STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyesa directs the offense against the Penn State Nittany Lions on September 29, 2018 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Penn State’s Whiteout did not produce a knockout.

Despite sputtering on offense for large swaths of Saturday night’s Big Ten showdown at Beaver Stadium, the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes were able to hang tough and defeat the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions 27-26 thanks to K.J. Hill’s 24-yard touchdown reception with 2:03 remaining in regulation.

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins didn’t produce the cleanest effort, but he went 22-of-39 for 270 yards and three touchdowns as he led two fourth-quarter scoring drives to pad the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff resume in a huge way.

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley counterpunched by throwing for 286 yards and two scores along with a career-high 175 rushing yards while Ohio State bottled up running back Miles Sanders to the tune of 16 carries for 43 yards, including a two-yard loss on 4th-and-5 from the Ohio State 43-yard line with 1:16 remaining in regulation.

        

Haskins Guts Out Crucial Win in First Major Test

Roughly six hours before kickoff, Haskins sent a message to Shareef Miller on Twitter after he caught wind of some smack talk from the Penn State defensive end:

As it turns out, Haskins had a point.

Although the sophomore couldn’t settle into a rhythm against Penn State’s pressure in the first half, he rebounded over the final 30 minutes and executed Ohio State’s revised game plan—comprised primarily of quick-hitters and tunnel screens—to lead the Buckeyes to 20 second-half points.

For a sophomore playing in the most hostile environment he’s faced to this point in his short career, that kind of resilience was admirable—even if he wasn’t able to generate big gains downfield like he did against TCU, Oregon State, Rutgers and Tulane.

Most of all, it proved he’s not easily rattled—a trait that will undoubtedly serve him well as Ohio State’s pursuit of a College Football Playoff berth heats up.

Haskins is still a distant second in the Heisman Trophy race behind Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, but it’s clear he’s going to be a real problem for Big Ten defenses as long as he’s settled under center in Columbus.

           

KJ Hamler Gives PSU Game-Breaker It Needs After Losing Barkley

KJ Hamler had been building toward a breakout against Ohio State.

The true freshman flashed glimpses of his show-stopping speed throughout the first four weeks of the season with receiving touchdowns against Appalachian State, Pittsburgh and Illinois, but his burners hadn’t been on display against a defense like Ohio State’s.

Now, the rest of the Big Ten is on notice: Hamler is here, and he can torch you in an instant.

Just ask the Buckeyes, who watched the 19-year-old turn on the jets and race past would-be tacklers en route to a 93-yard touchdown that helped put the Nittany Lions up 13-0 in the second quarter:

Thanks to that lengthy jaunt, Hamler—who was one of the few positives for Penn State from a skill position perspective—finished with four receptions for 138 yards and a score.

A one-man wrecking crew when he gets in the open field, Hamler is the kind of momentum-shifting athlete who should be a staple of the Nittany Lions offense for years to come.

And while he’s not going to touch the ball as often as Saquon Barkley did during his legendary tenure in Happy Valley, he should be able to carry his big-play torch through the end of the decade.

      

Ohio State in Driver’s Seat for CFP Bid After Crucial Win

Beyond the obvious bragging rights, Saturday’s titanic Big Ten tilt had major ramifications for the College Football Playoff picture.

And even though we’re still a month away from the first CFP rankings release, it’s apparent the Buckeyes, at 5-0, are in control of their destiny for a spot in the final four after they cleared the biggest hurdle they’re going to face during the regular season.

That’s not to say matchups against No. 21 Michigan State and No. 14 Michigan won’t serve as stiff tests, of course. They have in the past and they undoubtedly will this year—leaving opportunities aplenty for Ohio State to suffer a rankings backslide.

But given the weight the showdown with Penn State carried, the Buckeyes have a firm leg up on the competition with five weeks in the books.

         

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will be off next week before they return to the field Oct. 13 for a meeting with No. 21 Michigan State. The Buckeyes are scheduled to host the Indiana Hoosiers at the Horseshoe Oct. 6.

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