Penn State is Back! Nittany Lions Stun No. 2 Ohio State Thanks to Blocked Field Goal Returned for TD

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Grant Haley returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 to play, and Penn State stunned No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21, Saturday night at Beaver Stadium.

(Grant Haley, seen here making a tackle against Minnesota, returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown as Penn State upset No. 2 Ohio State. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

“I want to thank the fans,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “I talked all week long that we weren’t going to beat the No. 2 team in the country by ourselves. It was going to take lettermen, it was going to take the fans, it was going to tkae the students, it was going to take our players, it was going to take our coaches, this entire communnity coming together to get this win tonight. That’s exactly what happened. I couldn’t be more proud. I can’t imagine there’s a better environment than what that was out there tonight. So, I just couldn’t be more proud. This is for everybody. This community has been through so much in the last five year, and this is a big step in the right direction in terms of healing.”

Penn State (5-2) trailed 21-7 going into the fourth quarter but rallied in the fourth quarter behind a pair of blocked kicks and a 2-yard Trace McSorley touchdown run.

After Tyler Davis got the Nittany Lions to within four, 21-17, with a 34-yard field goal that was set up by a Cameron Brown blocked punt that gave Penn State the ball at the Ohio State 28-yard line, the Buckeyes (6-1) looked poised to answer when it drove to the Penn State 28-yard line.

But after having first-and-10 at the Nittany Lions 31, Ohio State was forced to try a Tyler Durbin 45-yard field goal, which would have been his career long. But a leaping Marcus Allen blocked the kick, and Haley scooped the ball up at the 40, broke a tackle attempt by Ohio State holder Cameron Johnston at the 10 and scored the go-ahead touchdown.

“It felt so good,” Allen said when asked about watching Haley pick the ball up and score. “You don’t understand, I wanted to cry. We did it. We did it.”

Allen said the blocked field goal was actually set up when he had a chance to block one early in the game but came up empty.

“It was a call for me to block the kick,” Allen said. “I jumped over, clean. Nobody touched me or anything but I missed it. It was a little left for me. I went back to the sideline, this was the first quarter, and I was talking to Coach Huff. I said ‘where am I supposed to be to block the kick,’ and he said, ‘if they are on the right hash they are going to try to kick it onto the defense’s left guard because it’s on the uprising.’ So, me going to him during halftime, because I knew it was going to come again, I just did the same thing I did. I came clean. I went with the adjustments Coach Huff gave me, and I blocked it.”

Haley also credited the coaching staff for the block.

“Watching film, Coach Spence (Clarion University graduate Sean Spencer) comes up with different blocks,” Haley said. “We had a good block this week which involved Marcus coming in and jumping over the guard. It just worked perfectly.”

Penn State’s defense, which was the story of the game, did the rest clinching the victory with back-to-back sacks of J.T. Barrett after Ohio State had moved to its own 42 with 1:16 to play.

Jason Cabinda got the first sack back to the Ohio State 29 on third down setting up a fourth-and-23, and then Evan Schwan and Kevin Givens wrapped up Barrett at the 23 to seal the game.

“We were saying just dig deep,” Allen said. “We do this. This isn’t anything new. They are D1, we are a D1 team too. They bleed just like we do. So it was like, ‘man let’s get it done and get our offense back on the field and celebrate.'”

While Ohio State did rack up 413 yards against the Nittany Lions defense, the Penn State defenders allowed just two Buckeyes’ touchdowns and none in the game’s final 25 minutes.

The Nittany Lions, led by Brandon Bell’s 19 tackles and one sack, put pressure on Barrett all night long and held the elusive Ohio State quarterback to 26 yards rushing on 17 carries. He was also 28 of 43 passing for 245 yards and a touchdown.

“I’m so proud of the growth, so proud of the development (on defense),” Franklin said. “Cabinda and Bell, getting those two guys back was huge. Their leadership, their poise, their playmaking ability was huge for us. There were just so many awesome things that happened out there. Our defense is unbelievable.”

Despite the defensive effort, Penn State found itself down 21-7 following a bad punt snap that led to a safety midway through the third quarter.

But things started to turn around for the Nittany Lions when McSorley engineered a 5-play, 90-yard drive that started near the end of the third quarter and finished with his 2-yard touchdown run 1 1/2 into the fourth quarter. The big plays of the drive were a 37-yard Saquon Barkley run and a 35-yard pass down the sideline to Saeed Blacknall that put Penn State at the Ohio State 2.

After the short McSorley scoring run, Penn State’s defense forced a three-and-out, and Brown blocked the punt.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t even know it happened,” Franklin said of the blocked punt. “I just heard the thud and from there, chaos. That’s what you’ve got to do. You play hard six seconds at a time, and when an opportunity comes, you take advantage of it.”

Penn State then had first-and-goal at the 10 after a Horse-collar penalty on the Buckeyes, but McSorley lost six yards on first down and the next two plays yielded nothing bringing on Davis, who had his string of 18 straight made field goals ended early in the game by a blocked kick by Ohio State. This time, Davis was true getting Penn State within four.

Ohio State led 12-0 until late in the first half when McSorley hit Chris Godwin from 20 yards out with nine seconds left in the half to give the Nittany Lions life going into halftime down 12-7. That score ended a seven-play, 74-yard drive that took just 1:05 off the clock.

The Buckeyes grabbed the 12-0 lead thanks to field goals of 33 and 30 yards by Durbin and a 26-yard Barrett to Marcus Baugh touchdown pass – Durbin’s PAT was shanked.

Up 12-7, Ohio State added to its lead five minutes into the second half when Curtis Samuel broke free for a 74-yard touchdown run to make it 19-7. But that was the last time the Buckeyes offense scored.

Barkley ran for 99 yards on just 12 carries for Penn State with McSorley adding 63 yards rushing on 19 carries with the touchdown. McSorley was also 8 of 23 passing for 154 yards and the score. Mike Gesicki, despite missing a large chunk of the first half with an ankle injury, had four catches for 46 yards with Godwin adding two grabs for 39 yards and the touchdown.

Thanks to the long run, Samuels led Ohio State with 71 yards on two carries. Mike Webster also had 71 yards on 21 carries. Samuels added six catches for 68 yards.

“It’s just awesome,” Franklin said. “The whole thing is a blur right now.”

Penn State returns to action at noon Saturday at Purdue. Ohio State hosts Northwestern at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Box Score

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