Nittany Lions nip Buckeyes for control of Big Ten title race
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A late turnover and a second-team quarterback made the difference for Penn State. For a change, everything went right for Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium.
Pat Devlin came off the bench for injured starting quarterback Daryll Clark in the fourth quarter and led two scoring drives, sneaking in for the go-ahead touchdown to give No. 3 Penn State a 13-6 victory over No. 9 Ohio State on Saturday night.
"How many times have I told you Pat Devlin is a heck of a quarterback?" coach Joe Paterno said after his 381st career victory. "We're lucky to have two quarterbacks."
Devlin was stunned to be called upon.
Asked what was wrong with Clark, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I have no idea. They just told me to go in."
The win put the Nittany Lions (9-0, 5-0) in command in the Big Ten and severely crimped the chances of the Buckeyes (7-2, 4-1) grabbing an unprecedented third consecutive outright league title and a piece of their fourth conference championship in a row.
Penn State, with Paterno coaching from the press box for the fourth straight game, solidified its position as a national championship contender and also erased the ugly memories of an 0-7 mark in Columbus since joining the Big Ten in 1993. Penn State's previous victory in Columbus came in 1978 -- also when a freshman quarterback (Art Schlichter) made critical mistakes and the Nittany Lions pounced on them.
"One turnover was the ballgame," Paterno said. "We played the game we had to play."
Defenses controlled most of the game before an Ohio Stadium-record crowd of 105,711.
Ohio State had the ball and a three-point lead when Terrelle Pryor fumbled, defensive back Mark Rubin using his left hand to knock the ball away as the freshman quarterback carried on a third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter.
"I just didn't want to let him get the first down," Rubin said. "I tired to square up and push him back. I'm not going to lie: I just happened to get my hand on the ball and was able to bounce it out."
Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman fell on the loose ball at the Buckeyes 38.
"[I was saying] 'We need a turnover, we need a turnover,'" Bowman said. "We got one and that's what I believe got us the victory."
Pryor was disconsolate.
"I can't explain this," he said. "I just didn't hold the ball. I saw the end zone. It was there and the ball just fell out. I thought I was on my way to a touchdown but I just lost the ball. As soon as I fumbled it, I knew they would score."
Immediately, the Nittany Lions were at a disadvantage as Clark remained on the sideline. He was meeting with team doctors. Paterno later said that Clark had a minor head injury, although the coach said he had not spoken with his medical personnel.
In stepped Devlin, who had seen action in seven games but had only been on the field for 45 plays.
He led a seven-play, 38-yard drive that took 4:13 and ended with his touchdown giving Penn State a 10-6 lead.
The big play in the march came on third-and-2 at the Ohio State 6 when Royster skirted right end, tiptoeing along the sideline for a 4-yard gain and the first down.
Three plays later, Devlin scored on his second straight keeper and Kevin Kelly converted the point-after for a 10-6 lead with 6:25 left.
Penn State's defense then forced an Ohio State punt, and Royster promptly went for 3, 10 and 9 yards on his first three carries before Devlin sneaked for a first down at the Ohio State 24.
While the Buckeyes were using all their timeouts, the Nittany Lions continued to stick to the ground. Finally, they let the clock run down until Kelly converted a 35-yard field goal with 1:07 left to push the lead to 13-6.
Ohio State had one last chance. Taking over at their own 20, Pryor hit Ray Small for gains of 23 and 14 yards to the Penn State 43 with just over 30 seconds left. But Pryor's long pass to the goal line was intercepted by cornerback Lydell Sargeant with 27 seconds left.
Paterno couldn't celebrate with his players. At least not right away.
Penn State's coach for the past 43 years, the 81-year-old Paterno came up from the team locker room about 15 minutes before the opening kickoff, using a cane and with a Penn State athletic administrator following him in case he needed assistance.
"Penn State played hard and didn't make a bunch of mistakes," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
Clark completed 12-of-20 passes for 121 yards before leaving. Royster had 77 yards on 19 carries.
Pryor, the nation's most heralded quarterback recruit last spring, completed 16-of-25 for 226 yards with the one interception. He ran for 6 yards on nine attempts. Chris "Beanie" Wells managed just 55 yards on 22 carries against Penn State's stout defense.
"I've never faced adversity like this," Pryor said. "When you turn the ball over twice, it's on you. I gave them the ball and put pressure on the defense again. I feel the loss is on me."
2022 Big Ten Conference Standings