COLUMBUS, Ohio - For one half Saturday, Matt McGloin was living up to his newfound fame, dissecting the opponent's secondary and giving Penn State an unlikely 11-point lead at a stunned Ohio Stadium.
Then reality reared its head. Ohio State played like the nation's No. 8 team in the second half while the Nittany Lions played like the team that had started the season 3-3. And McGloin crashed back to earth, throwing a pair of interceptions that the home team returned for touchdowns.
So the wave of success recently enjoyed by the Lions vanished faster than steak at a football dinner, disappearing under a Buckeyes onslaught that gave them a 38-14 Big Ten Conference win in front of a delighted crowd of 105,466.
Penn State's winning streak ended after three games. And the Nittany Lions (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) found themselves on the wrong side of the second 35-point swing with which they had been involved in two weeks.
Instead of the Lions rallying from 21-0 down to defeat Northwestern, 35-21, this was the Buckeyes (9-1, 5-1) scoring 35 unanswered points - all in the second half - to pull away after trailing by 14-3 at the break.
"Things were looking good for us," running back Evan Royster said. "But I don't know how things changed so quickly. It was just like that. It's tough to change the momentum back once you lose it."
McGloin, the former walk-on who had become a feel-good story nationally, showed himself to be human.
The redshirt sophomore hit 12 of his first 15 passes. During that time, he had a run of nine straight completions that included touchdown throws to Justin Brown and Derek Moye.
However, after missing his final two throws of the first half, he suffered through a miserable 3-for-13 second half that included a pair of "pick sixes," by Ohio State's Devon Torrence (34 yards) and Travis Howard (30).
"I think they did a couple of things a little better," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said of the Buckeyes. "I think [McGloin] got a little bit too anxious. I don't know; I'll have to take a look at the tapes and talk to him. But I think that's what usually happens with a young guy."
McGloin credited the Buckeyes with making adjustments at halftime.
"We tried to play the game out and keep control of the ball," he said, "but unfortunately, we weren't able to do that. Their defense stepped up when they needed to."
Ohio State's defense showed why it is ranked in the top four nationally in all four major categories, holding the Penn State offense to 60 yards in 26 plays in the second half. But it wasn't all the Buckeyes. Devon Smith and Moye dropped third-down passes on back-to-back series when the Lions were within 17-14.
The Penn State defense played the second half without linebacker Michael Mauti. Paterno said Mauti's shoulder "had gone out of place," but he didn't elaborate on the injury.
The Buckeyes drove 96 yards on their initial second-half possession to start swinging the momentum back their way. Dan Herron, who rushed for 190 yards on 21 carries, scored on a 5-yard run to charge up the crowd and get Ohio State within 14-10.
On the fourth play of Penn State's ensuing drive, McGloin's pass in the left flat was picked off by Torrence, who tipped it twice before securing it and heading for the end zone. The TDs, just 2 minutes, 4 seconds apart, gave the Buckeyes the lead for good.
The football again bounced Ohio State's way in the fourth quarter when Terrelle Pryor threw deep into double coverage to DeVier Posey. The ball was tipped away from Posey - right into the hands of teammate Dane Sanzenbacher, who completed the 58-yard touchdown.
"It was just a freak play," said free safety Drew Astorino, who had solid coverage on the play with D'Anton Lynn. "We did our jobs. We did them well. Obviously, the ball just didn't bounce our way that time, so what are you going to do?"
With a running game that piled up 314 yards, Pryor didn't have to do much, throwing the ball just 13 times, twice for touchdowns.
When asked about his quarterback situation at last week's practice, Paterno said he "hadn't thought about it." McGloin said the focus was forward, not backward, to Saturday's game in Landover, Md., against Indiana.
"We'll see how we respond Monday," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to come out with confidence like we have the past couple of weeks."
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org.