Ohio State-ment: Buckeyes bury PSU in 4th

Ohio State found a way to escape State College with a victory.

The second-ranked Buckeyes fell behind No. 13 Penn State, 21-16, at the 9:26 mark of the fourth quarter, but managed to score four touchdowns in a span of just over six minutes to flip that deficit into a 44-31 victory.

For the Buckeyes, there were two players at the center of it all: J.T. Tuimoloau and Marvin Harrison Jr.

While Harrison caught 10 passes for 185 yards and was clearly the best player on Ohio State’s offense, Tuimoloau wreaked havoc defensively.

In the first quarter, Tuimoloau tipped a pass at the line into the arms of his teammate Zach Harrison for an interception. Later in the quarter, he had an interception of his own. Both of those plays gave the OSU offense a short field, allowing the Buckeyes to jump out to a 10-0 lead.

But Penn State hung around and would score twice in the second quarter to eventually take a 14-13 lead into halftime. OSU went back in front with a field goal before PSU responded early in the fourth to take that 21-16 edge.

To that point, the high-powered Ohio State offense was struggling with the speed and sure tackling of the Nittany Lions. Until it wasn’t. After PSU went back in front, OSU needed just three plays to retake the lead as a 41-yard touchdown run from TreVeyon Henderson capped off a 75-yard drive that took just 35 seconds off the clock.

There was still plenty of time left for PSU, but Tuimoloau quickly gave the ball back to his offense. Tuimoloau came crashing off the edge, plowed through Penn State’s backup right tackle and got a hand on the ball as PSU quarterback Sean Clifford was looking to deliver it downfield.

Tuimoloau jarred the ball loose and recovered the fumble himself, giving the Buckeyes the ball at PSU’s 24. On the very next play, C.J. Stroud found Cade Stover for a 24-yard touchdown to make it 30-21 with 8:17 to play.

PSU would add a field goal to make it a one-possession game in the hopes of getting a stop and getting the ball back to its offense. But that stop never materialized. Stroud, Ohio State’s Heisman candidate quarterback, led the Buckeyes right down the field and put the Nittany Lions away with a 75-yard scoring drive.

On that drive, Stroud connected with Harrison Jr. for a crucial third-down conversion. He also delivered a 42-yard dime to Emeka Egbuka to set up the game-sealing touchdown.

And to add to Ohio State’s fourth-quarter barrage, Tuimoloau pitched in a 14-yard pick-six to put a bow on his unbelievable day.

Tuimoloau finished the afternoon with six tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, a pass breakup, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Got all that?

Tuimoloau’s breakout day was needed as Penn State looked up to the task through about 50 minutes of game play. But then the dam broke and the Buckeyes were able to get out of Beaver Stadium with a victory and improve to 8-0.

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 29: J.T. Tuimoloau #44 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first half at Beaver Stadium on October 29, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 29: J.T. Tuimoloau #44 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first half at Beaver Stadium on October 29, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

STATE COLLEGE, PA – OCTOBER 29: J.T. Tuimoloau #44 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first half at Beaver Stadium on October 29, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

What does this mean for Ohio State?

To this point in the season, it was fair to say that Ohio State hadn’t faced many significant tests. Six of OSU’s first seven games were played at home, so heading to Beaver Stadium presented the Buckeyes’ most difficult challenge of the year thus far — even if it was a noon game instead of PSU’s annual whiteout.

And Penn State definitely gave the Buckeyes a challenge. PSU actually out-gained the Buckeyes 482 yards to 452, but turnovers were the difference. Clifford, PSU’s sixth-year senior quarterback, finished the day with three interceptions and a fumble. Tuimoloau was directly responsible for each of those turnovers.

OSU had issues running the ball again and saw Miyan Williams exit with an apparent injury, but the combination of Stroud and Harrison was able to overcome that. Stroud finished the day 26-of-33 for 354 yards with Harrison his most dependable target with Jaxon Smith-Njigba out with a hamstring injury.

There’s a lot for Ryan Day and his staff to take from this game. And the upcoming schedule — Northwestern, Indiana and Maryland — shouldn’t present many issues before the showdown with Michigan on Nov. 26. That game will likely decide the Big Ten East and could have a College Football Playoff berth on the line.