UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — There’s so much time between Saturday’s wild, wild and exciting game at Beaver Stadium and this year’s Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York, which Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud will likely attend. to be present

Three preamble weeks separate Stroud from a mouth-watering rematch with Michigan after last year’s snow-covered classic in Ann Arbor, and the winner of that contest appears destined to compete for the Big Ten title in Indianapolis. Five games, five chances to create an iconic Heisman moment.

Still, there’s a chance Stroud may never top the outrage he caused in the fourth quarter of a 44-31 eventual victory over No. 13 Pennsylvania, when he had 128 rushing yards in a tight window, a heady buzz and an unyielding the mood of young defenders to dream. He orchestrated three touchdowns in six minutes to shift the Nittany Lions’ grip on a potentially defining season and remind the college football world of Ohio State’s high-octane firepower.

Highlights: Ohio State leads Penn State

Highlights: Ohio State leads Penn State

No. 2 Ohio State beat No. 13 Penn State 44-31 on Saturday as C.J. Stroud passed for 354 yards and a touchdown.

“I thought C.J. Stroud was unbelievable in the fourth quarter,” head coach Ryan Day said, before adding, “To come in and play like that in that situation and put the offense on his shoulders like that — listen, that’s all (contribute ) offensively, but he was brave in this game. And I’m proud of him.”

Stroud completed more than 36% of his 354 passing yards — and his only passing touchdown — in the final stanza as the offense roared to life for the second straight game. A week after reaching the end zone just once on their first nine possessions against Iowa, the Buckeyes accomplished the feat in Happy Valley, trailing 14-10 in the second quarter and 21-16 in the fourth. That Ohio State stayed within striking distance for 45 minutes was a credit to defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, whose unit had three interceptions and recovered a fumble after forcing the Hawkeyes to commit six turnovers last week.

If the destruction of Iowa belonged to Zach Harrison, who finished the game with five quarterback pressures, two tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble in perhaps the best game of his collegiate career, then Saturday’s win over Penn State will be remembered for the bulldozing effort sophomore defensive end JT Tuimoloau, another former five-star recruit.

It was Tuimolau, whose pass deflection on the Nittany Lions’ first drive put the ball in the air for Harrison to scoop up for the interception. It was Tuimolau who scooped up his pass after falling into zone coverage and ran a route downfield on the next possession. It was Tuimolau who rushed right tackle, pulled the ball out of quarterback Sean Clifford’s hand and recovered a fumble as the Buckeyes held on to a three-point lead in the fourth quarter. And it was Tuimolau who punctuated the game, returning his second interception for a touchdown to extend the lead to 20 with 2:42 left.

His final stats were incredible: six tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one defensive tackle.

JT Tuimoloau takes it home

JT Tuimoloau takes it home

Ohio State took a 44-24 lead over Penn State after J.T. Tuimolov tackled Sean Clifford and returned it for a touchdown.

“I always say with our team and our D-line, it only takes one player to have a day like we did and the game goes down,” Harrison said. “I had a pretty good game last week, JT was crazy this week. …I’m just excited for when we all feel that mojo. There’s no stopping us when we get there.”

Tuimolau and the rest of the Knowles defense offered the kind of ballast and field position that allowed Stroud to drop jaws in a sensational shutout that highlighted the gulf between him and Clifford, who threw for 371 yards on the season but finished with more losses. (four) than games scored (three). While Stroud averaged 16 yards per attempt and caught his only touchdown pass for a touchdown, Clifford limped across the finish line with 7.8 yards per attempt and two turnovers in the final eight minutes.

Stroud responded to a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Caitron Allen with back-to-back passes to Marvin Harrison Jr. (21 yards) and Emeke Egbook (13 yards) that immediately put the Buckeyes through midfield — at which point running back Treveyon Henderson zoomed across the line of scrimmage and outran a Penn State safety for a 41-yard gain that gave OSU a 23-21 lead.

TreVeyon Henderson rushes for a long TD

TreVeyon Henderson rushes for a long TD

The Ohio State running back had a 41-yard touchdown run against Penn State on Saturday.

Stroud converted Tuimolaua’s only 24-yard drive when he ignored a flurry of blitzers and connected with Cade Stover up the seam — at which point the tight end rumbled through three would-be tacklers and burst through the goal line to extend the lead to nine.

Stroud responded to Penn State’s last big score with scores of 16 yards and 12 yards to Marvin Harrison, the second of which was a pre-adjustment at the line of scrimmage, and a 42-yard strike to Egbuku that clung to his receiver’s hands despite great coverage — at that point Stroud clenched his fists, jumped in excitement over the accurate throw, then, one play later, handed off to Henderson for a game-tying 7-yard score.

“When we go into these games, we expect to win,” Day said. “I know not everyone expects that, but that’s our expectation. Do we want to play flawlessly? Yes. Do we want to win by four touchdowns? Yes. But we expect to win and that’s what we did.”

They won with Tuimoloau’s blast and Zach Harrison’s interception. They relied on Stover’s toughness and Henderson’s timely runs. They needed Egbuki’s long catch and Marvin Harrison’s 10-catch, 185-yard brilliance.

But Stroud won it.

CJ Straud connects with Cade Stover

CJ Straud connects with Cade Stover

On Saturday, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud found Cade Stover for a 24-yard TD against Penn State.

“Every game has a story,” Day said, “and we’re going to tell that story.”

It might be December in New York.

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Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.


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