Whether a packed stadium would have been enough to push us past the beast, no-one will ever know, but one stat in particular stands out as a huge example of what possibly could have been under normal conditions. The Buckeyes were 10 of 18 on third downs throughout their 38-25 win, with most of those conversions churning out huge chunks of yards. Lucky for Justin Fields, he’ll never get to feel the earthquake of our collective hum as he breaks the huddle. Had just one or two of those plays turned the other way as they usually do under the spell of a true Whiteout, it may have been just enough to rattle their cage.
Of course, they always seem to catch the breaks and as exciting as this game appeared on paper, it just wasn’t the same with the ghosts of 110K in attendance instead of us. As it stands, we’re left to relish the fight Penn State put up. Left to savor small on-field victories instead of celebrating another win. Left to wonder WHY Ohio State always seems to have a horseshoe up their you-know-what. I’m not mad at Penn State, I’m as proud as can be, but what I truly am is sick of is them. I’m tired of their ego, tired of their dirty play, and tired of them being one of the few that’s allowed to pluck a player the caliber of Fields off the bench in Georgia to fill a dire need without skipping a beat. It’s reasons like those that make an outcome like the one in 2016 so much sweeter and one-point losses so much harder to swallow. So darn close (closer than most) yet so far away remains the reality.
As for Penn State, there is no better time than now to hit the reset button, brush off the cobwebs, and get back to business. There were things to like on Saturday night, despite the sour taste left behind by a loss. Back-to-back one-handed catches from Jahan Dotson for one, the second of which ended up as the No. 2 play on Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day. Brandon Smith is slowly starting to take control of Linebacker U; Joey Porter Jr is proving to be a man among boys; and Jesse Luketa made a huge second-half difference. Sean Clifford came out of halftime on fire and had it not been for that ill-advised interception deep in their own territory, an improbable comeback was still on the table with just a couple minutes to go. Next up for the 0-2 Nittany Lions is a hearty bowl of Turtle soup as the Maryland Terrapins come shuffling into town. No better way to cure your angst than another subtle reminder to them who remains beast of the east!