L.J. Santa Maria
Some 97,186 fans and observers were present at Beaver Stadium and for many; there was an sad and eerie absence of Joe Paterno strolling the sidelines. Last year he was there. This year, he was not.
Between the white lines, it was a tale of two halves for Penn State. Featuring a new, fast paced, no-huddle offense installed by rookie head coach Bill O’Brien, senior quarterback Matt McGloin and the Nittany Lions offense showed moments of promise and stability. However, fans learned McGloin was no Tom Brady. Some are already saying the offense will continue to lack explosiveness and big play ability until Class of 2017 freshman quarterback Christian Hackenburg takes over the helm next season.
The Nittany Lions went into the half up 14-3 on the back of two McGloin touchdown passes, and a defense that seemed to have the Bobcats’ spread attack all figured out.
Despite his two touchdown passes, McGloin had a glaring mistake on the first drive of the game where he missed sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson all alone in the corner on a crucial 3rd down and 5. McGloin did found the tight end for a first down on that play but sophomore tailback Bill Belton fumbled on the very next play, stalling the drive and turning the ball over to the Ohio offense on their own 21 yard line.
With no quick strike ability, the offense failed to sustain any long drives in the second half and fell stagnant behind a weak running game that took a huge hit with Bill Belton being carted off the field in the 4th quarter.
Statistically McGloin had a solid game finishing 27 of 48 for 260 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception mixed in. But, he could not come through in the clutch spots down the stretch to keep the offense on the field.
The whole game changed on a tip ball, touchdown pass from Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton to Landon Smith for a 43-yard touchdown pass. It changed the momentum of the game, and very clearly instilled confidence in the underdog Bobcats squad.
In the 4th quarter, after an over thrown wide open receiver down the seam by McGloin, Penn State pinned Tettleton and the Bobcats O down at their own 7. Down 17-14, with 9:37 left in the game it was gut check time for the Nittany Lion defense. With one 3rd down conversion after another, relying heavily on junior running back Beau Blankenship on the ground and through the air, the Bobcats drove 93 yards right down the heart of Penn State’s defense, seemingly breaking their will, capping it off with a perfectly lofted 5-yard touchdown pass to wide out Donte Foster in the corner of the end zone, bringing a hush upon the student section and Beaver Stadium.
With all the criticism, hatred, and grief being sent from the media and other outlets from the events that have occurred over the past six months or so, it seemed this drive was a chance for the Nittany Lion defense to not only stand up and halt the Bobcats, but also, for just maybe one afternoon stand up to all the haters and critics.
Unfortunately, it just seemed like yet another body blow to the entire Penn State University.