With 10:45 remaining Penn State's clash with Indiana, things were starting to get tight. The Hoosiers had just marched down the field to bring themselves within a field goal and the Nittany Lion offense couldn't get anything going in the second half.
Ricky Rahne and Co. had managed to run just nine plays after halftime, before going on a beautiful, methodical, clock-eating 18-play drive that would finish with a Sean Clifford touchdown to put the game on ice.
Let's go through and dissect what might just be the best, most effective, and most timely drive the offensive has had all season.
Play 1 (1st-and-10):
A simple dive play made possible by Michal Menet and CJ Thorpe mauling a poor defensive tackle.
Play 2 (2nd-and-8):
The corner blitz is a just step too slow, Pat Freiermuth gets a great block on the defensive end, and the offensive line creates a wall for Journey Brown to run behind. Nice job by Shorter as well keeping the safety out of for as long as he can.
Play 3 (1st-and-10):
It went for just a yard, but CJ Thorpe plays to the whistle every play and it rules.
Play 4 (2nd-and-9):
Devyn Ford checks in and basically pushes the blitzing corner behind Sean Clifford. A little more air under this ball and Dotson probably finds the end zone.
Play 5 (3rd-and-9):
Coming out of an Indiana timeout, Clifford quickly realizes he doesn't have anything and makes sure he gets to the sticks. This is a really mature decision by the sophomore.
Play 6 (1st-and-10):
If Mac Hippenhammer and Jahan Dotson had been able to secure the edge on this, Journey Brown could have run all the way to Altoona.
Play 7 (2nd-and-10):
What a remarkably dumb play. Kudos to Sean Clifford for keeping his wits about him after dribbling the football and to Pat Freiermuth for being a true man amongst boys.
Plays 8 (1st-and-10) and 9 (2nd-and-5):
Just some good, hard running by Devyn Ford.
Play 10 (3rd-and-2):
Following a brief stoppage to tend to an injured Hoosier, Ricky Rahne trots out Will Levis at quarterback, while moving Clifford out wide. Using Ford as a pseudo-fullback, the quarterback comes up just short on third down.
Play 11 (4th-and-1):
The offensive line wins this one from the start. This is the kind of hard-nosed running the Nittany Lions have lacked all season.
Play 12 (1st-and-10):
A nice cut by Brown, who follows it up by fighting through some contact for extra yardage.
Play 13 (2nd-and-3):
Brown stays patient and takes what he can get, making for a very manageable third and short.
Play 14 (3rd-and-1):
Look how tightly the Indiana front lines up. They all expect the ball to go to Brown, allowing Clifford to easily pick up the first down by taking it a bit further outside.
Plays 15 (1st-and-Goal) and 16 (2nd-and-Goal):
Two straight runs that get next to nothing from Brown. The recent struggles in the red zone really reared their heads here. With over eight minutes already off the clock on this drive, the Hoosiers call their final timeout after the second run.
Play 17 (3rd-and-Goal):
We've seen Sean Clifford find the end zone on this play a few times this season, but he comes up just short on this one.
Play 18 (4th-and-Goal):
The staff knows a touchdown puts this one out of reach, so kicking it is pretty much out of the question from the start. Journey Brown and Pat Freiermuth help seal the front side, while the offensive line has their way with an exhausted Hoosier front seven. Ballgame.
These are the kind of drives the Nittany Lions haven't been able to generate over the past few seasons.
For an offense that has lived and died by the big play all season, this was a huge step forward in the maturation of a young offense. The Nittany Lions are going into Columbus as major underdogs, but if they're able to control the clock like this and keep the Buckeye offense off the field, they'll have more than a fighter's chance.