STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Instead of an anticipated shootout between the top two scoring teams in the nation, Penn State and Ohio State turned Saturday night's "White Out" into a taut defensive struggle where points were difficult to come by, at least for three quarters.
But the fourth-ranked Buckeyes stunned the record crowd of 110,889 at Beaver Stadium, rallying from a 26-14 deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes by Dwayne Haskins, including a 24-yard throw to K.J. Hill with 2 minutes, 3 seconds to play, to defeat the No. 9 Nittany Lions, 27-26.
The Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) scored the first two touchdowns of the fourth quarter on Trace McSorley's 2-yard pass to freshman tight end Pat Freiermuth and a 1-yard run by Miles Sanders. The second TD, with 8 minutes to play, gave the Lions a 12-point lead.
But the Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0) needed just 1:18 to answer with a TD of their own, a 47-yard pass from Haskins to Binjimen Victor to draw to within 26-21. The Lions made two first downs on their next possession before stalling, and Blake Gillikin's punt was downed at the Ohio State 4.
The Buckeyes immediately got out of the hole on a 35-yard screen pass from Haskins to J.K. Dobbins, and Mike Weber converted a third-down with an 11-yard run. The visitors converted another third down for their winning score, with Hill catching a swing pass and racing down the right sideline for the touchdown with 2:03 remaining.
Penn State's final drive was snuffed when Sanders was tackled for a 2-yard loss on fourth and 5 from the Ohio State 43 with 1:16 to play. The Buckeyes ran out the clock and defeated the Nittany Lions by one point for the second straight year.
McSorley gave a heroic performance, rushing for 175 yards in 25 carries and completing 16 of 32 passes for 286 yards.
He threw a 93-yard touchdown pass – second-longest in program history – to K.J. Hamler in the second quarter, in addition to his 2-yard scoring toss to Freiermuth.
Trailing 13-0 after the McSorley-to-Hamler TD, the Buckeyes capitalized on a Sanders fumble to cut into the deficit on Dwayne Haskins' 26-yard pass to Dobbins with 1:50 left in the first half.
Ohio State, which gained just 93 total yards in the first half, took the second-half kickoff and had its longest sustained drive of the game – 75 yards. Dobbins went over from 4 yards out on the 13th play to give the Buckeyes their first lead at 14-13.
The Nittany Lions outgained the Buckeyes, 293-93, in total offense in the first half. In fact, the Lions picked up 93 of their yards on one play – a short pass from McSorley to Hamler over the middle that Hamler took to the house for the second-longest pass play in program history.
Still, Penn State managed just a 13-7 lead because Ohio State converted the Nittany Lions' only turnover, a fumble by Sanders at the 25, into a touchdown on a 26-yard screen pass from Haskins to Dobbins.
The Nittany Lions advanced into Ohio State territory on their first three possessions of the game but had only three points to show for it.
Penn State kept its first drive alive when Sanders made 2 yards on a fourth-and-2 from the Buckeyes 42 but could not get past the 38 and had to punt.
The Nittany Lions got the ball back at their own 21 and Juwan Johnson made an incredible leaping one-handed catch for a 31-yard game that gave them a first down at the Ohio State 17. But an ill-advised lateral from McSorley to Tommy Stevens was fumbled and went for a 13-yard loss, and Penn State had to settle for a 34-yard field goal from Pinegar.
McSorley sparked the Lions' next drive with a career-best 51-yard run to the Ohio State 29 but gained one more yard the next three plays, and Pinegar was wide left on a 46-yard field goal try.
The Penn State defense kept the visitors in check. The Buckeyes gained just 27 yards in the first quarter.
An interception and 45-yard return by safety Garrett Taylor early in the second quarter put the Lions in business at the Ohio State 28, but again the Buckeyes defense did not allow its opponent to net a first down, and Pinegar split the uprights with a 39-yard field goal.
Later in the quarter, Buckeyes punter Drue Chrisman, who averaged 47.7 yards on seven first-half punts, boomed a 52-yarder that was downed at the Penn State 2. Faced with a third-and-5 from the 7, McSorley fired a pass over the middle to Hamler, who turned on the jets and outraced defensive backs Shaun Wade and Isaiah Pryor to the end zone.