Barkley is lone bright spot in Penn State's 38-10 loss to Ohio State
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Penn State was hanging around the No. 1 team in the country for a while, and then Ohio State unleashed a combination of skill players the Nittany Lions just could not contain.
J.T. Barrett ran for two touchdowns in the first half and threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter as the Buckeyes pulled away from Penn State 38-10 on Saturday night. The NIttany Lions had their five-game winning streak snapped and lost to Ohio State for the fourth straight time.
Freshman Saquon Barkley, who missed the last two games with a foot injury, provided most of the offense for Penn State (5-2, 2-1) with 194 yards on 26 carries. He also had a long touchdown run that could have put Penn State up 10-0 in the first quarter, but it was wiped out by a holding call on right guard Brian Gaia.
"We had real opportunities early in the game," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "A touchdown called back for a penalty was a significant play in the game at that point. We had a huge dropped ball in the red zone."
Yet again the Nittany Lions had a tough time protecting quarterback Christian Hackenberg from Joey Bosa and the Buckeyes.
Last season, Bosa ended Ohio State's double-overtime victory with a sack, and he had one of five sacks Saturday night against Hackenberg. The junior quarterback seemed to be favoring his back after getting dumped in the third quarter and finished 7 for 13 for 120 yards and a touchdown. Franklin said doctors gave Hackenberg the OK to go back in the game.
"I thought at times our interior offensive line struggled and got pushed back," Franklin said. "We got pushed back several times at tackle."
Wearing black uniforms for the first time, the Buckeyes didn't look like themselves, though they did look a lot more like the dominant team many expected the defending national champions to be this season.
Ohio State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) still doesn't have a definitive answer at quarterback, but the Buckeyes have a 20-game winning streak.
Cardale Jones started, as he has all season, but was only 9 for 15 for 84 yards. Barrett, as he did last week, entered when the Buckeyes got inside the 20 in the first half and helped Ohio State complete three trips there with touchdowns. After two unproductive third-quarter series, Jones was benched.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer seemed to find a two-quarterback combination last week with Jones playing the big part of the field and Barrett taking over inside the opponents' 20. It worked great in a rout of Maryland. Not so against a Penn State defense that came in leading the nation in sacks.
So again the question is, as it has been since last January, who is the Buckeyes No. 1 quarterback? Jones, who led the Buckeyes to the national championship, or Barrett, who was the Big Ten player of the year.
"Whatever it takes to win," said Meyer, who was noncommittal about his starter moving forward.
Ezekiel Elliott was once again a constant for the Buckeyes with 153 yards rushing, his 12th straight 100-yard game.
Aside from Jones' struggles, it was Ohio State's best game of the season. Braxton Miller got involved in a variety of ways with eight touches for 63 yards and a touchdown catch and the Buckeyes committed no turnovers.
"The combination of the tailback, the quarterback and Braxton Miller, those three guys just play at a different speed," Franklin said.
Barrett gave Ohio State a 7-3 lead with a 5-yard TD run early in the second quarter and Elliott finished the next drive by darting and bouncing off tacklers for a 10-yard score. Barrett closed the next drive, too, taking a keeper on the zone read 13 yards for the score.
Penn State opened the second half with a three-play touchdown drive, capped by DaeSean Hamilton stretching to the pylon for an 8-yard touchdown reception to make it 21-10.
"I thought we did a lot of really good things but we weren't able to capitalize," Hackenberg said. "We weren't able to string things together."
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP