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Hornets Nest Bowl a Perfect Example of Why Bowls Can Be Great

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Hornets Nest Bowl a Perfect Example of Why Bowls Can Be Great

Vince Carso raises the trophy.

If you want an advertisement for the Bowl Game concept, look no further than Ohio State vs Penn State at the CRAA Fall Classic.

The game pitted two colleges that are rivals in any sport. It promised to be close and perhaps was even closer than that. It produce drama, quality rugby, and was hugely entertaining.

Against a team known for its scrummaging, Penn State produced an excellent scrum performance and changed the tenor of the game as a result. Touted as having the better and more experienced back row, Penn State found OSU's loose forwards to be effective across the field, and in fact Buckeye No. 8 Jack Mikolich was named game MVP.

Both teams sought to feel each other out and test where there might be a weakness, so it took about 15 minutes for anyone to score. That would be Penn State, as they launched off a lineout, sent it wide where freshman Nick Bruno raced around the outside before feeding a one-handed offload to scrumhalf Giancarlo Nastase for the try. It was a brilliant piece of backline work.

 Flyhalf Dalton Musselman hit the difficult conversion for the 7-0 lead.

Ohio State had missed a penalty attempt early and later in the first half opted for the lineout when Penn State infringed again. The Buckeyes mauled ahead, and when that was stopped, worked it to center John Meek, who kept low and sneaked over. Harry Colbert converted to tie the game at 7-7 and later added a penalty goal for a 10-7 Ohio State lead.

The wide attack seemed to be working and Penn State went there again, this time seeing Bruno accelerate all the way over the line, diving as he did so. A freshman out of Xavier HS< Bruno was simply continuing where he left off in high school, torching defenders when he had just a little bit of space.

That made it 12-10 for PSU, but Ohio State answered right back. Really the Nittany Lions were seemingly ready to score again when OSU wing Chris Mason stepped into a pass and was gone for about 80 meters. He was caught right at the line but was able to stretch over for the try. It was a huge momentum shift just as halftime approached.

"That was a tough blow," said PSU Head Coach Justin Hundley. "But that's rugby, that's sport. It happens. You've just got to put that aside and come back again."

Ohio State led 15-12 at halftime.

The back-and-forth of the first half settled down a little bit.Ohio State, using Mikolich to win lineouts and flanker Jerry Ratcliff to punch it up the middle was making inroads all day. Penn State, whose kicking game had been quite good, got the shorter end of a kicking exchange early and ultimately that led to a Colbert penalty to make it 18-12.

It stayed that way as each team had opportunities. But the defensive effort of both sides was exceptional. It wasn't low-scoring period you could blame on poor play—it was simply two well-matched teams trying to find a chance.

The chance finally came late for Penn State when they once again found a seam on the edge.

Sub wing Michael Wein raced in and it was 18-17. Musselman set up the touchline conversion right in front of the Ohio State bench, which remained respectfully silent, and the flyhalf calmly slotted the clutch kick to put his side up 19-18.

There was time, though. Ohio State was smart, and worked their way through the phases, challenging PSU to make a mistake. The mistake proved to be a penalty essentially in front of the posts but some distance out. Colbert, his hand strapped thanks to an injury sustained (and then aggravated) during the game, put it over.

Three weeks previously Colbert had missed a long-range penalty that could have won the Big Ten final for his side. This time, he was good on the kick, and Ohio State had won the Hornets Nest Bowl.

The game had six lead changes, some thrilling tries, and plenty of stars. Avon Lake product Mikolich was named MVP because he was virtually unstoppable in the lineout and produced work all over the paddock at the Matthews Sportsplex. But there were others, too. Captain and scrumhalf Vince Carso was his brilliant self and was always a danger going weak, while the second row pairing of Bryn Watkins and Luke Misleh were tireless.

For Penn State, their scrum success was down to John O'Toole and Declan Dolan at prop, while Aidan King, coming off a nasty injury, was an impact off the bench. Bruno was superb.

"I don't understand why more teams don't do this," said Ohio State DOR Tom Rooney. "This was a great experience."

"It was a very competitive game," said Ratcliff. "You had to stay moving all the time. You couldn't let down for one second."