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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The Ohio State football team advanced to 9-0 on the season, overcoming a hot foe, hostile road environment, and another slow start in the process. At times, the Buckeyes showed what has kept them undefeated- as well as what has kept them from being dominant- throughout their 35-23 win over Penn State on Saturday.
Before getting on the bus to head back to Columbus, OSU players and coaches discussed the key moments and details of the latest Buckeyes victory.
After both teams battled to a 7-7 score through halftime, it didn't take long for the Buckeyes to jump out to a second half lead when linebacker Ryan Shazier stepped in front of a Matt McGloin pass attempt, returning the ball 17 yards for an OSU touchdown. Shazier's pick-six helped shift the momentum of the game into the Buckeyes' favor and gave them a lead that they wouldn't ever look back from.
"We ran the coverage, and I didn't have any work on the outside, so I went back towards the field," Shazier said. "He threw it right there to the curl and I took it to the house."
Shazier's interception return for a touchdown marked the eighth such play in OSU's last 11 games against the Nittany Lions, which would help explain why the Buckeyes have combined for a record of 7-4 in those meetings.
"At that point in time, it was unbelievable. We needed momentum," OSU co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said of Shazier's interception on Saturday. "It's a game of momentum."
Numbers don't lie
Looking at a final box score, OSU head coach Urban Meyer was clearly impressed in the contrast between the two teams' rushing statistics, with the Buckeyes racking up 234 yards, while holding the Nittany Lions to just 32. Meyer said that the Buckeyes' defensive rushing numbers are even more impressive when you consider the quality of opponent in which they came against.
"Once again, that's against who you're playing," Meyer said. "They've got a bunch of talented guys and they're a well-coached team."
OSU's defensive totals caught defensive end John Simon off-guard, who named the Buckeyes' effort against the run as one of the team's keys to the game.
"That's a great job by our front-seven," Simon said. "It's a total team-effort, that's a great accomplishment for us."
It may have taken him a little while to get into his rhythm, but OSU quarterback Braxton Miller looked like anything but a player who left last Saturday's game in an ambulance with a neck injury. The Heisman hopeful rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday- one of which came on a highlight reel worthy one-yard touchdown run, where he juked out Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti and defensive end Sean Stanley.
"My adrenaline started pumping because I saw the touchdown," Miller said. "I gotta do what I gotta do to get a touchdown."
Defensively, Shazier put together his second consecutive week of strong play, recording seven tackles, two sacks, and the aforementioned game-winning score against the Nittany Lions, a week after having been named OSU's defensive player of the week in its win over Purdue.
"I feel like I'm playing the best football I've played so far right now," Shazier said. "Earlier in the season, I was messing up a little too much, missing too many tackles. I started learning the game plan a lot more and I'm a lot more prepared for these games."
Cause for concern
Albeit facing a stout defense that hasn't surrendered a first quarter point all season, the Buckeyes offense faced another slow start, not scoring at all in the first 24 minutes of play and only amassing 75 yards of total offense in the game's first quarter.
"I think crowd a little bit," Meyer said when asked what factored into his team's stumble out of the gates. "I think it wasn't just Braxton."
The Buckeyes also fell victim to another blocked punt on Saturday, which gave the Nittany Lions a 7-0 advantage with six minutes and 15 seconds remaining in the second quarter. After the game, Meyer acknowledged that his team has some work to do on its punting unit.
"We're going to work on some things," Meyer said. "Obviously, we're exposed on the punt right now."
While the Buckeyes are the only 9-0 team in the country, they're yet to receive the respect that they feel they deserve from the media. As of Saturday, Ohio State sits at No. 9 in the Associated Press Top-25 poll, yet after Saturday's game, Meyer chose to focus on just the positives that he's enjoyed in his first year as the Buckeyes' head coach.
"You're 9-0. It's kind of good to be 9-0. You guys can help me, but how teams out there are 9-0? So we're going to enjoy that win," Meyer said. "We're going to have a conversation about how well our guys played."
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