"I told them in the locker room, it’s a long season. This is one game. We have to learn from our mistakes. We can still be a good football team. I told them the number one priority is I'm going to come to work tomorrow and do a better job for them."
—head coach Bill O'Brien following Penn State's loss to Ohio [as reported by John Finger on CSNPhilly.com]
After months of tortuous revelations about the university's officials and administration, pending lawsuits and NCAA sanctions, the alumni and fans of Penn State were eager to turn the page and begin anew. While it was a day for supporters to once again show their pride in Nittany Liions football, the healing process was prolonged by a 24-14 loss to Ohio University.
Leading 14-3 at halftime on the strength of two Matt McGloin touchdown passes, the Nittany Lions could not muster another point for the remainder of the contest and surrendered 21 unanswered points in front of a disappointed home crowd of 97,186.
"It was very emotional for us and for everybody in the stadium," said quarterback Matt McGloin [per Mike LoPresti of USA Today on TheTownTalk.com] after the first opening-day loss in 11 years. "I apologize to all of them for not getting a win."
Clearly the fans were ready to put the past nine months behind them, as alumni and supporters began the pregame excitement at a pep rally at the stadium the night before. In truth, just playing football again has begun the healing process, and while a victory would have done much more to boost the spirit of the fanbase, the difficult recovery has taken its first step.
Saturday's result may have been different had nine players not transferred, but more than 90 percent of the team stayed with the program through these difficult times. In their debut games, here's how Penn State's 2012 transfer student-athletes fared:
Rob Bolden - quarterback - watched as first-string quarterback Zach Mettenberger led LSU to a 41-14 victory over the University of North Texas. Bolden is currently third on the depth chart behind Mettenberger and Stephen Rivers.
Justin Brown - receiver - had four catches for 32 yards (with a long of 11 yards) in Oklahoma's 24-7 victory over UTEP. In addition, Brown pulled double-duty as the punt returner, with three returns for 30 yards.
Tim Buckley - safety - one of the first players to transfer, Buckley saw his N.C. State Wolfpack go down to defeat at the hands of Tennessee, 35-21.
Anthony Fera - kicker - injured with a groin strain, Fera watched as the Texas Longhorns defeated Wyoming 37-17. It is not known when Fera will return from his injury, but until then, Nick Jordan will handle the kicking duties for Texas.
Ryan Nowicki - offensive lineman - jumping from one Big 10 team to another was an affront to many PSU fans, but Nowicki's Illinois Fighting Illini defeated Western Michigan, 24-7.
Jamil Pollard - defensive lineman - the NJ freshman who jumped to Rutgers saw his team's defense thwart the Green Wave in a 24-12 victory over Tulane.
Silas Redd - running back - in USC's 49-10 victory over Hawaii, Redd had a 31-yard TD run as part of his nine carries for 61 yards, in addition to one pass reception for 41 yards.
Clearly, the Nittany Lions felt the absence of Redd and Brown the most, and whether their inclusion in Saturday's loss would have made any difference is a matter for speculation and debate on sports-talk radio. One thing is for certain: for the Penn State faithful, the season opener against Ohio was a cathartic event—and a small step on the program's long road to recovery.
"It's been an emotional year for us," admitted offensive lineman John Urschel [per Mike LoPresti of USA Today on TheTownTalk.com]. "We were extremely happy to get out there and get back to playing football. Obviously we were not happy with the results."