Quarter-By-Quarter Recap of Penn State's 24-14 Loss to Ohio
It could go down in Ohio Bobcat history as the drive that set in motion BCS dreams, and it would not be a stretch to start thinking it could also go down as the drive that started a long, sobering rehabilitation for the Penn State football program.
When it was over, Ohio had a 24-14 lead (which would hold as the final) in Beaver Stadium, Bill O’Brien’s coaching debut was soiled, and it exposed this harsh reality: Are we in store for a disappointing season in Happy Valley the likes of the early 2000s? Because if that’s the case, then the big picture is now apparently clear. Can the Penn State program stay relevant amid NCAA sanctions that are not going away until the 2016 season?
The importance of the drive was not lost on Penn State. Gerald Hodges, the All-Big Ten linebacker, returned to action with a hefty bandage on his right leg. No way the senior was sitting this out.
Ohio was competently managed to midfield when it faced a key 3rd-and-5 from midfield. That’s when Bakari Bussey went high up in the air to snag a pass between multiple Penn State defenders. Two plays later, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton avoided the rush, picked up a healthy chunk of yards and, most impressively, slid inbounds to keep the clock moving. On another third down conversion, almost seven minutes of game time later, Tettleton threw a pretty fade to the back left pylon for the clinching score.
Penn State was left stunned.
Well, well, look at what’s transpiring at Beaver Stadium.
After leading all game, Ohio is taking a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
A couple of key players got us here.
On 4th-and-5 at the Ohio 30, Bill O’Brien elected to go for it. McGloin overshot Robinson by a few inches near the goal line and Ohio took over and drove 70 yards on eight plays.
Earlier, Ohio got in the end zone after Stephen Obeng-Agyapong watched a near-interception graze off his fingers and into the arms of Landon Smith for a 43-yard touchdown catch and run.
Left tackle Donovan Smith left the game mid-way through the quarter with an undisclosed injury. He was seen limping on the sideline. Running back Bill Belton gingerly left the game with just under two minutes in the quarter, favoring his left leg.
Mike Farrell took over for Smith at left tackle, and Adam Gress substituted in at right tackle.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges and cornerback Stephon Morris are also dealing with unknown injuries. Morris was carted off the sideline with his ankle wrapped in ice.
Near the end of the quarter, attendance was announced at 97,186 fans. Penn State hasn’t lost a season opener at home since it lost to eventual national champion Miami (Fla.) in 2001.
Bill O’Brien is expecting his true freshmen to make plays if they’re summoned to the field. One made the play of the half for Penn State, reviving a crowd at Beaver Stadium that was starting to nod off after a fast-paced offensive start.
Nyeem Wartman blocked a punt and gave the Nittany Lions the ball at the Ohio 18 yard line. Three plays later, tight end Matt Lehman caught a pass near the sideline and ran it 14 yards for a 14-3 lead at the half.
We’ve seen 26 passes from quarterback Matt McGloin in the first two quarters. Clearly, this is not Joe Paterno’s offense, who relied on a strong ground game and defense.
The Penn State defense is still what many have come to expect from that unit. Smoldering and smart. It’s also deep, rotating in a healthy amount of bodies, including Wartman, who had gotten plenty of practice reps in front of the coaching staff at middle linebacker because of an injury to Mike Yancich.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges fielded the opening kickoff, and the first play from scrimmage was a handoff up the middle out of the I-formation.
It’s still Penn State football, but it’s Penn State football no one’s ever seen before.
Passing was prevalent in the opening quarter, and Penn State took a 7-0 lead with three seconds left on a short pass from Matt McGloin to Bill Belton. McGloin finished the quarter 13-for-17 for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Allen Robinson sure looks like the No. 1 receiving target for McGloin, hauling in six catches for 74 yards.
McGloin meticulously managed Penn State to the doorstep of the red zone in the game’s first six minutes — never throwing the ball downfield — before Belton lost a fumble.
Defensively, Deion Barnes started at defensive end instead of Pete Massaro, who had some minor knees issues toward the end of training camp. Safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong was the other notable starter. Jake Fagnano was slowed throughout training camp with a hamstring pull.
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof did not show much in terms of man-to-man coverage, but did show a few zone blitzes.
What is going on at Penn State?
Football. With a few new wrinkles.
Penn State has its hands full Saturday against Ohio, one of the favorites to win the Mid-American Conference.
It's a new era, of course. Joe Paterno is not on the PSU sideline for the season opener for the first time since 1949. For that simple reason, expect the unknown on Saturday. First-year coach Bill O'Brien is ready to raise the curtain on his New England-style offense. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof is ready to give everyone a working definition of what "multiple aggressive" actually means.
Trepidation then may be the best word to describe the scene here as it relates to football. With that, here are four keys to victory for Penn State.
1. Offensive line play
Quarterback Matt McGloin is maestro in this offense and faces enough pressure getting Penn State into the correct play in any given game situation. He doesn't need to be rushed in the pocket while trying to progress through his reads.
2. Secondary play
O'Brien has stressed that the issue here is quantity, not quality. Stephon Morris, Adrian Amos, Malcolm Willis are a strong core. After that, it gets dicey. I'm watching freshman cornerback Da'Quan Davis and safety Jake Fagnano, who was slowed most of training camp with a hamstring pull.
Ohio may not serve as the best indicator for how effective Penn State's man-to-man coverage is compared to some of the teams the Nits will see down the road in Big Ten play, but it's still gonna be fun to watch.
3. Special teams play
Anthony Fera's departure left O'Brien with no kicker and no punter. Sam Ficken has looked consistent at practice within 40 yards. Alex Butterworth, the starter at punter, has not been as consistent as O'Brien would like.
O'Brien built his staff around relationships; he worked with most in some capacity during his 19-year run as an assistant coach. Who's upstairs in the booth? Who's on the field? Regardless, let's agree one play caller is better than two.