Yeah, of course it was disappointing to watch the Penn State football team lose to Ohio 24-14 in the first game of the 2012 season and the first game of Bill O’Brien’s Penn State coaching career. However, it wasn’t because Ohio is a lousy team or because Ohio is a part of the MAC conference. Most of my disappointment comes from the fact that Penn State was leading 14-3 at halftime and seemed to be in complete control of the game.
The only reason the score was even that close was because of two costly Penn State fumbles (and subsequent Ohio fumble recoveries). The first, by Bill Belton, came on Penn State’s opening drive as the team was threatening to score. The second game deep in Penn State’s own territory on a punt that was muffed by linebacker Gerald Hodges. I’m still not sure what O’Brien saw in Hodges as a punt returner, but I haven’t reviewed the press conference transcripts yet.
Anyway, you have to figure if Penn State manages to recover just one of those fumbles, they have at the very least three more points on the Bobcats than they actually did at halftime. As it turned out, that wouldn’t have mattered, as Ohio stormed back to outscore Penn State 21-0 in the second half en route to a huge win.
Although Penn State by no means played well in the second half, Ohio caught a huge break on the first drive of the half when quarterback Tyler Tettleton’s errant third down heave bounced off the hands of PSU Safety Stephen Obyeng-Agyapong. Instead of being caught for an interception or at least knocked down to force a punt, the ball fluttered into the hands of Ohio’s Landon Smith, who ran for the touchdown to make the score 14-10.
It certainly felt like the whole game’s momentum shifted on that one play, but you also have to account for a couple of things. First, Penn State had a chance to get the points right back on the ensuing possession. Quarterback Matt McGloin led the Lions right back down the field, but the drive stalled on the Ohio 30. O’Brien opted to forgo a field goal attempt and go for the first down on 4th and 5, but the attempt failed, and Ohio’s second half surge continued.
The second thing to consider is just how well Tettleton played in the second half. Although I witnessed Penn State amp up the pressure by bringing linebacker Michael Mauti off the edge, Tettleton was just as cool as a cucumber and refused to be anything but extremely accurate with his throws.
After Penn State’s failed fourth down conversion, Tettleton led the Bobcats on an eight-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. That was followed up by 11 plays and 50 yards for a field goal attempt (missed) and then the epic, game-sealing 14-play, 93-yard drive in which Penn State’s defense was foiled in its many attempts to get off the field. O’Brien’s offense, which looked quite potent in the first half, simply didn’t get enough chances in the second. The defense was constantly on the field.
On the day, Tettleton was a marvelous 31-for-41 with 324 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. McGloin was 27-for-48 with 260 yards and two touchdown passes and a desperation interception. In the first half, McGloin executed almost perfectly a 2011 Patriots-style west coast offense that concentrated on completion percentage and yards after the catch. In fact, both Penn State touchdowns were on short little passes that were ran into the endzone by halfback Belton and tight end Matt Lehman.
In the second half, the completions did not come nearly as easily. Although PSU never went three-and-out at any point in the game, Ohio’s defense seemed to tighten up enough to get the stops that they weren’t getting in the first half.
The Lions also didn’t take as many deep shots as perhaps they should have. I can only think of three off the top of my head. One for Kyle Carter in the first half that was overthrown, another for Carter in the second that drew pass interference, and a last one for Shawney Kersey that was overthrown in the second half. McGloin seemed quite adept at throwing bombs last season, so hopefully well get to see him cut loose more often in the future.
There’s still a lot more to talk about regrading individual performances, but I’ll get to that later. This post is long enough. Follow me @apy5000 for more on Penn State football.