STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — J.T. Tuimoloau had a strip sack to set up No. 2 Ohio State for a separation-score in the fourth quarter and then a pick-6 to cap a spectacular performance by the defensive end as the Buckeyes erased a fourth-quarter deficit to beat No. 13 Penn State 44-31.
C.J. Stroud found his groove for Ohio State in the fourth quarter and finished with 354 yards passing as the Buckeyes (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) ran their winning streak in the rivalry to six in a row – none by more than 13 points.
As has often been the case when these teams get together lately, the Buckeyes were a double-digit favorite and the Nittany Lions (6-2, 3-2) played them tough.
In this case, though, Penn State didn’t just hang around. The Nittany Lions went up 21-16 with 9:26 remaining in the fourth quarter on a tough 1-yard touchdown run by Kaytron Allen on fourth down.
Ohio State outscored Penn State 28-3 the rest of the way, with Tuimoloau providing the key play after the Buckeyes went up 23-21.
Tuimoloau also recovered the fumble after swiping the ball from Sean Clifford with 8:26 left in the fourth quarter. One play later, Stroud connected with Cade Stover, who rumbled through the Penn State defense for a 24-yard touchdown to make it 30-21.
Tuimoloau also had his first career interception in the first quarter, a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage that resulted in Ohio State’s first interception of the game and another sack.
For his final act, Tuimoloau beat his block, reached up and grabbed Clifford’s short pass attempt at the 14-yard line and cruised into the end zone to make it 44-24.
Clifford threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns, but committed four turnovers.
TreVeyon Henderson scored twice in Ohio State’s fourth-quarter outburst, including a 41-yard run 35 seconds after Penn State took the lead. He added a 7-yard touchdown run with 2:52 left to make it 37-24.
Clifford, the sixth-year quarterback, whose up and down play has had some Nittany Lions fans clamoring to see more of five-star freshman Drew Allar, found success after the early turnovers.
Parker Washington broke free of two Ohio State tacklers and sprinted 58 yards for a score to cut the Ohio State lead to 10-7 in the second quarter and awaken a lunchtime crowd of more than 108,000 at Beaver Stadium.
Clifford hooked up with KeAndre Smith-Lambert down the middle for a 23-yard touchdown to give Penn State a 14-10 lead that prompted a singalong to “Sweet Caroline” from the “striped-out” fans.
A visit from Ohio State is usually a White Out game for Penn State, played at night. This time it was a big nooner with Fox in town and the Nittany Lions coming off a White Out romp last week against Minnesota.
Two weeks removed from getting pummeled on the road by Michigan, Penn State put up a four-quarter fight against the Buckeyes.
Ohio State: A few days before the first College Football Playoff rankings are released, the Buckeyes faced their toughest test of the season so far – by far – and passed. Only a major upset over the next three weeks will keep the Buckeyes from rolling into the Michigan finale unbeaten.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions limped out of the Big House after allowing more than 400 yards rushing, but their athletic defense seemed to be a better match-up for the Buckeyes. At least for a while. Penn State heads into the final month of the season still hoping for a 10-win season, but with a Big Ten title out of reach.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes are on the road again at Northwestern.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions start the closing stretch at Indiana.