Justin Fields is just too good.
Every time it looked like No. 18 Penn State might have a glimmer of hope on Saturday night against No. 3 Ohio State, Fields would respond by making a throw to take the wind out of PSU’s sails.
And in a 38-25 victory, Fields made a lot of those throws.
The 2019 Heisman finalist continued his torrid start to the 2020 season by completing 28-of-34 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns. Fields’ first touchdown pass was a perfectly placed ball to Chris Olave from 26 yards out to give the Buckeyes an early 14-0 lead.
This is just silly.
Justin Fields to Chris Olave. 14-0 Ohio State. pic.twitter.com/oNfinio3IV
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) November 1, 2020
Ohio State went into halftime holding a comfortable 21-6 lead, but Penn State scored on the first drive of the third quarter to cut OSU’s lead to 21-13. All of a sudden, a PSU team that had been thoroughly outplayed to that point felt like it had a chance. Fields, though, would make sure the Nittany Lions were never within one score again.
On the ensuing drive, Fields hooked up with Olave yet again. This time, Olave was matched up against backup Marquis Wilson who was momentarily pressed into action after starter Joey Porter Jr. was injured. Fields delivered a gorgeous deep ball down the left sideline and Olave finished his end of the arrangement by dusting Wilson for a 49-yard touchdown.
What a toss
What an even better catch pic.twitter.com/wEGpsmGaaJ
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 1, 2020
That touchdown extended the Ohio State lead to 28-13, a lead that was 31-13 after three quarters.
Penn State showed signs of life late, mostly thanks to some highlight-reel catches from Jahan Dotson. Dotson finished the night with eight catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
But it was too little, too late for the Nittany Lions.
What does this mean for Ohio State?
Ohio State is a clear cut above the rest in the Big Ten, and the fact that Michigan and Penn State already have these early season losses makes OSU’s path to the Big Ten title game that much clearer.
The level of talent spread throughout the roster, coupled with the coaching of Ryan Day, makes the Buckeyes one of the three best teams in the country. It’s been only two games, sure, but it’s hard to envision anybody other than Ohio State as a Big Ten representative in the College Football Playoff.
When Fields is throwing to guys like Olave and Garrett Wilson — who combined for 18 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns — the Buckeyes’ offense is going to be extremely difficult to slow down. The running back combination of Master Teague and Trey Sermon looked a lot better than it did in the opener vs. Nebraska, too. Teague led the way with 106 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries while Sermon, the Oklahoma transfer, pitched in 56 yards on 13 tries.
The defense, meanwhile, made life extremely difficult for Sean Clifford and the Penn State offense in the first half. PSU could not get its run game going whatsoever, and Clifford was often knocked off his spot as he looked to distribute the ball downfield.
Ohio State corner Shaun Wade had some issues with Dotson, but it was a pretty solid performance from that unit otherwise.
What does this mean for Penn State?
Penn State is off to an 0-2 start for the first time since 2012. That was the year Bill O’Brien arrived in Happy Valley, only to be hit with severe NCAA sanctions from the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Since then, though, Penn State has managed to get off to mostly strong starts. But the early season cupcakes are out the window in the pandemic-shortened, conference-only season of 2020. It’s a tough pill to swallow for a team that had really high expectations entering the season.
The loss last week to Indiana was one of self-inflicted wounds and a controversial finish. On Saturday night, Ohio State was just a far better team — especially in the first half. The Nittany Lions, from a game plan perspective, looked uncreative on offense in the early going and a defensive personnel blunder late in the first half allowed Ohio State to score on third-and-goal from the 10.
From an offensive perspective, it became clear pretty early on that the RPO-heavy scheme that Kirk Ciarrocca employed last year at Minnesota wasn’t working, especially when you consider that PSU is down its top two running backs. The passing success from the second half, though, is something to build on.
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