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Upon further review: Examining Penn State's 38-10 loss to Ohio State

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6 years ago

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Penn State started the game about as well as possible, holding the Buckeyes scoreless on their first drive and then finishing with a 33-yard Joey Julius field goal on Penn State’s first possession to take the lead. 

The miscues from there on out were too much to overcome and Penn State’s missed opportunity to jump ahead 10-0 late in the first quarter proved to be a momentum swing the Lions couldn’t overcome. Backed up at their own two yard line, Barkley reeled off three runs to pick up 15 yards and Chris Godwin drew a pass interference penalty that moved the ball to the Penn State 32. The Lions picked up another 15 yards on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Barkley added another nine yards to it, bringing up 2nd and 1.

That’s when this drive stalled at the Ohio State 44 yard line.

Tight end Mike Gesicki dropped a wide open deep ball on second down along the Ohio State sideline that would’ve taken Penn State down to about the 20. Dropped passes have been all too common for Gesicki this season and continue to be an issue.

“He’s got a chance to be a really good player, we believe in him he’s got opportunities to make plays that he will make,” Franklin said. “We’re going to keep going to him, keep giving him opportunities. He’s made those plays in practice, he’s made those plays in games, but he needs to do it consistently.”

After the drop Barkley bolted to his right for a 44-yard touchdown run, only to have it wiped off the board on a holding penalty by Brian Gaia.  

“The definition of insanity is when you repeatedly do something an expect a different result,” guard Brendan Mahon said. “We have to really build on the mistakes and the things we did well.”

Hackenberg was sacked on 3rd and 8 for a loss of seven yards by Joey Bosa. Bosa pushed Gaia backwards and into Hackenberg. 

Chris Gulla added just a 28-yard punt. Ohio State answered with their first score on the next drive, the first of 21 second-quarter points. 

Why were the starters in at the end of the game?

With Penn State trailing 38-10 with under six minutes left James Franklin kept quarterback Christian Hackenberg and running back Saquon Barkley in the game. 

James Franklin was asked about this earlier this season too after the Temple loss where Hackenberg stayed in the game and absorbed two or three extra sacks (to bring the in-game total to 10) and Franklin said he wants to send a message to his team that no game is ever over and that they won’t quit. 

But, Hackenberg was noticeably gimpy after taking a sack in the second quarter on a 4th and 8 play at the Ohio State 31 that PSU opted to go for.

Barkley missed the last two games with an ankle injury, but showed no signs of slowing down with his impressive 194-yard night. These are the two biggest pieces of PSU’s offense and Hacekberg was already sacked five times so why keep them in and risk the rest of your season and the health of two key players with a game out of hand?

“No different than late in the game they had Bosa and their starting defense in there, they’re still playing football to win,” Franklin said. 

Maybe if Penn State would’ve pulled Hackenberg and Barkley Urban Meyer would’ve called the dogs off? Maybe Penn State was trying to get Barkley to the 200-yard milestone, but this is no way to do it.

TE Kyle Carter doesn’t make the trip

Senior tight end Kyle Carter was left off Penn State’s travel roster, but tight end Adam Breneman did see the field a few times, working primarily as an extra blocker. Because of injuries Breneman hadn’t played in a game since the Lions’ 2013 upset win at Wisconsin.  

Franklin said not having Carter, who by the sounds of it was left behind due to injury, impacted Breneman’s availability.

“Weren’t sure Breneman was going to be available, start working him on the scout team, Kyle goes down and we’re able to bring Adam up and he handled it well,” Franklin said. “From Wednesday on he practiced up with us.”

Penn State fails on two 4th-down conversions 

The first opportunity came with about six minutes left in the second quarter and the Lions trailing 14-3. It was 4th and 8 at the Ohio State 31 and the Lions opted to go for it, but Hackenberg had nobody open to get the ball to and was sacked by Chris Worley for a loss of three yards. 

Did Penn State consider kicking a field goal instead?

“I think it was a 48 yard field goal. One of the issues that we had and it showed up late is that they’re getting push inside,” Franklin said. “They triple teamed our right guard (Chasz Wright), knocked him back and unless you’re going to be really stout Joe [Julius] has a tendency on the long field goals to bang them, but they come out with a low trajectory. That was the situation right there.” 

Penn State’s second 4th down attempt came early in the fourth quarter on 4th and 2 at the Ohio State 13. Penn State trailed 24-10 at this point but pressure got in Hackenberg’s face and he was dropped for a loss of two. Barkley was open on the back side, but as the fourth progression Hackenberg had no chance of getting to him. 

“We went from the flat to a stick route,” Franklin said. “We thought we had a chance at the stick route, didn’t happen. They kept getting push, getting pressure. For christian to think we’re going to get back to the fourth progression on a three-step drop is probably not going to happen.”

Not so special teams 

Penn State’s punting continues to be a problem and while Chris Gulla returned to the field after missing last week’s game, he was replaced by Daniel Pasquariello whose outing was just as shaky. 

Franklin said punting continues to be a “major issue” and in the battle of field position — and especially with an offense that can’t always move the ball down field — Penn State can’t pin opponents in. Gulla had an average of 36.2 yards and Pasquariello’s was 35.3. 

Penn State ranks 90th in the FBS in net punting. 

Penn State also flipped their line on a second quarter punt, moving several players around and it resulted in a false start penalty on Christian Campbell. Gulla then punted the ball 32 yards after the five-yard penalty. 

Audrey Snyder: asnyder@post-gazette.com and Twitter @audsnyder4.