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Saturday's Big Ten: ​​​​​​​Justin Fields throws four TD passes, Ohio State upends Penn State

Terry Towery
Associated Press

State College, Pa. — Justin Fields doesn’t need 110,000 sets of eyeballs trained on him to want to put on a show.

The Ohio State quarterback is just fine with his coaches, teammates and national TV audience watching him shred defenses.

Ohio State safety Marcus Hooker (23) celebrates his interception of a pass by Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford during the fourth quarter.

Justin Fields passed for 318 yards and four touchdowns, two to Chris Olave, and No. 3 Ohio State beat No. 18 Penn State 38-25 on an eerily quiet Saturday night at what is usually one of the most raucous settings in college football.

“I just think it’s the work form the offseason, I just think me and the receivers being on the same page,” Fields said. “That’s why we’re having so much success now.”

Jeremy Ruckert also caught a pair of touchdowns, Master Teague II ran for another and the Buckeyes generated 526 yards of offense in their 15th straight Big Ten win and 10th straight on the road against a ranked opponent.

Ohio State (2-0) didn’t take long to break the game open and hand Penn State (0-2) its first 0-2 start since 2013.

“We try to run a lot of plays,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “I thought we did a good job controlling the ball and having balance on offense.”

The Buckeyes didn’t need to run a lot of plays to get a lead.

Garrett Wilson took an opening sweep 62 yards to set up Teague III’s short touchdown run two plays later.

The Buckeyes only needed five plays on their next drive to take a 14-0 lead when Fields zipped a 26-yard pass over corner Joey Porter Jr.’s shoulder to Olave in the end zone.

“We really couldn’t get them off-schedule,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “And with a quarterback like that and their offensive personnel, not getting them off schedule is going to be challenging.”

A white out at Penn State is normally one of the great spectacles in sports and the recent ones involving the Buckeyes have been classic games. The last three have been decided by a total of 11 points, with Ohio State taking two.

But the Big Ten is playing in mostly empty stadiums because of the pandemic.

Instead of an almost glittering sea of more than 100,000 white-clad Nittany Lions fans singing along to “Shout” and shaking the stadium as they bounce to “Zombie Nation,” about 1,000 friends and family of players were scattered in the stands behind each bench in Beaver Stadium.

The student-section was filled with cardboard cutouts of fans and the only glow on Halloween night came from the lights bouncing off the empty metal bleachers.

Maybe it would have helped the Nittany Lions to have had the home-field advantage because they never really threatened the Buckeyes without it.

Penn State got on the board when Jake Pinegar capped an 11-play, 61-yard drive with a 31-yard field goal.

But Fields stayed hot The Buckeyes’ quarterback, who completed 20 of 21 passes a week ago, completed his first seven and went 15-for-18 in the first half.

Sean Clifford finished 18-for-30 for 281 yards with three touchdowns and an interception for Penn State. He was sacked five times, and really roughed up in the first half.

“He was getting hit way too much,” Franklin said.

The Nittany Lions got a break when Ohio State turned the ball over on downs with a second left before halftime. Fields took a knee on fourth down too quickly to burn the clock. Penn State’s Jake Stout used it to make a 50-yard field goal and cut it to 21-6.

Sean Clifford, who finished 18-for-30 for 281 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, found his first rhythm on the Nittany Lions first drive of the second half. He went 5-for-5 with a 14-yard scoring toss to Jahan Dotson that cut Ohio State’s lead to 21-13.

But the Buckeyes answered back seven plays later when Fields laid a deep ball into Olave’s hands for a 49-yard touchdown.

Dotson caught touchdown passes of 21 and 20 yards in the fourth, but a 22-yard field goal from DiMaccio and another short touchdown catch by Ruckert had already put the game out of reach.

Dotson finsihed with eight catches for 144 yards in a breakout game.

For Ohio State, Olave had seven catches for 120 yards and Wilson made 11 grabs for 111 yards, making it two straight games with two Buckeyes over 100 yards receiving for the first time in school history.

