STATE COLLEGE -- Braxton Miller was dead to rights.
Sean Stanley had already crashed through the Ohio State line on third-and-goal, leveling tailback Carlos Hyde before Miller could hand him the ball.
Cue the Beaver Stadium speaker system, which began blasting music to celebrate a goal-line stand.
But Miller still had the ball. And he never stopped moving.
Gerald Hodges missed the slippery quarterback. Michael Mauti was wrestled to the ground by a lineman. Malcolm Willis went low for a tackle at the goal line. Miller simply vaulted over top of him into the end zone.
That‚??s how it went for the Nittany Lions in a 35-23 loss to their rivals in front of a sellout crowd at Beaver Stadium. They could only bottle up Miller and the Buckeyes for so long before everything fell apart.
Bill O‚??Brien, meanwhile, could only shake his head.
‚??He‚?? s an excellent player. He‚??s one of the top-five players in the country,‚?Ě the Lions coach said after his team‚??s five-game winning streak was snapped.
Miller‚??s numbers weren‚??t eye-opening, but his second-half performance was, scoring three times against a previously stubborn Penn State defense. Miller‚??s electric 1-yard scramble for a score off of the broken play made it 21-10 in favor of the Buckeyes, and Penn State (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten) never recovered.
The sophomore Heisman hopeful added a matching 1-yard touchdown run to close out the third quarter and then iced the game with a 72-yard strike to Jake Stoneburner, burying the Lions.
‚??He‚??s as good as we‚??ve played,‚?Ě Mauti said of Miller.
The Lions made mistakes in all phases of the game against the most talented opponent on their schedule. They took uncharacteristic penalties -- nine in all for 85 yards -- and twice gave the Bucks a first down when they were ready to punt it away.
‚??That definitely hurt,‚?Ě cornerback Stephon Morris said. ‚??And it wasn‚??t just simple things. It was personal fouls. Holding on the punt return team. It was a lot of things that hurt us out there.‚?Ě
The holding call was an especially rare one as it was called in the middle of the line scrimmage before the Buckeyes got off the punt, giving them an automatic first down. Ohio State proceeded to score on the drive just before halftime to tie the game.
O‚??Brien did not comment on the flag. Both he and Mauti said they didn‚??t hear an explanation for the penalty.
Matt McGloin threw his first interception in four games, which linebacker Ryan Shazier took back 17 yards for a touchdown to open the second half and break a 7-7 tie.
‚??He made a great play,‚?Ě said McGloin, who threw two other pick-sixes in a loss to Ohio State in 2010. ‚??He probably shouldn‚??t have been there. ‚?Ľ Normally that guy matches up with the running back (in pass coverage). But for some reason he was there.‚?Ě
O‚??Brien, more conservative than usual on fourth downs, didn‚??t have his biggest gamble pay off, as a pass on a fake punt fell incomplete near midfield. Ohio State drove for another touchdown afterward to make it 28-10.
‚??We wanted to try and get something going,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said of the Alex Butterworth throw to Derek Day on the fake. ‚??We had it. We just didn‚??t execute it as well as we could have.
And the offensive line, which had given up just eight sacks in the first seven games was under siege all night long, giving up a season-high four sacks and countless more hurries against a relentless Buckeyes blitz.
‚??I don‚??t think as a team we expected them to blitz that much,‚?Ě wideout Allen Robinson said. ‚??They definitely blitzed us a lot.‚?Ě
‚??Their front seven was causing us problems,‚?Ě McGloin said. ‚??They brought a lot of pressure.‚?Ě
All the miscues erased an early special teams touchdown on a Mike Hull blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone by senior Mike Yancich. And they also overshadowed a career-high 327 yards passing by McGloin, who threw late touchdowns to Matt Lehman and Kyle Carter.
‚??It starts with me,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??I didn‚??t do a very good job tonight. I have to do a much better job as the head coach.
Michael Mauti leads PSU seniors out onto the field. Page 6C
Lions decide to pass on the running game. Page 6C