3:30 PM ET, September 23, 2006
Ohio Stadium, COLUMBUS, OH
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- In about the time it took 79-year-old Joe Paterno to jog to the locker room, Troy Smith and No. 1 Ohio State's defense turned a close game into a rout.
Smith threw an acrobatic 37-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, then Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith returned interceptions for touchdowns as the Buckeyes beat No. 24 Penn State 28-6 on Saturday.
"In the Big Ten, it's always a four-quarter game," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "We won a four-quarter game."
Paterno, the Nittany Lions' coach for the last 41 years, ambled to the locker room midway through the second quarter and didn't return until the start of the fourth because he was suffering from the flu.
He got back just in time to see Smith turn a possible sack into a critical score as the Buckeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) expanded a 7-3 lead on Brian Robiskie's 37-yard touchdown catch.
"That play that Smith made when we almost had him, he threw that ball on the button in end zone," Paterno said. "That was a super play."
On a day when Penn State's defense put the clamps on Smith and his favorite target, Ted Ginn Jr., the Buckeyes persevered.
"The mark of a championship-caliber team is to keep plugging along -- to keep going, keep going, keep going," said Smith, who said he went against a Tressel rule by reversing field on the pass to Robiskie. "I tried to improvise and keep things going."
With the Nittany Lions (2-2, 0-1) seeking a touchdown and 2-point conversion that would tie it, Jenkins picked off an Anthony Morelli pass and raced down the left sideline 61 yards for a score to make it 21-6 with 2:31 left.
The play was reviewed by officials to check if Jenkins had stepped out at the Penn State 35. But several replay angles appeared to show Jenkins spiking the ball to the ground before he got into the end zone.
"I was lucky they didn't review me spiking the ball on the 1-yard line," Jenkins said with a grin.
Moments later, Antonio Smith stepped in front of a pass by Morelli meant for Deon Butler and sped along the same route as Jenkins for a 55-yard score.
Just that quickly -- a span of a little under 12 minutes, the last two TDs separated by less than 90 seconds -- the Buckeyes made the win appear easier than it really was.
The victory extended Ohio State's winning streak to 11 in a row, dating to last year's 17-10 loss at Penn State. The teams ended up sharing the Big Ten title in 2005.
"The game lived up to exactly what it was supposed to be," Ohio State center Doug Datish said. "It was a backyard brawl."
Penn State took a 3-0 lead at the half when Tony Hunt (24 carries, 135 yards) and Morelli (16-of-25 for 105 yards with three interceptions) led the Nittany Lions into field-goal range. Kevin Kelly yanked a 23-yard attempt with 3 seconds left but he was roughed by Jenkins. Given a second chance. Kelly converted a 21-yarder with no time left.
A heavy downpour slowed to a sprinkle in the second half.
The Buckeyes finally broke through on their second possession of the third quarter, driving 75 yards in nine plays, capped by Antonio Pittman's 12-yard run up the middle. Pittman finished with 110 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Paterno probably wished he hadn't come back for the final quarter.
Just five plays after Paterno returned, Troy Smith (12-of-22 for 115 yards and two interceptions) made it 14-3, rolling right to avoid the rush and then doubling back before heaving the ball 60 yards to Robiskie in the Ohio State end zone.
"We have a saying: 'Who says we can't score every time we get the ball?" said Smith, who had a string of 152 consecutive passes without an interception end on his second throw of the day.
Paterno said he saw enough to know the difference in the outcome.
"We were very competitive until the end when we made two major mistakes," he said, running his hand through his wet hair. "That's a good football team we were playing in a tough stadium. We had a chance to win it."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Troy Smith lobbed a 37-yard pass to Brian Robiskie in the fourth quarter to give Ohio State a 14-3 cushion with 13 minutes remaining.
Gameball goes to... Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith, who each intercepted an Anthony Morelli pass and returned it for a touchdown -- within 90 seconds of each other.
Stat of the game... 54: Penn State managed just 54 passing yards against Ohio State. Morelli completed 10-of-17 passes and threw three interceptions.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-14||5-11|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||0-0|
|FG||0:00||KEVIN KELLY 21 YD FG|
Drive info: 11 plays, 67 yards.
|TD||9:06||ANTONIO PITTMAN 12 YD RUN (AARON PETTREY KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 75 yards.
|TD||12:56||BRIAN ROBISKIE 37 YD PASS FROM TROY SMITH (AARON PETTREY KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 62 yards.
|FG||7:33||KEVIN KELLY 23 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 74 yards.
|TD||2:31||MALCOLM JENKINS 61 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (AARON PETTREY KICK)||6||21|
|TD||1:07||ANTONIO SMITH 55 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (RYAN PRETORIUS KICK)||6||28|