Penn State overcame a 17-0 deficit, held Ohio State 29 points under its season average in regulation and pushed the No. 13 Buckeyes to two overtimes Saturday night.
All that mattered to Nittany Lions coach James Franklin was the final score: Ohio State 31, Penn State 24.
"There are no moral victories at Penn State," Franklin said. "There never will be."
The Buckeyes (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) built a 17-0 lead and were cruising when Penn State defensive tackle Anthony Zettel intercepted J.T. Barrett's pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Christian Hackenberg threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Saeed Blacknall early in the fourth, and Penn State (4-3, 1-3) tied it on Sam Ficken's 31-yard field goal with 9 seconds left.
Hackenberg, who struggled through the first half, said consistency was key to the second-half comeback.
"It comes down to execution," Hackenberg said. "Consistently, we executed better in the second half. There's still a little bit of inconsistency there. I think we picked that up and that allowed us to get things going," he said.
Hackenberg finished 31 of 49 for 224 yards and a touchdown.
In the first overtime, Penn State tailback Bill Belton took a direct snap from the Wildcat formation and scored on a 1-yard run. The Buckeyes countered when Barrett carried two straight times, the first for 17 yards and the second 5 yards for a touchdown.
Penn State was called for a personal foul on the touchdown, giving Ohio State the ball at the 12 to start the second overtime. With a third-and-2 from the 4, Barrett powered through the middle of Penn State's defense for a touchdown. Joey Bosa sacked Penn State's Hackenberg on a fourth-and-5 play to end the game.
Ezekiel Elliott ran for 109 yards on 26 carries for Ohio State, and Barrett added 75 yards on 20 attempts. The Buckeyes have won five straight games and 19 in a row in the conference.
DaeSean Hamilton set a Penn State record with 14 catches for 126 yards.
Elliott opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 10-yard run, Sean Nuernberger made a 49-yard field in the second, and Barrett threw a 1-yard pass to Jeff Heuerman late in the quarter to make it 17-0.
Penn State was hampered by two calls by officials that went against the Nittany Lions.
In the first quarter, the officials ruled that Ohio State's Vonn Bell intercepted Hackenberg's pass at the Penn State 39. The play was reviewed and the call was upheld.
After the game, however, head referee John O'Neill said the play wasn't thoroughly reviewed.
"The play, technically, was not thoroughly reviewed due to some technical difficulties with the equipment," he said.
And, despite the fact that several replays on the Beaver Stadium video boards showed that the ball hit the ground, the referees were powerless to review them.
"The feeds that the replay team looks at are the feeds that you get at home. We can't deviate," O'Neill said. "We can't create our own rules. The replay rules are clear that we have to use the equipment provided."
Another play that loomed large was Ohio State's 49-yard field goal. Again, TV replays showed the clock with zeros for at least two or three seconds before Sean Nuernberger kicked the ball.
O'Neill said the officials didn't see that. And, as it turns out, that play isn't reviewable.
"That is not reviewable, in terms of when the ball is snapped in relationship to the zeros on the clock," replay official Tom Fiedler said.
Penn State middle linebacker Mike Hull, who recorded a game-high 19 tackles, echoed Franklin's sentiments.
"It definitely hurts a lot whenever you lose a close one like that, but I'm really proud of the way our team came together in the second half and fought and battled," Hull said.
"No moral victories but I think we're heading in the right direction. I think if we keep playing like this every week with that same type of effort and teamwork we're going to be tough to beat in the next coming weeks."