STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - They both had the dangerous and dynamic scrambling quarterbacks. They both had flashy young speedsters as part of their cache of play-makers. The offensive expectations were high.
But when Ohio State and Penn State met here last night in a Big Ten showdown of two of the league's current powerhouse programs, they pulled the old playbooks out of the archives and went with the stuff that put them at the top years ago.
They played field position football. They slugged it out. They took few risks. They minimized the big plays. And the defenses dictated the moment.
No. 16 Penn State upset sixth-ranked Ohio State 17-10, getting the winning score off a key defensive play, then using a second forced turnover to slam the door on the Buckeyes in the final minutes.
"People want points, points, points," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said, "but for a coach, this was a heck of a football game."
Ohio State (3-2, 1-1) had its back to the wall on its final possession of the game, needing an 89-yard drive for a potential tying score. The Buckeyes moved near midfield with just over a minute to play, but quarterback Troy Smith got blind-sided by Penn State's Tamba Hali and fumbled. When Scott Paxson recovered, the Nittany Lions moved to 6-0 and 3-0 in the conference.
"You talk about the things you need to do on the road against a good team, and one of them is come up with some plays on special teams," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "I don't know if we had any difference-making plays out there. The other thing is that you can't turn the ball over, and we turned it over twice."
The Buckeyes made one big mistake that likely cost them the game, a share of the lead in the Big Ten, and any outside shot at making it to the national championship game.
After Penn State had taken a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter, Smith got sacked by the aggressive Penn State pass rush, then forced a throw into coverage that got picked off. Penn State's Calvin Lowry grabbed the ball near midfield and returned it to the Ohio State 2.
"I wasn't as poised as I needed to be out there," Smith said. "I saw an opening, but there was so much congestion out there, I should have just put the ball away. Their defense was relentless the whole game."
When quarterback Michael Robinson took the ball in on an option play after Smith's errant throw, Penn State had a 14-3 lead midway through the second period.
Ohio State, playing its first road game of the season in front of 109,839 - the second-largest crowd ever at Beaver Stadium - closed the gap to 14-10 by the end of the first half, but got shut out the rest of the way.
"We thought with the way our defense was playing, and the way their punting game had hurt them a couple of times and given us some field position, we would be in good shape," Tressel said. "But we just did not go down the field and cash in."
The Buckeyes got excellent field position on their second possession of the game after Penn State punter Jeremy Kapinos bobbled a snap and shanked an 11-yarder that went out of bounds at the OSU 43.
Ohio State moved the ball to the Penn State 13, but stalled and settled for a 30-yard Josh Huston field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Penn State drove 74 yards in nine plays to take a 7-3 lead. Freshman Derrick Williams capped the drive by taking a pitch from tailback and going around end for 13 yards.
After falling behind by 11, Ohio State fought back with Smith hitting tight end Ryan Hamby a couple of times early in an 81-yard drive capped by Smith's 10-yard touchdown run with 33 seconds left in the half.
The Nittany Lions went up 17-10 on the opening possession of the second half with a series of short pass plays to move quickly to the OSU 24, where Kevin Kelly kicked a 41-yard field goal.
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