STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Ohio State did just about everything it could to throw away a championship bid.
Then the Buckeyes snatched it right back with a rally that showed exactly why they are a team likely cruising back to the College Football Playoff.
There appears to be nothing but smooth sailing ahead of No. 4 Ohio State after it survived the most daunting test on the schedule, escaping the Whiteout conditions at Penn State on Saturday night with a mind-bending 27-26 win at Beaver Stadium.
Dwayne Haskins and the Buckeyes were far from perfect on offense. The defense was again victimized by one of the longest plays the Silver Bullets have ever allowed. And they were facing long odds down by double-digits with just 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
But Ohio State overcame all of that. And while there will be time to break down the exact road ahead for Urban Meyer and his program in the coming days, for now it’s time to reflect on what Lettermen Row learned in the thrilling comeback over Penn State.
The heart of Ohio State can’t be questioned
There were so many opportunities to fold and just accept that it wasn’t Ohio State’s night. The pressure could have sent Dwayne Haskins packing, the raucous crowd could have convinced the Buckeyes the fight was over and the defense could have hung its collective head after getting burned for a demoralizing 93-yard touchdown. But instead, Haskins rallied the offense and delivered two unforgettable drives with no margin for error in the fourth quarter. Ohio State kept punching until it was the Penn State crowd stunned into silence. And the Buckeyes eventually made the key stops required to keep the game in reach, with every unit proving there is a championship spirit in the program.
Binjimen Victor has arrived for Ohio State
The wait for perhaps the wideout with the most physical upside has required some patience, but it looks like Binjimen Victor is ready to reward the Buckeyes for sticking with him during his development. Going up to grab a dig route over the middle the field in a key situation was only part of the impressive display on his game-changing, 47-yard touchdown, as he streaked around the field looking for blockers and juking defenders on the way to the end zone to dramatically swing the momentum. Victor had already been earning rave reviews for his work blocking on the perimeter, but he’s now making a difference with the football in his hands as well.
Chase Young living up to star billing
The Buckeyes will still be without the nation’s best defensive player until at least November. And while filling the shoes of Nick Bosa is a lot to ask of anybody, Chase Young looks like the heir apparent as a superstar up front. With the Rushmen in need of a lift without their leader, Young was an absolute force up front with 3 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. The physical freak might only be scratching the surface with his potential, but he is already more than capable of wrecking offensive game plans from his spot on the edge.
Ohio State will have to be more disciplined in big games
Quite simply, the penalties have to be cleaned up for the Buckeyes. At times Ohio State was pushing the envelope with its intensity, including one play that came with personal fouls to three different players thanks to a scuffle that broke out at the end of an interception by Dwayne Haskins. There was an unusual hands-to-the-face flag that took points off the board on a field goal. A delay of game on a 2-point conversion obviously wasn’t helpful. And all told, the officials marked off 105 penalty yards against Ohio State. That won’t cut it come championship time.
Heisman campaign about to heat up for Dwayne Haskins
The almost-flawless, record-setting start hit a bit of a snag with Penn State’s aggressive defense and the noisy Whiteout appeared to rattle Dwayne Haskins at times. But it never knocked him out for good, and with a road win over a top-10 opponent under his belt and accounting for three more touchdowns to run his total to 20, he’s on course to be a Heisman Trophy finalist. The conversation is only going to get louder with the month of October only promising opportunities to post more absurd individual numbers.