Penn State Football Notebook: Key Officiating Calls Impact Two Buckeye Scoring Drives
Bill O’Brien did not take the bait to berate the officials on a fourth-down defensive holding penalty that extended the Buckeyes’ first scoring drive.
Linebacker Mike Mauti chose his words carefully, too, when asked about a no-call on a third-quarter scoring play. He, of course, was less diplomatic.
Braxton Miller’s one-yard touchdown run, in which he maneuvered out of trouble and into the end zone, gave the Buckeyes a 21-10 lead. It was the type of play few players in the country could make, and when O’Brien called Miller one of the nation’s top-five players after the game, moments like this validate such a statement.
Defensive end Sean Stanley nearly busted the whole play up, zeroing in on the running back until Miller read the play perfectly and tucked the ball.
“It was a blitz,” Stanley said. “My responsibility was the running back. I tried to make his read hard.
“To be able to stay patient and hold that read as long as he could, that was a great play by him.”
Gerald Hodges was in on the play too. Got a front row seat to Miller’s athleticism but could not make the stop.
“He’s not superman, but he’s a great athlete,” Hodges said.
Then there’s Mauti, who maybe had a chance on Miller but was taken out of the play.
“I recall it very vividly,” he said. “What are you gonna do? Just play through it. That’s the only thing you can do. There’s really no such thing as holding in this league.”
By the end of the play, Ohio State grabbed an 11-point lead and was well on its way to victory. Earlier, though, another holding call that was made stood out among coaches and players after the game as well.
It was a key moment because Penn State had stopped the Buckeyes on three straight plays and was set to regain possession with a 7-0 lead thanks to the blocked punt that went for a touchdown moments earlier.
Asked whether he received an explanation on the holding call, O’Brien deadpanned, “uh, no.”
The penalty gave Ohio State new life and first down at its own 37. Ohio State ran nine more plays following the penalty, including a 33-yard run by Miller, his first big gain of the night, and a one-yard touchdown run by Carlos Hyde.
“I wouldn’t say it was deflating,” Hodges said of the holding call. “We had a few mistakes you wish you could take back, but you can’t. That’s part of the game. Mistakes and penalties are part of the game. We gotta live with them.”
Key Fourth down Miscues
Entering Saturday night’s contest, Penn State converted 14-of-23 fourth-down attempts.
It converted two more against Ohio State, but the two non-conversions were both key moments. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer went as far as to call the failed fake punt attempt the turning point in the game.
Trailing 14-10 and facing a 4th-and-9 from the OSU 43, O’Brien called for punter Alex Butterworth to throw one up for running back Derek Day.
“At that point in time we just wanted to try to get something going,” O’Brien said. “We had it. We just didn’t execute it as well as we could’ve at that point.”
Earlier in the first half, with PSU facing a 4th-and-7 at the OSU 20 in a scoreless game, O’Brien opted to go for it instead of sending kicker Sam Ficken out for a 37-yard field goal. Following a false start penalty on right tackle Mike Farrell, O’Brien kept his offense on the field, and a short completion to Brandon Moseby-Felder yielded eight yards and a turnover on downs.
“I felt good about the play call that we had,” O’Brien said, “so I decided to go with that.”
Carter Exits Late with Lower Leg Injury
Redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Carter injured his lower leg on his 20-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. He walked off the field late with an ice packed strapped on his left ankle.
Carter will be evaluated Sunday when the team meets with the training staff. He finished with a game-high six catches and 77 receiving yards.
Ficken Unfazed by Fourth Down Play Calls
Sam Ficken never got a chance to connect on the 37-yard or 42-yard field goal in the second quarter of a scoreless game.
When he got his chance early in the second half from 27 yards out, he connected to cut the deficit to 14-10.
Despite O’Brien’s aggressive tendency on fourth down, Ficken said it does not affect his psyche on whether or not to prepare to take the field.
“The game of football, it’s always up and down,” said Ficken, who was rehabbing a minor leg injury earlier this week in practice. “Like that fake punt, you think I was ready to kick that second? No. But you gotta be ready the whole game, and that’s my mindset.”