Ohio State grade card: Fabulous finish keeps OSU undefeated

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A grade card on Ohio State’s 44-31 win over Penn State:

OFFENSE: B-

Ohio State scored one touchdown in the first three quarters before it got its offense going with four touchdowns in the final 8:51 of the game. And one of those touchdowns was a defensive score. C.J. Stroud was 26 of 33 for 354 yards and a touchdown. His steadiness stood out in contrast to Penn State’s Sean Clifford, who threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns but also had four turnovers. Maybe it was because of crowd noise from fired up Penn State fans at Beaver Stadium, but OSU and Stroud seemed to have some play clock issues.

Marvin Harrison Jr. had career highs in catches (10) and yardage (185). Tight end Cade Stover continued to be a factor in the passing game. He had a touchdown catch and threw a key block on a 41-yard touchdown run by TreVeyon Henderson in the fourth quarter. He had six catches and has 24 for the season.

The Buckeyes’ running game was a concern for a second game in a row. OSU gained 98 yards on the ground against a Penn State defense which allowed 418 rushing yards against Michigan two weeks ago. Henderson gained 78 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns. But he also had four rushes for no gain and two for losses. Pass protection was mostly good. Stroud was sacked only twice.

DEFENSE: B-

Defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau played a game that would be a career for some people with two interceptions, one of them for a touchdown, two sacks, three tackles for losses, a forced fumble which he recovered, and a tipped pass that Zach Harrison turned into an interception.

Tuimoloau’s brilliance aside, OSU did have some defensive issues. Penn State had scoring drives of 79, 75 and 73 yards. The Nittany Lions’ wide receiver Parker Washington caught 11 passes for 179 yards and had a 58-yard touchdown catch when defensive backs J.K. Johnson and Tanner McCalister missed tackles against him.

Penn State outgained Ohio State 482 yards to 452 yards and ran 20 more plays than the Buckeyes did. Maybe a bigger danger signal was Clifford throwing for 371 yards and three touchdowns against an OSU defensive backfield that continues to have problems at times.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

OSU made a couple of questionable decisions on field goals in the first half. First, it sent Noah Ruggles out to attempt a 53-yard field goal, which probably was a low percentage opportunity. He left short and wide. Then in the final seconds of the first half, with Penn State leading 14-13, there was some confusion about how many timeouts OSU had and it passed up a field goal and Stroud was sacked as time ran out as he tried to find a receiver in the end zone.

Ruggles hit his other three field goal attempts and Jesse Mirco was outstanding again at punting. Kick coverage was generally good.

OVERALL: B-

Ohio State’s big finish made some people forget the struggle that the first 3 1/2 quarters were. But opposing offensive and defensive coordinators are less likely to forget them.

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