When Urban Meyer called timeout to challenge the ball spot of Allen Robinson’s fourth down reception in the third quarter, Bill O’Brien could only stare down Ohio State’s sideline.
The timing of the challenge called into question the Buckeyes’ approach to their ultimate 63-14 blowout of the Nittany Lions on Saturday. At the time of Robinson’s initially called fourth down conversion, Ohio State had been up 49 points.
“The timeout to challenge the spot? He didn’t think we had a first down, so he called a timeout to challenge it. I have no thoughts on that,” O’Brien said after the game.
Upon review, the officials determined that Robinson was one yard shy of the marker, and Penn State turned the ball over on downs. Ohio State then mounted a 79-yard touchdown drive to cap their score for the game.
The Buckeyes turned to many of their backups in the fourth quarter, even opting for third-string quarterback Cardale Jones. It was only the third time between the 20th and 21st centuries that Penn State’s defense allowed more than 50 points.
In the large scope of the BCS system, it may be beneficial for the undefeated Buckeyes — in the long run — to have built up the score against Penn State.
“They’re trying to get to a national championship,” linebacker Mike Hull said. “It’s sports. You’ve got to expect that.”
Still, O’Brien’s handshake with Meyer after the game blurred the line between handshake and high five. He made only fleeting eye contact with the opposing coach, and barely halted his movement off the field.
The two teams’ disparity, however, was crystal clear by halftime.
“When you’re down 42-7, that’s not a great feeling,” O’Brien said. “I’m not a very eloquent speaker, so disheartened... The point is, nobody on this football team quit.”
Added tailback Bill Belton: “As a team we don’t worry about how to handle where the game is getting. We believe even when we’re down we’re not out of it. That’s our mantra.”
Perhaps coming out of the locker room, the Lions thought they still had a speck of hope. But that speck was devoured by the Buckeyes when they scored three more unanswered touchdowns.
Robinson tacked on a 65-yard consolation score in the fourth quarter, and celebrated with some teammates afterward. With 7:33 left, even the most illogical of comebacks was out of reach, but some Lions managed to fend off dejection.
“At that point, we’re just playing for pride,” Hull said. “We’re just working our butts off out there. As soon as that game ended, we were just thinking about watching the film, putting it behind us, and moving on to the next week.”