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Ohio State stakes claim as Big Ten's best team, Miller league's best QB

October 28, 2012
By Cory Giger ( , The Altoona Mirror

UNIVERSITY PARK - The answers are Ohio State and Braxton Miller.

The questions? Name the Big Ten's best team and the league's best quarterback.

Saturday night's Ineligible Bowl didn't determine who will go to the Rose Bowl, but it did end the debate about whether Penn State or Ohio State is the Big Ten's best team, and whether Matt McGloin or Braxton Miller is the best quarterback.

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The No. 9 Buckeyes dominated the second half, with Miller doing most of the damage, and snapped Penn State's five-game winning streak with a 35-23 victory Saturday night. A sold-out whiteout at Beaver Stadium created a great home environment, but the 107,818 fans didn't get to celebrate after the big showdown.

"We kind of beat ourselves tonight," said McGloin, who made one of the game's biggest mistakes on a pick-6 interception.

The Nittany Lions (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten) made several crushing mistakes and committed nine penalties for 85 yards. Coach Bill O'Brien also made some questionable decisions, while Ohio State's Urban Meyer picked up the win in his first game coaching at Beaver Stadium.

Neither PSU nor Ohio State is eligible to win the Big Ten championship or go to a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions, but the winner Saturday would get the inside track to claiming the Leaders Division title. The Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0) moved one step closer to an undefeated regular season, which they can achieve by beating Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.

The Buckeyes have struggled at times this year, but Meyer wanted to focus on the biggest positive after the game.

"It's good to be 9-0. ... How many teams have gone 9-0?" he said. "We are going to enjoy that win."

One quarterback was 7-of-19 for 143 yards Saturday, while the other was 27-of-45 for 327 yards. It didn't matter, though, that McGloin set a career high in passing yardage because Miller was so good on the ground that it made his unimpressive passing totals moot.

"The plan was to keep him in the pocket and not let him run around because that's when he's at his best," PSU linebacker Gerald Hodges said of the talented sophomore signal caller.

Miller rushed for 134 yards on 25 carries, had one of the most exciting 1-yard touchdown runs you'll see and tossed a 72-yard scoring strike.

Had they known before the game that Miller would have those meek passing numbers, the Lions probably would have thought they would win.

"Yeah, definitely," linebacker Mike Hull said. "But it comes down to stopping the run, and we didn't do that tonight when we had to."

McGloin put up big numbers - tying PSU legend Kerry Collins' school record with his sixth straight 200-yard game - but he also threw a very costly interception that changed the momentum of the game.

Tied 7-7 at intermission, the Lions got the ball to start the second half but did so at their own 11 because Bill Belton fumbled the kick. McGloin was sacked for a 9-yard loss by linebacker Ryan Shazier on second down, and on the next play McGloin was picked off by Shazier, who had an easy path to the end zone.

"That kid made a great play, and my hat's off to him," said McGloin, who was trying to hit Alex Kenney over the middle. "I didn't think he would ever be there. He probably shouldn't have been there. Kenney cleared the first linebacker, and normally that guy will match up with your running back who's running a route outside. For some reason, he peeled back and picked it off."

McGloin said he never saw Shazier, and it was evident as the pass went right to the Buckeye defender.

"I don't know if he knew the play was coming or just read my eyes," McGloin said.

O'Brien credited McGloin for taking care of the ball all season - it was just his third interception - and said, "Matt will learn from that."

The Lions drove right back downfield and got a 27-yard field goal from Sam Ficken to make it 14-10, then Adrian Amos intercepted Miller to put PSU at the Ohio State 44. That drive stalled, though, and on fourth-and-9 from the 43, O'Brien called for a fake punt that wound up backfiring on him.

Punter Alex Butterworth's pass to running back Derek Day was incomplete, the Buckeyes took over at the 43 and began to seize control. Miller had two 13-yard passes and a 14-yard run on the drive, then on third-and-goal from the 1, he faked a handoff, avoided the rush and acrobatically dove into the end zone for a 21-10 lead.

Penn State went three-and-out on its next series, and Ohio State pretty much ended any drama by going 85 yards in just 2:15. Miller scored again from a yard out for a 28-10 cushion with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Buckeyes scored 21 points in the third - 14 against the PSU defense - after managing only seven in the first half.

