STATE COLLEGE -- Bill Belton called it a physical descrepancy.
Zach Zwinak saw it as a matter of execution.
And Bill O'Brien suggested it was more a case of improper planning.
Whatever the reason, Penn State's inability to run the football against Ohio State kept the offense out of rhythm -- and eventually out of a game the Buckeyes assumed control of during their 35-23 victory Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Ohio State has a really good defense, Penn State offensive guard John Urschel said. They attack with the front seven. They're so strong.
Maybe that's what crushed a Penn State running game that averaged a paltry 1.1 yards per carry, leaving quarterback Matt McGloin trying desperately to carry the team's offense.
Eventually, that weight buckled the Lions, when Ohio State linebacker Ryan Schazier stepped in front of a McGloin pass and returned the interception 17 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown 79 seconds into the second half.
They did a bunch of different things, McGloin said of Ohio State's defenders. They are good athletes.
But did a bad decision by Penn State contribute to the futility?
Take away the four times McGloin was sacked, and the Lions attempted just 24 running plays compared to 45 passes in the game.
We chose to pass, Penn State running back Zwinak said. That's what coach O'Brien felt would move the ball down the field.
Even O'Brien shouldered most of the blame, insisting he needs to do a better job with offensive play-calling and later adding, We win as a team, we lose as a team. It starts with me.
Actually, it may have started with intimidation.
Including McGloin's 37 yards lost to sacks, Penn State rushed 28 times for just 32 yards on the day and didn't manage a run of more than 9 yards the whole game.
They played us tough, said Lions running back Bill Belton, who gained just 26 yards with his 10 carries. Their front seven's very good. That was the best front seven we're going to see all year.
We were playing a better team this week.
Then again, the Lions didn't feel as if they'd left their best on the field.
Every play coach O'Brien calls is designed to gain yardage, Zwinak said. We weren't executing the plays.
That could have had a lot to do with Shazier and fellow Buckeyes linebacker Zach Boren, who shared the team lead with seven tackles, along with Ohio State safety Christian Bryant and defensive end Nathan Williams, who each made six stops.
We went into this game realizing it's going to be a tough one up front, Zwinak said. They have a great front seven. They definitely are a strong team. They can definitely hit.
But the Lions may have ultimately punched themselves.
Zwinak seemed to get the running game rolling a bit, gaining eight yards with his first two carries and adding 15 more yards on consecutive carries during Penn State's opening drive of the second quarter.
But the Lions never really stuck with the ground game, even as Zwinak gained 42 yards on 12 carries and finished with a respectable 3.5 yards per rush.
Ohio State played well, Belton said. We did things, they did things. It was an overall smash-mouth game. I wouldn't say it was a step back. Their defensive line came out pretty well. We're just going to learn from this.