|Ohio State 21, Penn State 20|
|November 1, 2003|
|Beaver Stadium - University Park, PA|
|Kickoff Time: 3:30 p.m. EDT|
Pa. - Zack Mills was trying to think of a more painful, more bitter defeat,
and unfortunately for him and his Penn State teammates, he had a long list
from which to choose.
Nonetheless, the Nittany Lions quarterback didn't have to think for long.
"This is number one," he said.
Penn State restored the passion to its game that was strangely missing in recent weeks. It was brought out by the arrival of Ohio State, the defending national champion, and a daily dose of Joe Paterno pushing the Nittany Lions' emotional buttons during practice sessions, and at a Friday night pep rally that, according to Mills, saw the 76-year-old coach in rare form.
But that passion couldn't lift David Kimball's desperate 60-yard field-goal attempt over the crossbar in the final seconds. It couldn't stop Ohio State receiver Michael Jenkins from adding to his list of game-winning catches at crunch time as the No. 8 Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) came from behind to edge Penn State, 21-20, in a thrilling Big Ten Conference game before 108,276 at Beaver Stadium yesterday.
"I'm spent, man," said Mills, who passed for 253 yards and a touchdown and for the first time this season looked like the quarterback who used to pull out wins for the Nittany Lions (2-7, 0-5). "We put everything we had into this game, but again we were one or two plays or one or two calls away. The guys are really down right now."
The loss extended Penn State's losing streak to five games for the first time since 1931. It also made the Nittany Lions winless in their last eight games against ranked opponents.
There were two seconds remaining when Kimball, a senior who had booted field goals from 42 and 48 yards, whose kickoffs threatened to take orbit, tried to lift the gloom from Happy Valley with a 60-yard attempt. His great effort fell wide and short.
"We all knew David had the leg to make it," fullback Sean McHugh said. "My heart broke for him when he didn't."
"Did you see his kickoffs?" Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel asked. "I thought for sure if they got the ball across the 50, we'd be in trouble."
A little bit earlier, the 6-foot-5 Jenkins, who made memorable receptions last season against Purdue and in the title-game win over Miami, broke Penn State's back with a 5-yard TD catch with 1 minute, 35 seconds remaining. Mike Nugent kicked the extra point that made it 21-20.
In making a tough catch, Jenkins used his height and strength to escape the tight defense from Penn State cornerback Alan Zemaitis, who had given Penn State a 14-7 lead in the second quarter when he intercepted Craig Krenzel and raced 78 yards for a TD.
Suffering effects from a bone-rattling hit from linebacker Deryck Toles, Krenzel, a senior who went into the game 20-2 as a starter, did not play in the second half. But Scott McMullen, also a senior, was unaffected by the challenge of having to bring the Buckeyes back from a 17-7 deficit. He opened the second half guiding an 80-yard drive that ended with his 4-yard TD throw to Jenkins that made it 17-14. And he completed all seven of his passes during the 72-yard drive that won the game.
McMullen said Krenzel made the call on the game-winning TD. "It was a jump-and-step fade that I threw to the outside and just let Michael go up and get it," he said.
Penn State had 1:31 to get into field-goal position for Kimball, but had no time-outs. "That was bad," Paterno said of the lack of time-outs. Paterno said one time-out had to be used by defensive coordinator Tom Bradley because the right players weren't on the field. The Nittany Lions burned their final time-out when Ohio State caught them off guard with a five-receiver formation on the Buckeyes' final possession.
So the Nittany Lions were forced to throw sideline passes. Mills connected on seven of eight, but couldn't get closer than the Ohio State 43-yard line.
This wouldn't be a Penn State game if it didn't involve controversial officiating. A critical call came when Ohio State had the ball on third and 3 at the Penn State 39. A McMullen pass to tight end Ben Hartsock was ruled complete for a first down. The video replay showed Hartsock didn't have possession.
"I thought [the ball] hit the ground," said Toles, who was defending Hartsock. "Everyone else thought it hit the ground. But the referee didn't think it did, so it was a catch." From there, the Buckeyes went in for the winning TD.
On Penn State's final possession, tight end Matt Kranchick said he got out of bounds after catching a 2-yard pass at the Nittany Lions' 40. "I was out by three yards," Kranchick said. The officials disagreed and the clock continued to run.
"It sure looked like he was out to me," Mills added. "That was big. It cost us 10, 15 seconds and we had no time-outs."
Paterno, whose run-ins with officials the last couple of seasons have been well-documented, reiterated his call for video replay to assist officials. Otherwise, he didn't seem as he did after some recent losses. Like Mills, though, he was spent.
"I'm not much for moral victories," he said. "We thought we were going to win it. We practiced hard. We played hard. We played smart against a really good football team.
"Now, I'm physically and emotionally exhausted. It's been a long week."
Notes: Penn State, which will play at Northwestern on Saturday, will finish below .500 in the Big Ten for the first time since joining the conference in 1993......Mills' 27 completions against Ohio State made him the all-time career leader at Penn State with 406.