The nightmare that has become Penn State football over the past eight months has turned into reality, with a 24-14 upset loss to the Ohio Bobcats on Saturday.
After losing recruits and players, the Nittany Lions now lost their first game of the season.
With an up-and-down offseason of suspensions, transfers and sanctions, the 2012 season is looking to be a bit rocky for Bill O’Brien’s team.
But even though the beginning of the Bill O’Brien started with a loss, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s closer than many may think.
The team still has a solid core of veteran seniors who will lead the team through its first year of NCAA sanctions.
Penn State will surprise many of its critics this season, and here is a preview of what you will see out of the Nittany Lions this year.
Matt McGloin has played two years of up-and-down football.
In 2010, after taking over for Rob Bolden, McGloin threw for 14 touchdowns and 1,548 yards. But then he went on to throw five interceptions in the Outback Bowl against Florida that year.
In 2011, McGloin was splitting time with Bolden, and neither quarterback was able to get the team to gel. McGloin threw only eight touchdowns and was picked off five times in 2011, and was sacked six times.
Now, with a new system in place and no quarterback controversy, McGloin has more freedom to throw without looking over his shoulder.
The Scranton, Penn. native threw 48 times against Ohio, and I don’t see why Bill O’Brien won’t keep throwing the ball all season, especially with Bill Belton being the only major running threat for the Lions.
Barring any major injury, McGloin will throw for over 2,000 yards this season and continue to thrive in O’Brien’s offense.
Bil Belton will be a big part of the Lions' offense this year.
Don’t panic yet, Happy Valley; all is not lost and all won’t be lost, at least in terms of the win column for the Nittany Lions.
Although Penn State did lose its home opener to Ohio, it’s not time to panic yet.
Let’s delve a little into what happened in Saturday's loss.
For starters, Ohio is no joke. The Bobcats are picked to win the MAC this season and have a shot at finishing undefeated after beating Penn State. It is true that the Lions shouldn’t be losing to a non-BCS conference school, but Tyler Tettleton and Ohio are much better than people think.
Also, many of Penn State's starters were freshmen or underclassmen with limited or no experience.
When you look at Penn State’s schedule, it becomes more realistic that seven wins is attainable. Except for Wisconsin, Ohio State and Nebraska, the Lions can win most of the games on their schedule.
But for that to happen, the underclassmen will need to step up.
Carter (87) is one of many freshmen who need to step up for Penn State.
Penn State’s inexperience was obvious yesterday against Ohio.
On both sides of the ball, small mistakes added up to the Nittany Lions allowing Ohio to sneak back into the game and win.
With young players, such as Bill Belton and Allen Robinson playing such pivotal roles for the first time on the collegiate level, things like ball security most likely aren’t on their minds.
But Belton and Robinson weren’t the only young players impacting the game.
Freshmen such as tight end Kyle Carter and corner Da’Quan Davis were both big parts of Saturday’s game.
For the Nittany Lions to succeed, though, freshmen like Carter and Davis will need to grow up quickly.
And I think they will.
O’Brien has shown early that he isn’t scared to put young guys in key roles, and by the middle of the 2012 season, you will see more players from the Lions freshman class making impacts.
Hodges move to return kicks was the beginning of many position moves by O'Brien.
The beginning of the Bill O’Brien era at Penn State started with a kick off by the Ohio Bobcats.
Returning that kick was senior linebacker Gerald Hodges.
Yes, a linebacker was returning kicks (and punts) for Penn State on Saturday.
Although Hodges was eventually relieved of his return duties, Bill O’Brien continued to mix and match his kick returners.
Yesterday’s game was a great insight into one of O’Brien’s philosophies for this season: He is going to try to put his best athletes in a position to best impact the outcome of games.
This strategy comes out of necessity after losing skill players like Silas Redd and Justin Brown.
Look to see more players being moved around and put in different spots, especially if starters begin to get injured.
Over the past six months, Bill O’Brien has proved that he is a strong recruiter, and that won’t change this season.
Even with the four-year bowl ban, it is becoming more obvious that playing under O’Brien would be more valuable than any bowl win.
O’Brien has coached in the NFL and knows how to run an offense. Along with his football knowledge, off the field, O’Brien has shown extreme dedication to the program.
O’Brien is an offensive guru and showed off some of his genius in Saturday’s opener.
Playing with an almost non-existent running game after Belton’s injury, O’Brien’s offense still found ways to move the ball.
Recruits are going to see the possibilities and advantages of playing under O’Brien.
With Elite 11 quarterback Christian Hackenberg already committed to Happy Valley for next season, more skilled athletes are going to want to help turn around the program.