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Penn State Football: Lions Fall to 0-2 After 17-16 Loss at Virginia; Quarter-By-Quarter Recap

by on September 07, 2012 10:09 AM

Final: Virginia 17, Penn State 16

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia drove 86 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown on a six-yard pass with just less than 1:30 remaining in regulation.

Penn State drove to the UVA 26 to set up a game-winning field goal attempt in a driving rain, but Sam Ficken missed. Penn State drops to 0-2.

More later.

Fourth Quarter Update

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Penn State is in position to win its first game of the season because of a defensive effort that forced four turnovers, all of which gave Penn State the ball inside the Virginia 30-yard line.

Penn State managed only three points after all of this.

Three.

Yet here it is, clinging to a 16-10 lead in the fourth quarter.

Penn State re-took the lead after Allen Robinson made a 30-yard diving catch in the end zone to give Penn State. The point after was blocked. Kicker Sam Ficken, who had missed three previous field goals, later connected on a 32-yard field goal.

Third Quarter Update

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Sam Ficken would not be kicking for Penn State if Anthony Fera did not transfer to Texas. Fera would not have transferred to Texas if the NCAA did not allow players to leave for any school and immediately be eligible to play.

If you do not agree that is fair, fine. But this is the reality Bill O'Brien faces in his first head coaching stint. He is undermanned. Kicker is definitely one position. There are others. But kicker sticks out on this day. Ficken has missed three field goals Saturday in a game Virginia leads 10-7, including a 20-yard attempt on the opening drive of the third quarter. He also missed from distances of 40 and 38 yards.

Meanwhile, Matt McGloin returned in the second half for Penn State after leaving midway through the second quarter with an undisclosed injury to his right throwing arm.

McGloin had a wrap on his right elbow when the team emerged from the locker room after halftime. He entered the game on a 3rd-and-10 and completed a 23-yard catch and run to Alex Kenney to sustain the drive. On another third down, he found Kenney again for 24 yard to the Virginia five yard line.

Penn State could not convert from there, sending Ficken out once more only to be left with his head hung.

Steven Bench started the second half after Virginia drove 77 yards on 11 plays to grab a 10-7 lead. It was the second straight week Penn State allowed a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half.

Second Quarter Update

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Matt McGloin is in the locker room being evaluated after getting hit on his right throwing arm midway through the second quarter.

Paul Jones and Steven Bench are both warming up on the sidelines.

The freshman Bench entered the game at quarterback after McGloin left with 10:43 in the second quarter, when he was twisted down at the ankles on a second down play and was then evaluated by the training staff.

Bench was in for one play and was sacked for a two-yard loss. He also started Penn State's first drive after McGloin was taken into the locker room.

Defensive end Pete Massaro and freshman linebacker Nyeem Wartman were also taken into the locker room and are being evaluated.

Penn State leads, 7-3, at halftime.

First Quarter Update

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Safe to say Penn State has put last week’s 24-14 loss to Ohio behind it.

A quick recap of the action: Penn State chewed up more than six minutes of game time on its opening drive, going 75 yards on 17 plays, including two 4th-and-1 conversions to grab an early 7-0 lead after one quarter here at Scott Stadium.

Matt McGloin hit tight end Kyle Carter from eight yards out on third down for the score. Soon after, on Virginia’s first play from scrimmage, linebacker Mike Mauti stripped the ball out after a completion over the middle, and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong scooped it up and returned it inside the UVA red zone. Penn State’s Sam Ficken would later miss on a 40-yard field goal.

Two things are apparent here.

  • Penn State is not confident in its kicking game. Hence the decision to go for it on a couple fourth and shorts, including once from its own territory. And then there was the fake punt call on 4th-and-4 that the Lions converted early in the second quarter on a 19-yard run by linebacker Glenn Carson.
  • Welcome to sanctioned football, where gutsy coaching decisions have no repercussions toward a Big Ten division race or national championship quest.

Pregame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Penn State has said about 70 players have made the trip to Charlottesville, Va. Bill Belton, the sophomore running back, is not one of them. He'll remain home to receive treatment on his sprained ankle.

