Penn State Football: Bill O'Brien's Coaching Debut Has Sour Ending
Bill O'Brien's head coaching debut did not go to plan, as Penn State gave up 21 unanswered points in the second half of a 24-14 loss in sun-soaked and drained Beaver Stadium.
Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton passed for two touchdowns in the second half, one a lucky tip that may have been a sign of things to come and the other the clinching score to wide receiver Donte Foster in the corner of the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
Things did seem to start well for Penn State, adjusting to a new offensive style and looking for young players to step in to some key roles. Quarterback Matt McGloin showed accuracy and confidence in the first quarter by completing 13 of 17 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
His efficiency tailed off, though, going 27-for-48 with a late interception off a tipped pass, 260 yards and two touchdowns.
However, his receivers did not help him at times, dropping some passes in their direction, a recurring nightmare from last season's sometimes anemic offense. Allen Robinson led the receiving game with 97 yards on nine catches, and seven different players got their hands on the football throughout the day.
Running the football was a bit more difficult for Penn State, with 93 yards on 22 team attempts led by Bill Belton's 54 yards on 13 attempts. Penn State put together 10 first downs in the first quarter alone, showing an ability to spread the ball all around the field with passes to the left, right and up the middle of the field right from the start.
But the Nittany Lions saw their opening possession end with a Belton fumble recovered by Ohio just outside the red zone, and Penn State was only able to score once in the first quarter. Belton made amends for his previous fumble by catching an out pass from McGloin and maneuvering his way a few yards for the touchdown on the right sideline.
Penn State would take a 14-3 lead in to halftime, feeling somewhat good about what they were able to do and dodging a couple of miscues along the way.
But the second half saw Penn State's offense shrivel up. Ohio out-gained the home team 159-49 in offensive yards, and the Bobcats scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to take a lead in to the fourth quarter.
On third and seven from the Penn State 43-yard line, Tettleton handled a high snap calmly, dropped back to pass and fired a pass over the middle, where it was nearly intercepted by Penn State but just off the finger tips of the defender. Ohio receiver Landon Smith adjusted on the fly and got his hands on the tipped pass and found a way down field for a fortunate 43-yard touchdown play.
The score moved Ohio to within four points of Penn State, 14-10. Had the ball fallen incomplete, Ohio would have been forced to punt to Penn State, down 14-3 and with little to no momentum of their own.
Player of the Game: Tyler Tettleton, Ohio quarterback
Ohio's undersized quarterback Tyler Tettleton stood tall Saturday afternoon in Beaver Stadium. Tettleton completed 31 of 41 passes for a total of 324 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns. His second touchdown to Foster was the final nail in the coffin for Penn State's chances late in the fourth quarter.
What Does It Mean?
Penn State had some positives they can fall back on, but the negatives outweigh those positives right now.
The offense was effective early in spreading the football around offensively as Matt McGloin was showing more poise than he ever has before, but young players will continue to develop and need to focus more on catching passes in their direction. Dropped passes all afternoon doomed Penn State's offense.
Perhaps a bit more surprising was Penn State's defense struggling to tackle Bobcats' ball carriers at times and leaving some players left open for big, critical gains. Ohio entered the game knowing they had a dependable offensive line, but the Nittany Lions managed just one sack on Tettleton and rarely had too much pressure on Ohio's quarterback.
Penn State was expected to struggle a bit this season, and their non-conference schedule is not the easiest to navigate through. Ohio was expected to be a significant obstacle if you looked at the game closely enough. If Penn State is going to get better, they will need to improvement against Virginia (1-0) next week.
Penn State will take to the road next week for a road game at Virginia. It will be Penn State's first road game at a non-conference opponent from a conference with an automatic BCS bid since visiting Alabama in 2010.
Penn State last played Virginia in 2002, winning at home by a score of 35-14. Michael Haynes had three sacks and forced a key fourth quarter fumble from Virginia quarterback Matt Schaub to help the No. 19 Nittany Lions pull away for the victory. Schaub completed 30 of 38 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown but Penn State's Zack Mills passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
This will be Penn State's first visit to Virginia since 2001, when a Week 2 Thursday night matchup between the two schools was rescheduled for the end of the regular season following the September 11 attacks. That week many schools and conferences decided to postpone their regular schedules and fit in any lost games later in the year where possible.
Virginia's 20-14 home win on December 2 was keyed by the longest fumble return in school history, when Mills failed to protect the football and a 92-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Art Thomas turned the momentum around. Penn State held a 14-6 lead before the fumble return that changed the game. The loss dropped Penn State to 5-6 and made them ineligible for postseason play.
Ohio will play their home opener next week against New Mexico State (1-0). New Mexico State is coming off a season-opening 49-19 win against Sacramento State. The two schools have met just once before, with Ohio winning a road game in 2003 by a score of 44-24.
Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast, managing editor of Nittany Lions Den and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
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