5-Year CFB Anniversary: Ohio State Uses Big Fourth Quarter to Stun Penn State, 39-38

Since 2016, the winner of the annual contest between Ohio State and Penn State has won the Big Ten East every year. Those teams will meet again on Saturday as the Buckeyes look to win their sixth straight over the Nittany Lions.

Despite Ohio State’s recent dominance, three of the last six meetings have been decided by three points or less. That includes a 1-point game in a top-10 matchup that came on this day five years ago.

For most of the day, Penn State was in control. The Buckeyes, however, erupted with 19 fourth-quarter points and two touchdowns in the final 4:25 to stun Penn State, 39-38.

Setting the Stage

Fresh off a rout of Michigan, Penn State was 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country as it arrived at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 28, 2017. The Nittany Lions had rallied from 10 points down to top Ohio State the year prior. Penn State was looking for its first win in Columbus since 2011.

After losing at home to Oklahoma early in the year, Ohio State was 6-1 and on a 5-game winning streak. Ranked No. 6 in the country, the Buckeyes’ six wins each came by at least 28 points.

Buckeyes Storm Back

From the opening kickoff, it appeared it would be Penn State’s night. Saquon Barkley returned the opening kick 97 yards for a touchdown.

By the second quarter, the Nittany Lions had an 18-point lead. After passing for a touchdown and running for another, Trace McSorley’s 37-yard touchdown toss to DeAndre Thompkins helped the Nittany Lions take a 35-20 lead into the final period.

With less than 12 minutes remaining in the game, Ohio State used a block punt to gain momentum. Two plays later, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett found Johnnie Dixon for a 38-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to eight.

Penn State, however, responded with a field goal to cap a drive that took nearly five and a half minutes off the clock. With less than six minutes remaining and the Nittany Lions holding a 38-27 lead, everything seemed fine.

Ohio State needed just five plays and 82 seconds to make things interesting. On the ensuing drive, Barrett was a perfect 5-for-5 passing, finding Dixon for the 10-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion was failed, but Ohio State’s defense responded with a 3-and-out.

Again, it took the Buckeyes just five plays to find paydirt. Again, Barrett was flawless.

On the decisive drive, the Ohio State quarterback was 4-for-4. His 16-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Baugh gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the night.

The 2-point try failed again. With 1:48 and Ohio State up 39-38, Penn State needed just a field goal.

That, however, would not come to fruition. The ensuing drive was a quiet one, headlined by a sack from Ohio State’s Jalyn Holmes. Three incompletions from McSorley gave the ball back to Ohio State, which proceeded to run out the clock.

Statistically, the Buckeyes finished with 529 yards to 283 for Penn State. The only two turnovers, however, were committed by Ohio State.

Barrett finished with 328 yards passing and four touchdowns to go with 95 yards rushing. Ohio State’s KJ Hill Jr. led all receivers with 12 catches for 102 yards. In addition to the kickoff return, Barkley added a rushing touchdown.

Box score and recap:


In Hindsight

Ohio State was stunned the following week at Iowa, but closed the regular season on a 3-game winning streak. The Buckeyes topped Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship and then USC in the Cotton Bowl to finish 12-2 and No. 5 in the final polls.

Like the Buckeyes, Penn State would lose the following week. After falling to Michigan State, the Nittany Lions closed the year on a 4-game winning streak, which included a Fiesta Bowl victory over Washington.

At 11-2, Penn State finished No. 8 in the polls. The blown lead late in Columbus, however, would cost it a chance at repeating as Big Ten champions. That loss came on this day five years ago.

Mandatory photo credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports, republished by Ohio State athletics

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.