COLUMBUS, Ohio — J.K. Dobbins rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns and No. 2 Ohio State locked up the Big Ten East title Saturday, surviving its first real test of the season with a 28-17 victory over No. 9 Penn State.
The Buckeyes held on after Penn State (9-2, 7-2 Big Ten) took advantage of two second-half turnovers to climb back into the game in the third quarter after trailing 21-0. This was a far different scenario for Ohio State, which blew out its first 10 opponents.
“From the beginning to the end, you couldn’t take a deep breath at all,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.
The Buckeyes (10-0, 8-0 Big Ten) were clinging to a 21-17 lead early in the fourth quarter when Justin Fields threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave to create some space.
The Ohio State defense, with Chase Young back from a two-game suspension, then shut down two late Penn State drives on fourth down. The last drive included back-to-back sacks of backup quarterback Will Levis by Young and linebacker Baron Browning.
Fields fumbled away the ball twice, once as he was crossing the goal line for an apparent touchdown. But he got critical yards on the ground, rushing for 68 yards on 21 carries and threw beautiful second half touchdown passes to K.J. Hill and Olave.
“The biggest difference was the quarterback’s legs, the running game,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.
Dobbins was responsible for both first-half touchdowns, a 4-yard plunge in the first quarter and a 2-yard plunge on fourth-and-goal with 2 minutes left in the half. He finished the first half with 89 rushing yards.
With three sacks, Young now has 16.5 for the season.
Penn State: Backup quarterback Levis provided a spark when he entered for the injured Sean Clifford, running for a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter to pull his team within a touchdown. Statistically, the Nittany Lions were beaten soundly but managed to hang around until late. Journey Brown ran the ball 11 time for 64 yards.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes outgained the Nittany Lions 417-227 but were stricken by uncharacteristic turnovers.
Buckeyes should stay put. Nittany Lions could drop but not much after playing Ohio State tough.
Penn State: Hosts Rutgers next Saturday in season finale.
Ohio State: Winds up the regular season next Saturday with rivalry game against No. 12 Michigan.