"We knew the scheme going in, and it just comes down to executing our defense and filling our gaps," Mauti said of trying to stop Miller. "It's really not what they're doing, it's what we're doing and what we can do better moving forward."

Hodges said the defense wanted to keep Miller under control without devoting one spy on him. That didn't work.

In some ways, watching Miller was like watching Michigan's Denard Robinson run wild for 191 yards in a 2010 loss to PSU at Beaver Stadium.

"They're both quick, and they make plays with their feet, and that's why their coach put them in the situation to get out of the pocket, the draw plays," Hodges said.

It's no surprise that Miller had a big game. That Ohio State's defense played as well as it did, however, was a big surprise.

The Buckeyes allowed 49 points against Indiana and 38 to Nebraska, but they came with some well-timed blitzes and made things tough on Penn State all night. McGloin was sacked four times - same number as Miller - and the PSU signal caller had a tough night despite his impressive final numbers.

The Lions' NASCAR offense wasn't much of a factor, and they had only 36 yards rushing while averaging just 1.3 yards per attempt.

"Their front seven was tremendous," McGloin said. "They have some good D-linemen, some good backers, and they applied pressure all night, and they were definitely well-prepared."



Penn State 7, Ohio State 0: The Lions got a huge special teams play by Mike Hull, who broke through and blocked a punt from Ben Buchanan on fourth-and-13 at the 14. The ball rolled into the end zone, and Mike Yancich smothered it for a TD with 6:15 left in the half.

Penn State 7, Ohio State 7: The Buckeyes fell behind after a special teams mistake, and they took advantage of a PSU mistake on special teams that turned out to be costly. Ohio State punted from its own 27, but Brad Bars was called for holding, giving the Buckeyes an automatic first down at the 37. OSU got its running game going on the series, and Braxton Miller busted loose for a 33-yard gain to set up first-and-goal at the 6. It took Carlos Hyde three tries to get in, which he did from a yard out on third down with 34 seconds to go in the half.


Ohio State 14, Penn State 7: The half got off to a bad start as Bill Belton fumbled the kickoff, leaving PSU to start at its own 11. McGloin was sacked for a 9-yard loss on second down by linebacker Ryan Shazier, and on the next play, Shazier read McGloin perfectly for an interception and returned it 17 yards for a TD with 13:41 left in the quarter.

Ohio State 14, Penn State 10: A 20-yard pass from McGloin to Jesse James and a holding call on defensive back Bradley Roby moved the Lions to the Buckeye 47. McGloin then found a wide-open Alex Kenney, whose catch and run produced a 42-yard gain to set up first-and-goal at the 4. A holding call on Ty Howle on second down made the drive stall, and Sam Ficken made a 27-yard field goal with 9:50 left in the quarter.

Ohio State 21, Penn State 10: O'Brien tried a fake punt on fourth-and-9 from the Buckeye 43, but punter Alex Butterworth's pass couldn't be pulled down by Derek Day. Ohio State took over, and it was the Miller show as he led a TD drive with his arm and, most impressively, his feet. Miller had a pair of 13-yard passes, the second one to Evan Spencer to set up first-and-goal at the 9. On third down from the 1, Miller faked a handoff, avoided pressure and had a highlight-reel play as he dove into the end zone with 3:30 to go in the quarter.

Ohio State 28, Penn State 10: The Buckeyes' offense dominated on an 85-yard TD drive that took only 2:15. A face mask penalty helped, but everything else came on the ground as Ohio State's line opened up big holes. Rod Smith had a 28-yard run to the PSU 25, and after going for 14 yards, Miller later scored a 1-yard TD with 40 seconds left in the quarter.


Ohio State 28, Penn State 16: The Lions went to the air almost exclusively on an 80-yard scoring drive, which culminated with a 2-yard TD pass from McGloin to tight end Matt Lehman with 9:49 to go. Surprisingly, O'Brien decided to go for a two-point conversion -- even though it wasn't exactly called for that early -- and Bill Belton was stopped.

Ohio State 35, Penn State 16: Miller found Jake Stoneburner down the seam, and he turned it into a 72-yard TD with 6:11 left.

Ohio State 35, Penn State 23: McGloin found tight end Kyle Carter for a 20-yard score with 1:41 remaining.

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