Penn State Football: Why Loss to UVA Could Pave the Way to a Winless Season

Ryan DavenportContributor ISeptember 8, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 01: Quarterback Matthew McGloin #11 of the Penn State Nittany Lions talks with head coach Bill O'Brien during the first half at Beaver Stadium on September 1, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

We knew it'd be a trying season for Penn State.

However, despite the sanctions imposed by the NCAA and the collection of high-profile players who transferred out of Happy Valley, going 0-12 still seemed impossible, right?

Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions and their legion of loyal supporters, after losses to Ohio and Virginia, it seems that a winless season is no longer out of the question.

The loss to Virginia wasn't all that surprising, considering that the Cavaliers had some impressive wins over then-No. 25 Florida State, Maryland and Miami a year ago. Ohio was no slouch, either. The Bobcats went 10-4 in 2011.

But the Nittany Lions don't exactly have many opponents who project to be easy wins in the coming weeks.

Yes, Penn State's schedule features matchups with teams such as Navy, Indiana and Iowa that are very winnable games, but this Nittany Lions squad hasn't looked good early on.

What's even more discouraging than the team's record is the way in which they've lost the two games.

In the season opener, at home against Ohio, the Nittany Lions squandered an 11-point lead at halftime  and watched as the Bobcats clawed their way back with 21 unanswered points en route to a 24-14 victory.

During Saturday's game in Charlottesville, Bill O'Brien's boys once again led at halftime and held a six-point lead with just 10 minutes to play on two touchdown passes from Matthew McGloin.

Just as was the case in last week's game, though, it didn't last, as the Cavaliers scored with under two minutes remaining to take a 17-16 lead.

Remarkably, the Nittany Lions still earned a chance at the win, as Sam Ficken had an opportunity to seal O'Brien's first win as head coach with a 42-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

It would've been a heartwarming finish to a roller-coaster first two games for the Nittany Lions, but it wasn't meant to be, as Ficken missed for the fourth time, leaving O'Brien and his team wondering when they'll get that elusive first win.

Fittingly, Ficken's misses highlight Penn State's biggest problems, which are the holes created by the players who transferred this summer.

Heading into the season, Anthony Fera was the clear-cut starting placekicker, but after he left for Texas, Ficken was thrust into the spotlight, and unfortunately, he hasn't been able to deliver.

Going forward, Penn State has a lot of issues to address, but whether they have the personnel to do so effectively has yet to be seen.

Unless O'Brien has some magic up his sleeve, the Nittany Lions could be finishing the season without a win for the first time since 1888.