Defense could take Buckeyes to Rose Bowl

BY foxsports • November 10, 2009

The CFN writers give their thoughts on Ohio State's 24-7 win over Penn State.

Lions fail

Basically, it was a two game season for Penn State, and it blew both tests.

There's no Wisconsin on the slate to make amends, and beating Michigan State at East Lansing isn't exactly going to move the needle. So what went wrong? Why did a team with so much talent and with such a favorable schedule blow it?

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Daryll Clark will bear the brunt of the blame for his inability to come through in the big games, but this was a total team meltdown. The offensive line didn't open up any holes, and got Clark beaten up. He struggled with his accuracy and he couldn't keep the chains moving. Again, for the second time this year, the Iowa game being the first, he didn't have a ton of time. The defensive line didn't do a thing to slow down the Ohio State running game, either.

But what's done is done. Now it's up to Penn State to blast away on Indiana and Michigan State to get a few style points on the way to a 10-2 record. There's still time to make amends and make this a big season. The Rose Bowl is out of the picture, and a BCS bowl might be too tough to sneak into, but a win over an SEC team on a New Year's Day bowl, and an 11-2 finish, would more than make this a successful season. But Penn State wanted a special one, and it failed to do that.

Pete Fiutak

Coming up small

Daryll Clark and big games. It has not been a good mix in Happy Valley over the last two seasons.

Clark has been a solid quarterback at Penn State, but when it matters most, he's been pedestrian, which is a big reason why the Nittany Lions won't be Big Ten champs this season. While certainly not the only reason, it's absolutely a big one. The conference title will be decided in Columbus next weekend when Ohio State hosts Iowa. Versus those two schools this season, both losses, Clark threw just one touchdown pass and was picked off four times. In both games the senior failed to complete 50 percent of his passes, going just 24-for-60 for 323 yards.

Great quarterbacks bring it in the most important games on the schedule. Clark failed to do that again Saturday, a knock on him and a credit to that Buckeye defense. And in the greatest indignity of all for Penn State fans, Terrelle Pryor — the Pennsylvania native, who thumbed his nose at the Nits two years ago — outplayed their quarterback by getting his hand in on all three touchdowns and not turning the ball over. In Central Pennsylvania, that might hurt more than the loss itself.

Richard Cirminiello

Score one for TresselBall

1. Terrelle Pryor had to spend 12 months living with his fumble, the fumble that allowed Penn State to win in Columbus and take home the 2008 Big Ten championship. In his return to Pennsylvania, the much-maligned signal caller joined with his teammates to forge a vintage TresselBall performance in not-so-Happy Valley. As a result, a win next week over Iowa will put the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl for, improbably enough, the first time in the title-laden Tressel era. That's some kind of comeback story for No. 2, and an even sweeter resurrection narrative for the overly-criticized program that's on the verge of becoming No. 1 yet again in its conference.

2. Daryll Clark against Iowa. Daryll Clark against Ohio State. Daryll Clark just didn't deliver the goods in big games this season, and as a result, the Nittany Lions can't expect a BCS bowl bid, not even an at-large selection. Joe Paterno's pupils need to win out first. If the dominoes fall just right, the Blue and White could sneak out an Orange Bowl bid, but one shouldn't count on it. Penn State had its two biggest conference games on home turf this year, but a pop-gun offense instead failed to deliver.

Matt Zemek

Buckeyes defense saves day

In what was supposed to be a referendum on Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor, the Buckeyes defense showed that it still isn't all about the guy under center in Columbus. Pryor was effective but not spectacular, throwing two touchdown passes, but the OSU defense was absolutely dominant, allowing a mere 201 total yards and completely overpowering the PSU front five. With the Nittany Lions ground game completely under control (76 yards), the Buckeyes could concentrate on keeping Daryll Clark from hurting them. Mission accomplished.

No matter how good Pryor will become, and there are no guarantees he'll ever be great, Jim Tressel will always count on his defenders to carry the day. Against Penn State they did. And now the Buckeyes are set up perfectly to win yet another Big Ten title and continue to flex their muscles in the neighborhood. Iowa visits the Horseshoe next week, and if QB Ricky Stanzi's ankle doesn't allow him to go, the Hawkeyes might not get 100 total yards. I'm not kidding. Yes, OSU had trouble against Purdue, but that was largely because of Pryor's turnovers. If he can keep the ball under the Buckeyes' control, the OSU defense will do the rest. In seven of the past eight games, Ohio State has held rivals under 18 points, and that remains the team's personality. The Bucks can run it when they have to, and Pryor is learning to make plays within the confines of the offense. If that continues, OSU will finish the year 10-2 and play in Pasadena.

Michael Bradley

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