COLUMBUS, Ohio — No. 21 Penn State won for the first time since coach Joe Paterno was fired, with Stephfon Green running for two touchdowns and the Nittany Lions’ solid defense holding Ohio State scoreless in the second half of a 20-14 victory Saturday.
Penn State (9-2, 6-1) earned a share of the Big Ten’s Leaders Division title and set up a division title game next week at Wisconsin. The winner will play in the conference’s first championship game on Dec. 3.
In what was expected to be a defensive struggle, the teams did all of their scoring in the opening half before the defenses took over.
Braxton Miller ran for a touchdown and threw a 7-yard scoring pass to Jake Stoneburner for Ohio State (6-5, 3-4), but he had an intentional grounding and three incompletions on the Buckeyes’ final possession.
The teams exchanged handshakes at midfield after the opening coin toss — although there was a smattering of boos from the Buckeyes faithful.
It was a gesture of mutual respect and sportsmanship in the wake of the scandal which has hit Penn State. Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive assistant coach, was arrested two weeks earlier for allegedly molesting several young boys. Paterno was fired, the university president and AD lost their jobs and the NCAA is looking into the athletic program’s actions.
Ohio State had one last shot to win the game, taking over after a Penn State punt with 36 seconds left. But Miller was being sacked by linebacker Nate Stupar when he was called for intentionally grounding. Miller then was incomplete on three desperation heaves as a small pocket of Penn State fans ran onto the field to celebrate.
The teams were scoreless in the third quarter, thanks to a goal-line stand by the Buckeyes. Ohio State handed over the ball at its own 11 when Jordan Hall‘s wildcat handoff to Dan Herron was muffed in the backfield and Jordan Hill fell on the loose ball for the Nittany Lions.
Helped by two Ohio State penalties, Penn State had a first-and-goal from the 2 but failed to dent the goal line on four running plays. Storm Klein and Michael Bennett stopped Silas Redd as he vaulted the line on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1, stopping him short and bringing the crowd to its feet.
The Buckeyes also turned it over on a Carlos Hyde fumble, but the Nittany Lions didn’t score on that turnover either.
McGloin completed 10 of 18 passes for 88 yards with one interception. Green rushed 16 times for 93 yards, with Redd adding 63 yards on eight attempts in the bruising battle.
Miller, a freshman, ran for 105 yards on 18 attempts, with Herron adding 76 on eight carries. Miller completed 7 of 17 passes for 83 yards. DeVier Posey, playing his first game after serving two NCAA suspensions totaling 10 games for accepting improper benefits, had four catches for 66 yards.
Penn State, which had scored 24 points total in its last two games, had 20 in a first half of unexpected offense from both teams against stout defenses.
The Nittany Lions, ranked No. 102 in the nation in scoring at 21 points a game, needed just five plays to find the end zone. Green split two tacklers at the line after taking a direct snap and he outraced the defense for a 40-yard score that quieted a crowd of 105,493 on hand for Ohio State’s senior day.
Ohio State fell behind 10-0 for the third game in the row later in the quarter when McGloin drove the Nittany Lions 54 yards and Anthony Fera converted a career-best 43-yard field goal. He would later top that by closing the half with a 46-yarder.
The Buckeyes, also at times an offensively challenged team, counterpunched with touchdowns on their only two second-quarter possessions.
Miller sprinted around right end for a 24-yard touchdown run.
He also found Jake Stoneburner at the back of the end zone for a 7-yard scoring pass to cut the lead to 17-14.
Stoneburner had three touchdown receptions in the Buckeyes’ first game of the year — a school record for a tight end — but had not caught a pass in the last three games.
Penn State took a 17-7 lead in between the two Ohio State touchdowns when Green pinballed into the end zone from four yards out.
The Nittany Lions had won just two of their last 10 games in Columbus — but both came against true freshmen quarterbacks (Art Schlichter in 1978, Terrelle Pryor in 2008).
With a first-year player (Miller) again at the controls for the Buckeyes, they did it for a third time.