Derek Day will make his first career start, but Zach Zwinak and Curtis Dukes should also see carries this afternoon.

3 Things to Watch

Penn State is looking to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2001, when the Nittany Lions started 0-4, also the last year the Nits traveled to Virginia.

A win at Virginia could do wonders for a Penn State team that was initially disappointed following a 24-14 loss to Ohio last week. Another loss and it's another week of tough questions that nobody will like answering.

Here's three areas to watch Saturday when Penn State visits Virginia (noon, ABC).

1. Cohesion Upfront

Bill O'Brien announced Thursday night on his weekly radio show that Eric Shrive and Angelo Mangiro will likely play. Shrive and Mangiro are both working with the twos; Mangiro at center, a position that will be open in the offseason after senior Matt Stankiewitch departs.

Penn State faces extraordinary circumstances because of the NCAA sanctions. Players, until they see game action, are free to transfer to any school in-season and immediately be allowed to play on the condition they meet standard eligibility requirements. There are some restrictions on how much contact opposing coaches can have with Penn State players, but all they must do is simply inform Penn State that they are interested in a player. Once the season ends, it's another eight months of freedom for players to transfer without having to sit out.

Typically, you do not see coaches rotating offensive linemen because, like any unit, trust and gelling are vital to performance. Typically, you do not have a coach who must be sensitive to players' comfort level with their role on the team or risk them leaving with no restrictions.

2. To Kick or Not?

Look for O'Brien to again pick his spots when determining whether to go for it on fourth down. On last week's opening drive, Penn State converted a 4th-and-1 from just past midfield. Later in the third quarter, leading 14-10, Penn State couldn't convert on 4th-and-5 from the Ohio 30.

We haven't seen Sam Ficken this year yet, and Alex Butterworth averaged just less than 36 yards on five punts last week against Ohio.

It would not be a stretch to think having Anthony Fera, the All-Big Ten specialist who transferred to Texas because of family reasons, changes either of those decisions.

3. Balancing the Offense

O'Brien has harped on the need for a better run-pass ratio throughout the week, particularly on second and third downs.

Last week against Ohio, Penn State threw 48 passes and handed the ball off 22 times.

"Balance is something we've talked about a lot this week in our offensive staff room, and I think if we can run the ball effectively, it'll open up some things for us in the pass game as well," running backs coach Charles London told GoPSUSports.com this week.

"It won't put as much pressure on Matt (McGloin) and some of those guys. You have to walk a fine line."

Derek Day will make his first career start, but O'Brien said to expect Zach Zwinak and Curtis Dukes to see carries as well. Penn State will try like hell to run the ball without Bill Belton, who is doubtful after spraining his ankle last week, throwing as many backs out there that are ready to contribute.

If Virginia plugs up the run game, though, we might see some more pass-heavy numbers turn up in the box score.

Prediction: Virginia 17, Penn State 14

***

Penn State (0-1; 0-0 Big Ten) vs. Virginia (1-0; 0-0 ACC)
Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at 12:07 p.m. • ABC
Scott Stadium (61,500) • Charlottesville, Va.

TELEVISION: ESPN on ABC Mike Patrick (p-by-p), Ed Cunningham (analyst), George Smith (sideline)

RADIO: Penn State Sports Network (60 stations):
Steve Jones (p-by-p), Jack Ham(analyst), Loren Crispell (sideline)
Local: 93.7 FM & 1450 AM; Virginia Sports Network: Dave Koehn, Tony Covington and Jay James

WEB: Gametracker and Audio at: GoPSUsports.com

SERIES: The Nittany Lions and Cavaliers are meeting for the eighth time and the first time since 2002. Penn State leads the series, 4-2. The last meeting in Charlottesville was Dec. 1, 2001 as Virginia rallied for a 20-14 decision.

COACHES: Bill O'Brien:
PENN STATE RECORD: 0-1, first year
OVERALL RECORD: Same
VS. VIRGINIA: First Meeting

MIKE LONDON:
VIRGINIA RECORD: 13-13, third year
OVERALL RECORD: 37-17, fifth year
VS. PENN STATE: First Meeting



Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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