their fewest point total of the season.

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