Penn State Falls to Ohio 24-14 in Emotional Opener
No one really wanted to think about it, but everyone knew in the back of their heads that it could happen. Despite all of the support and excitement leading up to today, there was a real chance that Penn State could drop its season opener for the first time since 2001.
Those fears came to fruition this afternoon as the Nittany Lions (0-1) fell to the Ohio Bobcats (1-0) 24-14. For thirty minutes of play, things were going well. Matt McGloin had thrown for two touchdowns and nearly two hundred yards, completing over sixty percent of his passes. Allen Robinson had a monster first half with seventy four receiving yards. The defense was making big stops on third down and keeping Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton in check. Penn State ran into the tunnel to loud applause from the 97,186 fans in attendance.
Fast forward to three minutes remaining in the game where one could likely hear a pin drop in the stadium. The question that Bill O’Brien and his players were left to answer after the game is what changed? How did the Nittany Lions get shutout in the second half and surrender twenty one unanswered points?
It started with 11:15 remaining in the third quarter. Ohio faced third and seven from the Penn State forty three yard line. Tettleton made his worst pass of the day except the pass resulted in a touchdown to wide receiver Landon Smith after safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong could not come up with an interception.
“We just didn’t play well enough to finish the game,” said linebacker Michael Mauti. He’s correct. Even after that fluke play, the Nittany Lions still had a lead but seemed to lose their edge.
The McGloin to Robinson connection was no longer firing on all cylinders. Ted Roof’s defense could no longer make big stops. In fact, it could not make any stops. Ohio started a drive on its own seven yard line with 9:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, clinging to a 17-14 lead. What followed was four plays of ten yards or more and four third down conversions. It all added up to a fourteen play, near seven minute drive. A struggling Penn State offense was never given the chance to mount any sort of come from behind drive.
O’Brien did not offer many answers in his post game press conference following the loss aside from giving credit to Ohio and saying he would need to watch film to see what went wrong on specific plays. Players tried to maintain a positive mindset following the disappointing outcome. Right guard John Urschel talked about how the atmosphere before the game “meant the world to him.” “One game does not determine a season,” said Urschel.
That’s another question there. Was the second half more about what Ohio did or what Penn State did not do? Adrian Amos believes the problems are fixable. “We just need to execute better,” the sophomore cornerback reiterated several times.
It would be tough to script a worse second half for the Nittany Lions. Nothing clicked consistently and a new era that was highly anticipated by fans in need of an outlet after arguably the most tumultuous offseason any college football program has ever gone through started off on a sour note.
O’Brien is eager to get the bad taste out of his mouth and try to fix the mistakes. Penn State’s new coach has some work to do after what transpired today.
Other Observations and Statistics:
- No conclusions can be reached after one game, but Roof did not win over any skeptics today. His unit played a lot of soft coverage and failed to get to the quarterback and get off the field when it mattered most in the second half.
- Sophomore running back Bill Belton had a roller coaster day. Belton fumbled on the opening drive of the game in Ohio territory, scored the first touchdown about six minutes later, and left the game later on with an ankle injury.
- When the Penn State passing game was clicking, McGloin did a pretty nice job spreading the ball around as six players hauled in passes.
- The touchdowns by Belton and Matt Lehman were both the first of their respective careers.
- Robinson just missed making a huge catch on a 4th and 5 attempt from the Ohio thirty midway through the third quarter. He explained after the game that McGloin was hit as he threw which altered the pass. Ohio scored on the ensuing drive to take the lead and never relinquished it.
- Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton was 16 of 19 in the second half for 207 yards. Allowing an opposing quarterback to complete 84% of his passes is normally not a blueprint for winning a football game.
- No one had any idea why star linebacker Gerald Hodges was returning kicks and punts in the first half, but it is likely that the experiment ends after a fumbled second quarter punt led to a Matt Weller field goal, the only Ohio points in the first half.