Penn St. scores last 10 to win, 13-6
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Penn State, unbeaten and unbowed, proved it belongs in the middle of any national championship talk.
Pat Devlin came off the bench for injured starting quarterback Daryll Clark in the fourth quarter and leading two fourth-quarter scoring drives, sneaking in for the go-ahead touchdown to give No. 3 Penn State a 13-6 victory over No. 10 Ohio State on Saturday night.
“When Pat came in we weren’t missing a beat at all. We believed in him and he did a good job,” Penn State receiver Derrick Williams said in an interview with ESPN.
The win put the Nittany Lions (9-0, 5-0) in command in the Big Ten and severely crimped the chances of the Buckeyes (7-2, 4-1) grabbing an unprecedented third consecutive outright league title and a piece of their fourth conference championship in a row.
Penn State, with coach Joe Paterno coaching from the press box for the fourth straight game, solidified its position as a national championship contender and also erased the ugly memories of an 0-7 mark in Columbus since joining the Big Ten in 1993. Penn State’s previous victory in Columbus came in 1978.
Defenses controlled most of the game before an Ohio Stadium-record crowd of 105,711.
Ohio State had the ball and a three-point lead when Terrelle Pryor fumbled, defensive back Mark Rubin using his left hand to knock the ball away as the freshman quarterback carried on a third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter. Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman fell on the loose ball at the Buckeyes 38.
“From where I stood, he saw a couple gaps or penetration and tried to slide outside and someone hit the ball,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. “It was unfortunate.”
Immediately, the Nittany Lions were at a disadvantage as Clark remained on the sideline. He was meeting with team doctors. Paterno later said that Clark had a minor head injury, although the coach said he had not spoken with his medical personnel.
In stepped Devlin, who had seen action in seven games but had only been on the field for 45 plays.
He led a seven-play, 38-yard drive that took 4:13 and ended with his touchdown giving Penn State a 10-6 lead.
The big play in the march came on third-and-2 at the Ohio State 6 when Royster skirted right end, tiptoeing along the sideline for a 4-yard gain and the first down.
Three plays later, Devlin scored on his second straight keeper and Kevin Kelly converted the point-after for a 10-6 lead with 6:25 left.
Penn State’s defense then forced an Ohio State punt, and with Royster carrying most of the load, the Nittany Lions almost ran out the clock. Royster went for 3, 10 and 9 yards on his first three carries before Devlin sneaked for a first down at the Ohio State 24.
While the Buckeyes were using all their timeouts, the Nittany Lions continued to stick to the ground. Finally, they let the clock run down until Kelly converted a 35-yard field goal with 1:07 left to push the lead to 13-6.
Ohio State had one last chance to tie it. Taking over at their own 20, Pryor hit Ray Small for gains of 23 and 14 yards to the Penn State 43 with just over 30 seconds left. But Pryor’s long pass to the goal line was intercepted by cornerback Lydell Sargeant with 27 seconds left.
Asked if the Nittany Lions belonged in the national-title discussion with No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Alabama, Williams flashed a wide grin and said, “We belong with them.”
Paterno couldn’t celebrate with his players. At least not right away.
Penn State’s coach for the past 43 years, the 81-year-old Paterno came up from the team locker room about 15 minutes before the opening kickoff, using a cane and with a Penn State athletic administrator following him in case he needed assistance.
“Penn State played hard and didn’t make a bunch of mistakes,” Tressel said.
Pryor, the nation’s most heralded quarterback recruit last spring, completed 16-of-25 for 226 yards with the one interception. He ran for 6 yards on nine attempts. Chris “Beanie” Wells managed just 55 yards on 22 carries against Penn State’s stout defense.
Clark completed 12-of-20 passes for 121 yards before leaving. Royster had 77 yards on 19 carries.
Kelly, who became the Big Ten’s all-time kick scorer a week ago, came into the game 12-of-14 on field goals. He converted one of 31 yards in the first half.
But with the Nittany Lions trailing 6-3, he hooked one wide right on the second play of the fourth period that would have tied it. At the time, it looked like a costly miss.
But that was until Devlin stepped in and came up big.