Penn State entered the contest against Ohio State as a two-touchdown underdog. As it turns out, that was a modest spread.
In Bill O'Brien's worst loss at Penn State, the Nittany Lions got a good look at what it takes to be great, at the expense of a blowout at the hands of Ohio State.
Penn State fans knew coming into the 2013 season that they would have to deal with "freshman mistakes" from Christian Hackenberg. On Saturday night, those "mistakes" were pushed to the max.
After Ohio State opened by driving the field to score a touchdown, Penn State took the ball and marched into the red zone, making it look like the game could be a close one. Unfortunately, Hackenberg threw his first of two interceptions on that drive—this one in the end zone.
Bill O'Brien stared at me for a good five seconds when I asked about Urban's timeout to review the spot of the ball. He had no comment.— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) October 27, 2013
Much like the Indiana game, Penn State's defense came off a bye week and looked lost against the Ohio State offense. The Buckeyes amassed 686 yards of offense, and backup quarterback Tyler Ferguson threw for more yards than Hackenberg in a 63-14 loss to Ohio State.
The silver lining? The 3-4 Illinois Illini waiting in the wings. Penn State will host the Illini next week, and they rank 98th in scoring defense, as well as 78th against the run, according to ESPN.com.
The Nittany Lions have looked bad after both bye weeks this year, but it's important that they put this loss behind them.
If there are bright spots to be had, Bill Belton showed the ability to be an every-down back, while Akeel Lynch is worthy of a full-time backup role. Zack Zwinak's fumble issues may have cost him snaps, permanently.
It's not too late for Penn State. Ohio State winning 20 straight games isn't a surprise. They win games with good defense and Braxton Miller being a playmaker. The Nittany Lions will not face anything like that from here on out.
What Penn State needs to do is grow from this loss. Both of Hackenberg's interceptions were mistakes. What he and the staff need to do is grow from those mistakes. Each of Penn State's remaining games are winnable. However, they'll need the "Dr. Jekyll version" to show up, rather than the "Mr. Hyde" we saw on Saturday night.
Next week's game against Illinois will answer a lot of questions for Penn State fans.