Harrison Jr. the difference as No. 3 Ohio State beats No. 7 Penn State 20-12 defensive struggle

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — All-American Marvin Harrison Jr. made the difference for No. 3 Ohio State in a pivotal Big Ten matchup — and the snarling Buckeyes’ defense took care of the rest.

Harrison made 11 catches for 162 yards and a late touchdown as Ohio State beat No. 7 Penn State 20-12 on Saturday. The Buckeyes’ defense smothered Drew Allar and the Nittany Lions (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten), extending Ohio State’s winning streak in the series to seven games.

Penn State needed 58 minutes to convert a third or fourth down and didn’t get into the end zone until 29 seconds were left in the game. Penn State failed to convert on its first 15 third-down attempts.

Kyle McCord was 22 for 35 for 286 yards and the Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0) put up 367 total yards, a season-high against Penn State’s stingy defense.

“I’m not sure if we didn’t just watch the two of the best teams in college football, specifically on the defensive side of the ball,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.

He added: “The story of the game came down to third down. We weren’t able to stay on the field, which was the biggest difference in the game.”

The biggest moment for Penn State was fleeting.

Nittany Lions linebacker Curtis Jacobs stunned the Ohio Stadium crowd in the first half when he knocked the ball loose from McCord, scooped up the fumble and galloped 60 yards the other way for an apparent touchdown. However, the play was nullified because of defensive holding penalty.

Five plays later, Miyan Willams plunged in from 2 yards out to give the Buckeyes the lead. Williams had 56 of Ohio State’s 79 rushing yards, an average of fewer than 2 yards per carry.

Harrison was the one reliable offensive weapon for either team. He caught a pass crossing the middle and went 18 yards for a score that made it 20-6 with 4:07 left.

“I think most teams, the first thing they look at is how to take away Marvin Harrison,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “I think we targeted him 16 times, and he was open on most of those plays. He showed up in a big spot today again. I haven’t seen everybody play across the country, but it would be hard for me to find somebody who’s better in the country. I don’t know how he gets on these lists or doesn’t get on these lists, but to me he’s one of the most special players in the country.”

The Nittany Lions managed only field goals of 40 and 41 yards from Alex Felkins in the first half and were shut out in the second until Allar found Kaden Saunders for an 8-yard TD in the final 30 seconds.

The Buckeyes sacked Allar four times.

“It sucks to lose like this — especially on the road,” Allar said. “(They’re) a really good team.”

THE TAKEWAY

Penn State: The Nittany Lions came in with the top defense in the nation. The unit bent and finally broke, unable to contain Harrison. The offense never got on track against the Buckeyes, gaining only 49 rushing yards.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes defense was outstanding, and it was good thing on a day when the offense stumbled for much of the day. Defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau, who had one of the best defensive games in Ohio State history last year against Penn State, was a force again against the Nittany Lions.

HARD GOING

Ohio State again had trouble running the ball and keeps looking for solutions. Williams got his first significant playing time of the season, rushing for 70 yards but only an averaging 2.6 per carry. The No. 1 back, TreVeyon Henderson, was listed as questionable but was held out again with a injury.

“If we want to take the next step as a team, we’re going to have to figure that part out,” Day said.

MORE MARV

Harrison is the first Ohio State receiver to have five career games with at least 160 receiving yards. David Boston (1996-98) had four.

“I’m just doing my job, really,” Harrison said. “Out there on the field, I’m not really realizing what I’m doing. The ball comes my way, I want to make a play for my teammates.”

INJURIES

Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson was carted to the locker room in the first half after taking what appeared to be a hard hit to the head. Robinson stayed down on the field for several minutes and finally was able to walk off with help. He went straight from the medical tent to the locker room.

Ohio State quarterback Devin Brown was hurt when he came on run the ball at the Penn State 6.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

After winning the top-10 matchup, the Buckeyes should at least stay put Sunday. Penn State likely will drop.

UP NEXT

Penn State: Hosts Indiana next Saturday.

Ohio State: At Wisconsin next Saturday.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

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