More Big Ten

Purdue 31, (at) Illinois 24: Aiden O’Connell passed for two touchdowns and Purdue hung on to beat a COVID-19-decimated Illinois team that was down to its fourth-string quarterback in a game marred by player absences and moments of utter confusion.

Sophomore Coran Taylor found himself at the Illini helm on his team’s second possession, following what appeared to be an ankle injury to last-minute starter Matt Robinson. Taylor threw for two touchdowns and was intercepted twice.

Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes, right, advances his interception of a pass by Illinois quarterback Coran Taylor as running back Mike Epstein defends during the first half on Saturday in Champaign, Ill.

Former Michigan QB Brandon Peters was announced as a scratch shortly before kickoff after testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. Peters’ backup, Isaiah Washington, also missed the game due to contact-tracing protocols, said Illinois spokesman Kent Brown. Also among the missing was field-goal kicker James McCourt.

Despite all of its player issues, Illinois (0-2, 0-2 Big Ten) still made a game of it and was within seven points and 15 yards of tying the game with less than two minutes to play. Taylor’s pass fell short and the Boilermakers (2-0, 2-0) took over on downs, sealing the victory.

The game was played without spectators and, for the most part, without updated official statistics available in the press box.

No. 17 Indiana 37, (at) Rutgers 21: Michael Penix Jr. threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score as Indiana beat mistake-prone Rutgers in a game that almost included a crazy TD.

Penix had touchdown tosses of 15, 2 and 1 yard. He also scored on a quarterback sneak as the Hoosiers (2-0, 2-0 Big Ten) followed up their stunning win over then-No. 8 Penn State last week.

The wacky play came with less than two minutes to go when Rutgers seemed to score on a 55-yard play that involved at least seven laterals. After a review, however, it was ruled that receiver Shameen Jones’ pitch was an illegal forward pass, spoiling a wild celebration for the Scarlet Knights.

Ty Fryfogel caught the 15-yard TD pass just 1:43 after Penix scored, giving the Hoosier a 20-7 halftime lead. Tight end Peyton Hendershot caught the short TD flips in the second half and Charles Campbell added three field goals.

Noah Vedral threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Bo Melton and Kay’Ron Adams scored on a 37-yard run for Rutgers (1-1, 1-1). The game was Greg Schiano’s at home since starting his second stint as coach with a win at Michigan State last week.

Vedral also threw three interceptions.

Penix finished 17 of 26 for 238 yards. Whop Philyor had five catches for 137 yards.

The Indiana defense turned the game in the second quarter when defensive lineman Jonathan King and cornerback Jaylin Williams had interceptions on consecutive passes by Vedral deep in Scarlet Knights’ territory.

With the win, the Hoosiers snapped a 10-game losing streak in games that came after they beat a ranked opponent, a drought dating to October 1987.

Northwestern 21, (at) Iowa 20: Jesse Brown scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run in the third quarter, and Northwestern erased an early 17-point deficit.

The Wildcats outscored the Hawkeyes 21-3 after the first quarter, eating up clock and keeping the Hawkeye offense out of rhythm.

Peyton Ramsey threw for 130 yards on 11-of-18 passing and ran for another 26 yards, and Isaiah Bowser had 25 carries for 85 yards for the Wildcats (2-0, 2-0 Big Ten Conference).

Spencer Petras threw all three of his interceptions in the second half, the last one on a tipped ball that linebacker Blake Gallagher picked off, allowing Northwestern to go into victory formation.

Iowa’s 17-0 first-quarter lead came after Northwestern gifted the Hawkeyes (0-2, 0-2) with two turnovers – a muffed punt inside the 5-yard line and a fumble near midfield. From there, though, Northwestern regained control.

Kyric McGowan scored on a 3-yard run and Brown scored from the 1 to pull the Wildcats within 20-14.

Iowa punted three times, had three passes intercepted and turned the ball over on downs on seven second-half possessions that netted a total of 104 yards.

Saturday marked Northwestern’s fourth win in its past five meetings with Iowa and the third straight in Iowa City. The Wildcats are 2-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 2014. Iowa is 0-2 for the first time since 2000.