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Ohio State holds off Penn State in two overtimes

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Penn State rallied from a 17-0 deficit to force overtime, but Ohio State scored twice in the extra periods and the Buckeyes dealt the Lions a third consecutive loss, 31-24

At this year’s Beaver Stadium whiteout, there was no fairytale ending.

It had all the makings of a stunning upset, with a late Penn State comeback featuring spectacular catches, clutch field goals and multiple overtimes, but a repeat of the 2013 whiteout was not in the cards.

In the end, after a long stretch of solid football, the Nittany Lions could not keep the mojo going as they fell to No. 13 Ohio State, 31-24, in two overtimes on Saturday night.

“We gave a fight over all four quarters,” defensive end Deion Barnes said. “In overtime, we just didn’t do enough basically and I just feel bad about that.”

After a first half of football in which the Lions (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) went down 17-0 and showed few signs of improvement from two consecutive losses, the team came out in the second half with life. For 30 minutes, Penn State went toe to toe with the Buckeyes (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten), offensively and defensively.

The Lions’ rally was sparked early in the third quarter when lineman Anthony Zettel picked off Buckeyes’ quarterback J.T. Barrett and went 40 yards down the sideline to put his team on the board and supply the team’s first pick-six since 2009.

Linebacker and senior captain Mike Hull also had 19 tackles in the game, along with an interception.

“I think he should be on every award list right now,” coach James Franklin said. “The guy is playing a a really, really high level week in and week out. Makes plays from sideline to sideline and in the run game and the pass game.”

Franklin also said rotating the defensive line during the game was helpful for his squad, along with minor halftime adjustments from defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.

Then, in the fourth quarter, the Lions offense started clicking.

“It comes down to execution,” quarterback Christian Hackenberg said. “We consistently executed better in the second half. There’s still a little inconsistency there, but I think we picked that [execution] up and it allowed us to get rolling.”

The signal-caller finished 31-of-49 with 224 yards and two interceptions including one questionable call on the Lions first drive of the game in which it looked as if Buckeyes’ defensive back Vonn Bell did not have possession of the ball as he went to the ground. But due to technical difficulties with the replay equipment, the play was not overturned.

Hackenberg did have a touchdown pass to Saeed Blacknall though, in which the freshman reciever went up in the corner of the endzone and made a one-handed catch with a Buckeye corner draped over him to bring the score to 17-14.

“It was a conversion route based on the type of coverage they had been giving us,” Hackenberg said. “The safety had his eyes inside so I knew we had a true one-on-one outside. And Saeed went up and made a great play. I tried to give him a shot and he capitalized on that.”

DaeSean Hamilton led the recievers with 14 catches for 126 yards on the evening.

In the fourth quarter, the Lions also went 67 yards to set up a 31-yard Sam Ficken field goal to tie the game with two seconds remaining.

“They always believe that we’re going to have a chance to win the game,” Franklin said. “That’s what I noticed throughout the game. As the game went on, guys started making plays and gaining confidence.”

Unfortunately, after the two teams traded scores in the first overtime, the Buckeyes took the lead and then clamped down defensively on the Lions in the second extra period, sacking Hackenberg to close out the game.

“There are no moral victories at Penn State and there never will be, but I’m proud of how they fought and how they stuck together,” Franklin said. “With that, we’ll get where we want to go.”

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