Blue White Illustrated

December 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 9 of 67

1 0 D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M A fter eliciting praise throughout the offseason and during the first half of the 2023 campaign, Penn State suffered a sudden fall from grace with its 20-12 loss to Ohio State on Oct. 21 in Co- lumbus. While the margin of defeat ended up being only eight points in the end, the Buckeyes kept PSU at arm's length for most of the way, thanks mainly to a domi- nant defensive showing. Penn State con- verted just 1 of 16 third-down attempts and was unable to sustain its drives until scoring its first touchdown in the closing minutes, by which time the game was all but out of reach. "Give Ohio State a ton of credit," coach James Franklin said afterward. "We'll watch the tape, but I'm not sure we didn't just watch two of the best teams in college football, specifically, on the defensive side of the ball. "You've got to give credit," he contin- ued. "We went into this knowing that we needed to have an awareness of the effect and limit the impact that [All-America receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.] had in the game. We had a hard time doing that. The guy is a heck of a player, got to give a lot of credit. "To me, really, the game came down to third down. We weren't able to stay on the field on third down on offense." The loss, which dropped Penn State from seventh to 10th in the Associated Press poll, dredged up memories of earlier setbacks against the Buckeyes. The Nit- tany Lions have now lost seven in a row to their border rival. Most of those games have been highly competitive, with four being decided by single-digit margins, including a pair of one-point games in 2017 and '18. The Buckeyes' largest mar- gin of victory in that span is 13 points in 2020 and 2022. Nevertheless, the Lions' current losing streak is the longest in the history of the series, which began in 1912 with a 37-0 Penn State win in Columbus. Perhaps recalling those struggles, the nation's college football pundits were not kind after Penn State's latest defeat. Sports Illustrated writer Pat Forde de- scribed the PSU loss to Ohio State as more proof that the program does not have what it takes to reach college football's next level. "Its 6-0 record was built on empty calories, beating no one of note," Forde wrote. "This was the prove-it game, and Franklin's program has proved itself chronically lacking in what it takes to join the elite level of the sport. "In a defining annual matchup, Ohio State is the superior team and Penn State is perpetually unable to close the gap." Have the Nittany Lions hit their ceiling under Franklin? That's the question that Yahoo columnist Dan Wetzel posed. Penn State has won 70 percent of its games under the 10th-year head coach, and that's factoring in a couple of 7-6 seasons at the beginning of his tenure Breakthrough Wins Prove Elusive, Despite Defensive Strength G R E G P I C K E L | G R E G . P I C K E L @ O N 3 . C O M NEWS & NOTES James Franklin lauded the Buckeyes after their 20-12 victory over Penn State, singling out receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. as "a heck of a player." PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL

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