Ohio State defensive back Travis Howard picks off a Matt McGloin pass and returns it for a touchdown in the second half.
Al Behrman / AP Enlarge
COLUMBUS — They led the nation in turnover margin coming into Saturday’s game with Penn State, having forced 24 turnovers in their first nine games. But after the first half, the Ohio State defense had yet to induce a mistake by Penn State, and the No. 8-ranked Buckeyes trailed 14-3.
“We felt like we had to keep the pressure on them, and if we did, something was going to happen,” Ohio State defensive lineman John Simon said after the 38-14 win.
Something did indeed happen.
The Buckeyes shored up their coverage in the secondary, cranked up the heat on Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin, and intercepted him twice. Both interceptions were returned for touchdowns, part of a 35-point second-half outburst that allowed Ohio State to turn a very close game into a developing rout.
“Those were big. We needed those,” wide receiver DeVier Posey said about the turnovers that became Ohio State touchdowns. “Anytime you have a defense like ours, you get spoiled. You expect the big plays, and they came through.”
Outside of the interception returns, the OSU defense also had a big stop of Penn State on a fourth down play from the Ohio State 20-yard line with under two minutes to play in the first half. Had Penn State moved in to score at that point, the Buckeyes would have faced a 21-3 deficit.
“Our guys went out in the second half and took over, but I think it was fueled by how hard that defense fought in that last series that they had to stop them,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
Penn State had 212 yards of offense at the half with the lead, but finished with just 272 total yards after Ohio State’s strong second half showing.
“We didn’t execute quite as well, and Ohio State played the run better,” Penn State coach Joe Paterno said about the change of fortune in the second half. “I didn’t think they did much different, but maybe they played with more intensity.”
TRESSEL TIME: With his team trailing 14-3 at the half after a lackluster performance, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel made his point as he met with his team in the locker room.
“The halftime locker room was not a fun place,” Tressel said. “But it was not a place that looked like there was any quit in anybody. There was a lot of discussions of adjustments and where we needed to get better.”
OSU defensive back Devon Torrence, who had an interception return for a touchdown in the second half, said Tressel got everyone's attention during the intermission.
“Normally, Coach Tressel is a pretty passive, relaxed, calm guy. He never yells at practice,” Torrence said. “When he came in at halftime, I saw something I've never seen before and didn't know was there. That's the most fired up I've ever seen coach Tressel.”
JOB CLOSER: Ohio State coach Jim Tressel remarked after Saturday's 38-14 win over Penn State that the 14-3 deficit his team faced might have led to the biggest come-from-behind win since his days at Youngstown State.
“I remember we were down 17-3 in the National Championship game when I was at Youngstown, and we came back and won,” Tressel said. “I probably wouldn't be here if we hadn't have won.”
ROLE REVERSAL: In last week's 35-21 win over Northwestern, Penn State got in a three-touchdown hole and then scored 35 straight points to gain the victory. Yesterday, the Buckeyes were down 14-3 at the half to Penn State, but Ohio State scored 35 straight points to make it a lopsided 38-14 outcome.
CROWD CONTROL: An announced crowd of 105,466 watched Saturday's Ohio State win, the seventh largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history.