COLUMBUS, Ohio - Penn State football has not been reinvented, but clearly something looked very different about the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
Everything every opponent knows about PSU is based on tendencies built up during Joe Paterno's 46-year career.
That's what makes the Tom Bradley version of the Lions dangerous.
The Associated Press photos
Penn State’s Nick Sukay (1), D’anton Lynn and Ohio State’s Jake Stoneburner chase after an Ohio State fumble in the fourth quarter. Penn State recovered the ball.
With something as simple as installing a wildcat package and going to it about 10-12 times, Bradley helped rejuvenate the PSU offense - for a half at least - and baffled what has been a strong Buckeye defense.
"It was a nice wrinkle that we needed," Bradley said of the wildcat. "It was in the script, it was in early, it was in often."
And it made a big difference Saturday. How big?
Penn State 7, Ohio State 0: The Lions set up in a wildcat formation on the sixth play from scrimmage, with receiver Curtis Drake in the shotgun at quarterback. He handed off to Stephfon Green, who broke free up the middle for a 39-yard TD with 12:27 left in the quarter. Ohio State was called for pass interference on the first play, and Matt McGloin later hit Derek Moye for 16 yards to get into Buckeye territory.
Penn State 10, Ohio State 0: Anthony Fera booted the longest field goal of his career, 43 yards, with 1:59 to go in the quarter. The Lions started at their 20 and put together an impressive drive, including converting a third-and-10 from the 20 when McGloin hit Andrew Szczerba for 12 yards. Most of the damage was done on the ground, with Brandon Beachum, Stephfon Green and Silas Redd each chipping in.
Penn State 10, Ohio State 7: The Buckeyes drove 77 yards in 10 plays, aided by a tremendous 18-yard catch just barely inbounds down the left sideline by DeVier Posey that converted a third-and-11 from the 50. Quarterback Braxton Miller did the rest, getting 8 yards on the next play before sidestepping a tackle attempt by safety D'Anton Lynn and scampering 24 yards to the end zone with 12:32 left in the half.
Penn State 17, Ohio State 7: Silas Redd busted free for a 42-yard gain to the Buckeyes' 36, then McGloin found Moye for 20 yards. Receiver Bill Belton gained 12 yards on a wildcat play, then Green scored from 4 yards out with 10:05 to go in the half.
Penn State 17, Ohio State 14: McGloin tried to force a pass to tight end Andrew Szczerba in coverage and threw it high. The ball was tipped and picked off by Orhian Johnson at the PSU 37. Miller gained 24 yards on an option keep to set up first-and-goal at the 8, and on third down from the 7 he hit Jake Stoneburner for a TD with 5:22 remaining in the half.
Penn State 20, Ohio State 14: It didn't take long for Fera to set another career high, kicking a 46-yard field goal on the final play of the half. The wildcat again played a big role in the scoring drive as Drake took a direct snap and raced 38 yards to the Ohio State 40. The Lions got a first down at the 30 but were backed up 5 yards on a delay of game penalty with Belton in at quarterback, and they stalled to set up the field goal.
In a 20-14 win, the Lions scored more points in a game at the Horseshoe than they ever did in 12 games with Paterno as their head coach. It was PSU's most points here since it scored 27 in 1964, two years before Paterno took over the program.
It also marked just Penn State's third win at the Shoe in 33 years (1978, 2008 the others) and Bradley's first victory as interim head coach.
"This win, this isn't about me. It's about these players, the team," Bradley said.
In many ways, though, it was all about Bradley.
He's a defensive coach by trade who made a masterful offensive decision. And on the other side of the ball, the defense that he has worked with all season - before turning it over to Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden - came up with another strong performance in pitching a second-half shutout.
"Our motto is if they don't score, they don't win," PSU safety Drew Astorino said. "And so that's what we needed to do in the second half. They didn't score, they didn't win."
The Lions are now one win away from capturing the Leaders Division and advancing to the Big Ten championship game. Saturday's victory clinched at least a share of the division title, but PSU must win at Wisconsin next week to play in the league's inaugural title contest.
"To have a shot at the Big Ten championship means a lot," running back Stephfon Green said. "We're going to Madison with our heads on straight and try and take care of our business."
Green carried 16 times for 93 yards and scored twice to lead PSU to a 20-14 halftime lead that held up. His first score of the day, not coincidentally, came when the Lions lined up in the wildcat for the first time.
Penn State was at the Buckeye 39 on its first possession when receiver Curtis Drake lined up at quarterback in the shotgun. Typically that means he would take a direct snap and run with the ball, but the Lions fooled Ohio State as Drake handed off to Green, who busted through the middle of the line for a 40-yard score.
Penn State continued to strategically use Drake and receiver Bill Belton in the wildcat, while sending quarterback Matt McGloin out wide. A week ago against Nebraska, that formation produced a pass from Drake to McGloin that set up a touchdown.
Bradley utilized Belton as a wildcat quarterback on the scout team while preparing for Nebraska and came up with an idea.
"I had asked the offense to put it in because I had just seen it for 10 days toward us," Bradley said.
Penn State has used the wildcat formation on occasion in the past - most frequently with receiver Derrick Williams in 2008 - but had never committed to it as much as it did Saturday.
"We had it in the back of our minds for a while now," offensive coordinator Galen Hall said. "Curtis got hurt [broken leg], and that sort of put it on the backburner."
Bradley said it wasn't a difficult decision committing to the wildcat so heavily.
"No, not at all," he said.
Drake carried three times for 50 yards, while Belton gained 15 yards on four carries. The setup didn't carry the offense, but it provided enough of a wrinkle that the Buckeyes had trouble with it.
"They're obviously going to continue to use it because it's working well," Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell said. "Not something we had seen them do."
Penn State caught a break early in the fourth quarter when Buckeye receiver Corey Brown dropped a deep pass at the Lion 17-yard line. The ball was a tad underthrown by quarterback Braxton Miller, allowing Nick Sukay and Chaz Powell to close in coverage, but Brown had a chance to make a big play but couldn't hang onto the ball.
Ohio State's offense never threatened after that as PSU's defense, which forced two turnovers, came up big with several stops late.
Bradley was asked if he felt like he showed too much of the wildcat package given how big of a game it will be next week at Wisconsin.
"I'm a defensive coach, I've seen all the tricks, so they're going to have to figure what I've got," he said. "I've watched all those different things people have done against me over the last 12 years. Don't think I've forgot them."