Henderson, No. 5 Ohio State hold off No. 20 Penn State 33-24

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – TreVeyon Henderson ran for 152 yards and a touchdown and No. 5 Ohio State made just enough long plays and short field goals to hold off No. 20 Penn State 33-24 on Saturday night.

Facing their first real challenge in a month and half, the Buckeyes (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) finally finished off the Nittany Lions (5-3, 2-3) on Noah Ruggles‘ fourth field goal, a 26-yarder with 2:41 left to make it a nine-point lead.

Coming off an ugly nine-overtime loss at home to Illinois, Penn State looked a lot like the team that had climbed into the top five before losing to Iowa in a game where quarterback Sean Clifford got hurt.

The senior looked sharp and healthy, going 35 for 52 for 361 yards and a touchdown after a tentative performance last week. Still, the Nittany Lions lost their third straight to fall out of contention in the Big Ten East.

Meanwhile, Ohio State, which had hardly been tested since losing to Oregon in Week 2, looked a like the team that struggled to get off the field on third down and finish drives against the Ducks.

The highest-scoring team in the country was held out of the end zone for the first 26 minutes before two explosive plays in the span of about a minute and a half gave Ohio State the lead.

C.J. Stroud floated a deep ball that Chris Olave ran down for a 38-yard touchdown to give the Buckeyes their first lead, 10-7 with 3:48 left in the first half.

Stroud finished with 305 yards passing.

Penn State responded by moving quickly into Ohio State territory, but Clifford was sandwiched by ends Tyreke Smith and Zach Harrison and the ball came loose. Jerron Cage scooped it up and sprinted untouched 57 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-7.

The 305-pound Cage was feted by teammates on the sideline with water and waving hands and towels to cool him off as he caught his breath.

Penn State tied it in the third quarter, taking the opening possession 75 yards and capping it with a 2-yard TD run on direct snap to star receiver Jahan Dotson.

Henderson, after a false start on the goal line that forced Ohio State to settle for a short field goal on its previous possession, ripped off a 68-yard run that setup a 1-yard scoring plunge by the freshman to make it 27-17 with 3:35 left in the third.

Penn State came right back with another long TD drive, finished off with Keyvone Lee‘s 1-yard run to make it 27-24 heading into the fourth quarter.

Cam Brown’s interception of Clifford in Penn State territory set up a 25-yard field goal by Ruggles to make it 30-24 with 4:03 left.

THE TAKEAWAY

Penn State: The Nittany Lions were almost unrecognizable from last week’s performance against Illinois when they could not stop a one-dimensional team from running all over them and could neither sustain drives nor convert a 2-point play on six of seven attempts.

Ohio State: A month of pummeling overmatched opponents had the Buckeyes looking as if they might be emerging as the clear favorites in the Big Ten East after some early struggles, especially on defense. The conference still runs through Columbus, but the Buckeyes looked far from invincible against a team with more comparable talent.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Penn State is in danger of being unranked for the first time this season while Ohio State is probably holding steady at best when the AP poll comes out Sunday.

The first College Football Playoff rankings are released Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Penn State: The Nittany Lions look to snap their skid at Maryland.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes go to Nebraska next week.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.