In the most important game of the season, Ohio State trailed Penn State 14-0 in less than four minutes Saturday. That’s what happens when you kick to Saquon Barkley, fumble on your first possession, and can’t stiffen in the red zone.
Fourteen-nothing. In a flash. Against the No. 2 team in the country.
And yet, Howard Griffith didn’t think the game was over.
“I didn’t think the game was over because I knew that Ohio State had an opportunity to go out and make plays,” the Big Ten Network analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “But I did think there were going to be some issues going into that game with special teams – because that’s the one area where Ohio State has really (struggled). I know a lot of people focus on whether (J.T.) Barrett can throw it downfield 20-plus yards, but to me, watching them all year, it was about special teams. Special teams have gotten them into a lot of issues this year.”
It got them into issues Saturday, as Barkley took the opening kick 97 yards to the house. Nevertheless, Penn State, which led 28-10 in the second quarter, 35-20 in the third and 38-27 in the fourth, couldn’t stop Barrett and Ohio State when it counted most: the final six minutes.
Barrett completed his final 16 passes to finish 33-of-39 for 328 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran 17 times for 95 yards, repeatedly bringing the Buckeyes back from the brink. Barkley, meanwhile, was tackled for a loss on nine of 21 carries, including several fourth-quarter runs when Penn State desperately needed first downs.
It all amounted to a 39-38 Ohio State win.
“This Penn State team is still a really good team,” Griffith said. “They’re just not as loaded when you put them up 1-to-85 to an Ohio State team. One of the things that was really glaring was the offensive line. They issues that I had with them all year is they could not run the ball when they want to run the ball. That’s hidden by a lot of Barkley and the rest of the backfield. When you hide those and Barkley breaks off a 75-yarder or 80-yarder, that’s all people really remember. But in this game versus Ohio State, the number of negative runs he had was something that they hadn’t experienced all year long.”
Ohio State (7-1), which improved to No. 3 in the AP Poll, faces Iowa (5-3) at Kinnick Stadium this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Penn State (7-1), which fell to seventh, will play No. 24 Michigan State (6-2), at Spartan Stadium at 12 p.m. ET.