After an excruciating, exhilarating overtime win at Wisconsin, Ohio State began preparing on Monday to play in another loud, hostile environment.
Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, with a capacity of more than 106,000, is known as one of the toughest places to play in the country. Add that it’s a Saturday night and the annual “white-out” game — when fans dress in all white — and it will be all the more raucous.
With about 20,000 more people there, the decibel level may exceed that of Camp Randall Stadium, where the Buckeyes’ defense silenced the crowd with a game-ending sack of Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook in overtime Saturday night to win 30-23.
The last time Ohio State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) played at Beaver Stadium was another nail-biter. Quarterback J.T. Barrett scored two touchdowns in overtime, and the Buckeyes escaped with a 31-24 double-overtime win in 2014. They went on to win the national championship.
Penn State (4-2, 2-1) is off to a 4-0 start at home and has won 10 of its last 11 there dating back to last season.
“(I) wish they saved the white-outs for other games, but I guess they used it for our game,” coach Urban Meyer said Monday. “It’s one of the top five atmospheres, again, in college football.”
Linebacker Chris Worley, who experienced the atmosphere at Penn State two years ago, is trying to help prepare the younger players for the hostile stadiums.
“Camp Randall was a crazy place, and Penn State is a crazy place as well,” Worley said. “For me, I’m pretty prepared and I know what to expect. There’s some guys who think they know what to expect, and it’s not going to be what they think.”
Barrett carried the load again against Wisconsin, his demeanor so steady at all times that one couldn’t tell by looking at him whether his team was winning or losing. He put the Buckeyes ahead in OT with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Noah Brown. He ran for two more, becoming Ohio State’s all-time leader in touchdowns (rushing and passing). He rushed for 92 yards in the 30-23 win and was named Big Ten co-offensive player of the week.
“I’m just trying to win games around here, honestly,” he said. “Records are good and all, and maybe I’ll appreciate them more when I’m 40 or 50, but right now I don’t think records really matter if we don’t win.”
For the second time in a row, Ohio State’s passing game was slightly off-kilter, with Barrett hitting his biggest passes on improvised plays after he was chased out of the pocket and scrambling. But nobody seems to be panicking.
“We’re OK,” Meyer said. “We’re going to get keep getting better at it. He’s a very good passer. When you’re the No. 1 quarterback in the history of Ohio State University, you’re doing OK.”
Barrett said it’s just a matter of working more on timing with receivers.
Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy. For some of his other recent stories: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/mitch-stacy.