Friday, October 31, 2014

BUCKEYES' NEAR LOSS MAY BE BLESSING IN DISGUISE

COLUMBUS — Some may say that Ohio State's double overtime win against unranked Penn State last Saturday wasn't something Buckeye Nation should be proud of, being that they were two-touchdown favorites going into the contest.

I am certainly not one of those pundits. In fact, I think it may have been the 13th-ranked Buckeyes (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) most impressive win of the season.

You see, the Penn State defense — tops in the FBS coming into the game — was hands down the most stingy unit the Buckeyes have faced this season. Add in an extremely hostile primetime crowd at Beaver Stadium, and you have all the ingredients of an upset loss.

However, the Buckeyes showed Saturday night in Happy Valley that they have some clutch performers on the roster — most notably, freshman quarterback, J.T. Barrett and sophomore defensive end, Joey Bosa.

Barrett, who had his worst outing statistically as a collegian, came up huge in the overtime periods — while nursing an ailing knee — essentially putting the entire season on his back, rushing for two touchdowns.

"I'll probably never forget that look when I saw our offense taking the field against the whiteout of the student section, down by seven, against the defense that really kind of shut us down in the second half, No. 1 rush defense in the country, and (Barrett) take us in for a score," Meyer said Monday during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus.

"Obviously we're going to build upon that."

Bosa, who was named the Big Ten defensive player of the week, made sure Barrett's courageous effort wasn't all for naught, as he sacked Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg on the final play of the game to seal the victory.

"I was so tired I didn't even know it was a sack," Bosa said following the win. "The guys started hugging me and I just went to the ground. 

"This might have been a double-overtime win, but it doesn't make it any less important, winning in a crazy environment like (Beaver Stadium)."

As Meyer stated, the Buckeyes will look to build upon the win as they host conference-foe Illinois (4-4, 1-3) for another 8 p.m. (ABC) tilt at Ohio Stadium.

With No. 8 Michigan State on the schedule next week, Saturday night's showdown with the Illini may be a classic trap game if the Buckeyes aren't prepared.

The scare against Penn State last week, again, may have been a good thing for the Buckeyes.

"It's not a good thing. It's a great thing," Meyer said. "I talked to a couple of my colleagues who I talk to on a weekly basis. They made those comments, and that's true. It's not just the atmosphere. You gotta nut up, man. You're down. You're down by several points in that environment, and there's no don't look to anyone else for help. There's 11 guys out there, have to score a touchdown, and they did. And there's incredible efforts.

"To answer your question, there's no question. Not just environment, but the toughness element that you just were in a street fight, and you're winning. You started getting your tail kicked and you came back and won. 

"That builds toughness."

Bottom Line

Ohio State had its scare at Happy Valley. That overtime victory will do for the Buckeyes what their overtime victory in 2012 against Purdue did for that year's team — it will bring them closer as a unit. 

That win over Purdue in 2012 catapulted the Buckeyes to an undefeated season. 

While I am not stating that the Buckeyes will go the rest of 2014 without a loss, I will say it takes them through their showdown Saturday night against the visiting Illini.

Lee's Prediction: OSU 45-17