Chico: How did that happen?

A breakdown of the final minutes of the Buckeye's big comeback win in Happy Valley

Mike 'Chico' Bormann
September 30, 2018 - 10:34 am
Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Malik Harrison (39) reacts after stopping the Penn State Nittany Lions on fourth down in the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium.

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The great thing about sports, and in this case, college football, is that just when you think you have the answers to how a game should play out, the inexplicable happens. How else do you explain 4th ranked Ohio State's 27-26 victory over 9th ranked Penn State in Happy Valley Saturday Night?

In a matchup featuring the top two scoring offenses in the country, many (myself included) anticipated a shootout of epic proportions. After watching Pitt and Illinois gash a weak Nittany Lion's rush defense to the tune of over 200 yards each, it was reasonable to think the table was set for J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber to feast.

With QB Dwayne Haskins etching his name into Buckeye record books with three 300 yard passing games in his first four starts to go along with a gaudy 16 TD passes, the stage was set for him to announce his Heisman candidacy before a raucous, record-setting "White Out" crowd of 110,000 and a national TV audience.

Let's just say the 1st Half didn't go as planned.

Ohio State's offensive line was manhandled by an attacking Penn State defense hell-bent on disrupting Haskins's timing and making his life miserable. Trailing 13-7 heading into the locker room, the Buckeyes could only muster 93 yards of TOTAL offense and for the 2nd time this month, allowed a 93 yard TD on defense after QB Trace McSorley hooked up with K.J. Hamler in the 2nd quarter. After what had to be a colorful, test-your-manhood address to his team, Urban Meyer saw his guys respond with a 13-play drive capped off with Dobbins plunging in from 4 yards out.

But Ohio State had no answer for McSorley, who chewed up the Bucks defense with 461 total yards of offense including a career high 175 on the ground. After Miles Sanders scored from a yard out, giving Penn State a 26-14 lead with 8 minutes to play, it appeared Ohio State might be done. Even Meyer admitted as much after the game saying, "I thought it was over."

Far from it.

Haskins would rally the offense with a pair of scores including a remarkable catch and run for 47 yards by Binjimen Victor which featured Victor going high to snare an errant pass and then weaving his way down the sideline to paydirt. After K.J. Hill would do the same, minutes later from 24 yards out, the Buckeyes found themselves clinging to a one point lead w/ 2 minutes to play. Surely enough time for McSorley to engineer another game-winning drive he has become known for in State College.

But on 4th and 5 on OSU's 43-yard line, Head Coach James Franklin would take two timeouts to ensure they had the right play call. And that play call would likely have Mr. McSorley on some sort of RPO, right? Wrong.

Inexplicably he would hand off to Miles Sanders, who was immediately swallowed up by Chase Young for a loss. How did THAT happen? 4th and 5 with possibly the season on the line and you take the ball out of your stud Quarterback's hands?

Inexplicable. Better yet, inexcusable. 

So the Buckeyes celebrate another improbable comeback to remain undefeated and in the driver's seat in the Big Ten's East Division. Getting out of Happy Valley with a win after a horrible start and a seemingly impossible deficit with 8 minutes to play is something to be proud of. But make no mistake, this team has plenty to work on if they have aspirations of beating a team like Alabama if the stars align. They will have a solid month of winnable games to work out the kinks.

Sometimes the question of "How did that happen?" is better left unanswered.

But if you must know, It's why they play the game.