COLUMBUS — Through the first three clawing weeks of Big Ten play, Ohio State was perfect but far from fulfilled. Saturday came the unsparing statement.
A name-your-score offense? Check.
A big-play defense? Yep.
Gobs of style points? The 63-14 final score said it all.
On a bone-chilled but rollicking night at Ohio Stadium, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes delivered the most complete performance of the Urban Meyer era in shoving aside Penn State.
A crowd of 105,889 — the fourth-largest in the 91-year history of the Horseshoe — watched a game Meyer figured to be a “street fight” give way to an early tap out.
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) opened with a 75-yard touchdown drive, picked off Penn State freshman Christian Hackenberg on its first defensive possession, and the rest of the night went about the same.
Quarterback Braxton Miller was as sharp and elusive as ever in leading the Buckeyes to touchdowns on six of their first seven drives — the punctuation mark a 25-yard laser from Miller to Corey Brown with three seconds left in the first half — while a previously punching-bag defense rattled the wunderkind Hackenberg.
Asked if the win would send a message nationally, Meyer said, "I think it helps."
"That was certainly not our mindset," he said. "Our mindset is to find a way to win against a very talented team. We have a lot of respect for a team that had some momentum going into the game."
Cornerback Bradley Roby was more direct.
"This was definitely a statement win," he said.
By the end of the third quarter, both sides had in their backup quarterbacks — Miller comfortably resting, Hackenberg out with an injured throwing hand.
It was a rout for the record books and, in a year where how you win may matter the same as how much you win, just what the Buckeyes needed. OSU’s win matched the most lopsided margin in 29 all-time meetings between the Big Ten rivals — PSU dusted the Buckeyes 63-14 in 1994 — and marked the first time in a quarter-century the Nittany Lions were torched for more than 50 points.
Miller threw for a career-high 252 yards and three touchdowns on 18-of-24 passing and added a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Carlos Hyde ran for 147 yards and two TDs on 16 carries; and Ohio State, in all, had 26 first downs and 686 yards of total offense.
Miller said he had never felt more confident running the offense.
"Through the year with coach Meyer and the offense, just learning every game, I'm improving myself and showing what I've got," he said.
Penn State (4-3, 1-2) was coming off a thrilling four-overtime victory over previously unbeaten Michigan — the latest in a line of confidence-mounting victories for a program that continues to defy doomsday predictions.
Yet this was a mismatch from the start.
Hyde finished off a seven-play, 75-yard opening drive with a two-yard TD run, and the Buckeyes only continued to knife through a Penn State defense that has now allowed at least 40 points in three straight games for the first time in program history.
Hyde also added a 39-yard scoring run while Miller continued to distance himself from his early-season knee injury.
The Buckeyes defense, meanwhile, offered a resounding response to their increasing roster of critics.
Ohio State had Hackenberg — the Big Ten’s leading passer — under pressure and out of sorts all night. Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown intercepted Hackenberg in the end zone on PSU’s first drive and C.J. Barnett picked the freshman again later in the first quarter.
Hackenberg was sacked four times and completed 12 of 23 passes for 112 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Penn State, aided by a late 65-yard TD pass from backup QB Tyler Ferguson to Allen Robinson, finished with 357 yards of offense.
Running back Jordan Hall added 75 yards on six carries while Devin Smith led Ohio State with five catches for 90 yards. Linebacker Ryan Shazier had 10 tackles and a sack.
"I like where we're at right now," Meyer said. "I like where we're at as a team. We all needed to see some pass rush and pass defense, and guys stepped up. That was the most impressive part of the game to me."