Penn State Football: Handing Out Grades After the 24-14 Loss to Ohio
The Bill O'Brien era didn't begin on the note Penn State fans would have liked, but that doesn't mean there weren't positives to take away from Saturday's loss.
Offense C: For the first half Penn State's offense looked like many fans hoped it would. Matt McGloin was able to direct the offense, moving the ball effectively for an 80-yard scoring drive in the first quarter. As Ohio adjusted defensively to Penn State's short passing routes, Penn State struggled to maintain long drives. The loss of Bill Belton in the second half allowed Ohio to target Allen Robinson, whose nine receptions for 97 yards led the Big Ten on Saturday.
Penn State had opportunities to score and looked effective in the first half, adjustments throughout the game and better execution in certain situations could lead to a higher grade in the future.
Defense D: Over the past five seasons Penn State has given up four scoring drives of greater than 80 yards at home. Saturday afternoon the Nittany Lions allowed two such drives at pivotal moments of the game. A 6:42 minute drive in the fourth quarter by Ohio put the game out of reach after starting at its own seven yard line, only to score a touchdown 14 plays later.
Ted Roof's aggressive defense didn't pay off as the front seven could only force one sack and forced zero turnovers against an Ohio offense that used quick passes to counter the defensive pressure. Jordan Hill had multiple chances for stops in the backfield but missed on several tackles. Penn State did only allow 3.9 yards as carry, but the 7.9 yards a pass is the real concern. Third downs killed the Nittany Lions and left a tired defense out on the hot Beaver Stadium field.
Overall Penn State's defense was out-coached and you have to go back to the 2007 game against top-ranked Ohio State to find a game where Penn State has allowed scoring drives of 70+, 80+ and 90+ yards in a single game. The talent is there, but Saturday was an ominous start for Roof.
Special Teams C+: A blocked punt helped this grade out as Alex Butterworth was underwhelming with a 38.5 yards per punt average. That being said, three of his five punts were downed inside the 20 and Ohio did not record any punt return yards. No field goal attempts kept Ficken out of the equation, but that can't be held against them. If Butterworth adds a few more yards to his punts and can avoid any lame ducks he'll be fine. Only question mark is how long the Gerald Hodges experiment lasts as a kick returner.
MVP: Allen Robinson's nine catches for 97 yards proved him to be a reliable target for a receiving group that is still finding itself. Kyle Carter also provided a look at the importance of the tight end position with six grabs for 74 yards including a few impressive displays of hand strength.
Final Word: Overall Penn State's game showed moments of promise as well as sobering moments of realization that the next 47 games sanctioned under the NCAA could feel quite long. Between a new coaching staff, inexperience, and playing against a talented and underrated Ohio team, Saturday's loss is painful for Penn State fans, but it's a little too early to throw in the towel on the 2012 season.