Two days after his team rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit and defeated No. 8 Wisconsin in overtime, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer recalled another tough overtime game when the Buckeyes were on the ropes and still survived.
That one was two years ago. Nearly all the 107,985 fans at Beaver Stadium were decked out in white. Down 17-0 at the half, Penn State rallied, tied the score at 17 on Sam Ficken's 31-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining, and scored first in overtime on Bill Belton's 1-yard run.
Meyer admitted, "The script was written" for an Ohio State loss. He wondered, "What am I going to say to this team?" afterward. Lucky for him, he had quarterback J.T. Barrett, then a redshirt freshman.
"Every indicator was up that we lost the game," Meyer said Monday at his weekly news conference in Columbus. "At Penn State, the story was told - that kind of environment, our quarterback was not playing well, and he also had a second-degree [medial collateral ligament] sprain. We're seven points behind.
"And then [Barrett] kind of put that game on his shoulders."
Barrett scored on runs of 4 and 5 yards in the two overtimes. The Buckeyes defense kept the Nittany Lions out of the end zone in the second extra period and left Happy Valley a happy team with a 31-24 victory.
On Saturday night, the second-ranked Buckeyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) return to Beaver Stadium for another whiteout, led again by Barrett. The 6-foot-2, 222-pound Texan ran for two touchdowns and threw a 7-yard pass to Noah Brown for the winning score in a 30-23 overtime win at Wisconsin, improving his record as a starter to 21-2.
In addition to his 2014 heroics, Barrett also hurt the Nittany Lions last year. Coming off the bench in relief of starter Cardale Jones, he ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more in Ohio State's 38-10 home victory.
One of the few Penn State highlights in the game was the performance of freshman Saquon Barkley, who rushed for 194 yards.
The Nittany Lions (4-2, 1-1) had last week off, meaning Barkley has rested up from his career-high 202-yard performance in the Lions' 38-14 win over Maryland on Oct. 8. Without mentioning him by name, Meyer called Barkley "their first-rounder tailback."
"I'm going to give you the coach-speak answer: You've got to tackle well and make sure you're gap sound," Meyer said of Barkley. "That's No. 1 on the hit parade as far as defending Penn State and stopping . . . we won't stop him, but minimize the impact that their running back has on us."
Meyer said the Penn State wide receivers, led by starters Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, and DeAndre Thompkins, are "as good a group of receivers as we've faced, not just this year but in a while."
For the second straight week, Ohio State will be playing on the home field of an opponent that had a bye the previous week. The Buckeyes didn't arrive home from Wisconsin until about 5 a.m. Sunday, but their coach is not making excuses and is looking ahead to Penn State.
"I wished they'd save the whiteouts for other games, but I guess that's usually for our game," Meyer said. "But it's one of the top five atmospheres in college football."
The Nittany Lions announced that their Oct. 29 game at Purdue will kick off at noon. . . . Nevada running back Akeel Lynch, who led Penn State in rushing in 2014 and played for three seasons with the Lions before transferring, announced on Twitter that he has decided to stop playing football after "having suffered two concussions in a short period of time."