Penn State Football: Roof's Defense Collapses in Surprising 24-14 Loss to Ohio
A new era of Penn State football got under way Saturday shortly after noon at Beaver Stadium.
The Nittany Lions jumped to a 14-3 halftime lead against six-point underdog Ohio University in Bill O’Brien’s first game as head coach.
Then the Roof collapsed, so to speak.
Minus linebacker Gerald Hodges and cornerback Stephon Morris for extended periods of time due to injuries, defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s defense surrendered 301 yards of offense and 21 points in the final 30 minutes of a shocking 24-14 loss to the Bobcats in front of a crowd of 97,186 at Beaver Stadium.
After the stunning loss Saturday, O’Brien did his best impression of Bill Belichick in his post-game news conference by offering short responses to a number of questions.
O'Brien's session with reporters lasted just 8 minutes and 29 seconds.
"I thought it was a great atmosphere in the stands at Beaver Stadium," O'Brien said in one of his more expansive answers. "Again, it starts with me and coaching better and making sure we play better next time.
“We lost to a better team today."
Roof, who came under fire at Auburn and left his job as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in 2011, never did address reporters or make his way to the interview room Saturday.
Instead, Penn State’s defensive players were forced to address their second-half meltdown against Ohio, which included 207 yards passing and 94 rushing, and allowing an 11-point lead to slip away.
“It’s very disappointing, there’s no way around it,” senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said.
“We didn’t play well enough to win the game,” said fifth-year senior outside linebacker Mike Mauti, who led the team with 12 tackles.
“Ohio did a great job of adjusting and wearing us out,” redshirt freshman defensive end Deion Barnes said.
The Nittany Lions’ much-ballyhooed front seven produced just one sack all day – Barnes was the instigator – and surrendered 499 yards total offense.
Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton, the son of former major league catcher/designated hitter Mickey Tettleton, kept the Lions off-balance with his quick release in humid temperatures that caused several players to cramp up.
Down 14-3 at halftime, Tettleton hit Landon Smith on a 43-yard touchdown pass that deflected off the hands of Penn State safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong early in the third quarter.
It pulled the Bobcats to within 14-10, and proved to be the turning point in the game.
“That was a killer,” Barnes said. “It went from an interception to a touchdown. That one hurt.”
Tettleton scored on a 1-yard sneak roughly seven minutes later to give Ohio the lead for good. He finished off Penn State with a 14-play, 93-yard drive, capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Donte Foster with 2:55 to play.
Tettleton finished 31 of 41 passing for 324 yards and two scores, and added 47 yards rushing and a TD. Beau Blankenship had 109 yards on the ground on 31 carries and led the Bobcats with seven catches for 72 yards.
Ohio, a six-point underdog picked by a few major publications to go undefeated and win the Mid-American Conference, finished 13 of 21 on third-down conversions.
And the Bobcats were the first MAC team to slip out of Happy Valley with a win since Toledo, which claimed a 24-6 win over Joe Paterno and Penn State nearly 12 years to the day -- on Sept. 2, 2000.
“Obviously, a great win for our football team, our program, our university and our fans,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “Our fans have waited a long time to have any kind of consistency in football and we've been able to start to have some consistency in what we're doing. I'm so proud of them.”
Now, Penn State fans are left to wonder what the future of their program might be, given the turbulent events of the past 10 months, the harsh sanctions handed down by the NCAA and the surprising loss to Ohio.
Saturday’s opener was the first played without a Paterno as a member of the coaching staff since 1949, although his widow, Sue, and daughter, Mary Kay, were among family members who watched the game from a suite in the stadium.
Penn State committed three turnovers on offense, including two fumbles and an interception, with O’Brien doubling as offensive coordinator.
“(We) have to do better offensively," O'Brien said. "We have to get our defense off the field and the defense has to make stops."
Roof's defense has to avoid another collapse, too.