Treated to perfect football weather and a sea of white in front of 107, 818 fans, tonight could have been extra special for Penn State.
Several missed opportunities later, the end result looks similar to big games of the past three years where there would be a ton of hype only to see the Nittany Lions (5-3, 3-1) play flat as they fell to the Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0) 35-23.
With seven minutes remaining in the first half, it appeared as if things were going to be different. Linebacker Mike Hull blocked an Ohio State punt deep in Buckeye territory, and fellow linebacker Michael Yancich fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown. Zombie Nation blared throughout the loud speakers. Beaver Stadium was as loud as it had been in quite some time.
It was a euphoric moment for a team that had been through so much just to get to a game like this. It was also short-lived. Less than two minutes later, defensive end Brad Bars would be called for a holding penalty on a Buckeyes punt. It gave the visiting team an automatic first down, and ultimately led to the game-tying touchdown by running back Carlos Hyde.
At the beginning of the second half, Matt McGloin threw only his third interception of the season, but it was the most costly. Linebacker Ryan Shazier returned it 17 yards for a touchdown, and the Buckeyes had a lead that they would never relinquish.
There would be chances to mount a comeback, just as there would be chances in the first half to score offensive touchdowns and head into the locker room with more than seven points. Nothing materialized, and that was the biggest theme of the night.
On the third play of the game, receiver Allen Robinson failed to come down with a reception down the left sideline that likely would have gone for a touchdown. Safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong failed to come up with an interception of a Braxton Miller pass. When Adrian Amos did intercept a pass — the first of the season for the secondary– the offense could not capitalize. They ended up losing yards when McGloin was sacked, and a drive that started with promise in Buckeye territory ended in chaos with an incomplete pass on an attempted fake punt.
Miller drove the offense down the field to make it a two possession game. The Nittany Lions again went three and out, and it turned into a 28-10 deficit as Miller did it again, scoring both times on 1-yard runs. To the credit of the Nittany Lions, they did not quit. Tight ends Matt Lehman and Kyle Carter both caught touchdowns from McGloin, but they would be rendered meaningless. The Buckeyes already had a huge lead and were not relinquishing it.
To pinpoint exactly what went wrong for the Blue and White tonight would create a long and disorganized list. Bill O’Brien took the blame afterwards. “It starts with me. I didn’t do a very good job as the head football coach tonight.” Play-calling was certainly a problem including the decision to pass up a potential 37-yard field goal to try to convert 4th and 7 when the game was scoreless and points were at a premium.
For as much as coaching decisions tonight can be second-guessed, the execution was nowhere near good enough. McGloin played his worst game of the season, and when he did make a good throw, receivers often did not come down with the big play that they did make over the past five games.
Players admitted that the holding penalty on Bars deflated the sideline but also gave credit where it was due to the Buckeyes defense. “That’s the best front seven we played all year,” said Bill Belton.
The players know that this team is different from past versions. The offense plays with more energy and is equipped to win these big games. They just could not fully prove it to everyone in attendance tonight, and that was the frustrating part. “When you come to Penn State, you come to win big games like this,” said John Urschel.
Against Northwestern and Iowa, this team proved that they were different. They rallied in the fourth quarter from a double digit deficit to defeat a ranked Northwestern team. They solved their struggles in Kinnick Stadium by demolishing Iowa. A top ten team still seems a bit out of reach. No matter how one attempts to spin it, the Buckeyes were better tonight.
On a bigger scale, this is concerning for the Nittany Lions. This Buckeyes team is undefeated, and the program is likely only going to improve and become tougher to beat as long as Urban Meyer is running the show. For the 2012 Nittany Lions, there’s no time to worry about that concept right now.
“I’m gonna go dive into that tape tomorrow,” said O’Brien. A Purdue team that nearly beat Ohio State last week looms.
“We can’t let this loss ruin our season,” said Stephon Morris.
- For the first time all season, the Nittany Lions did not score in the first quarter.
- They did keep their streak alive of not allowing a first quarter point all season.
- Kyle Carter led the Nittany Lions in receiving with 76 yards.
- Matt McGloin threw for a career high 327 yards.
- Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller had only 9 more passing yards than rushing yards.
- Gerald Hodges led the way for the defense with 14 tackles and a sack.
- The Nittany Lions were a combined 7 for 21 on third and fourth down attempts while Ohio State was 8 of 16.
- The Buckeyes have now beaten the Nittany Lions in Beaver Stadium three straight times.
- Attendance for the WhiteOut was 107,818. It was the largest crowd of the year and also the first that surpassed 100,000.