Penn State Upset by Ohio in Season Opener

Story posted September 2, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Jared Abbott

The first football game under Bill O’Brien’s new regime brought hope and optimism, while displaying how far they still have to come. The Penn State Nittany Lions (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten) fell to the Ohio Bobcats 24-14 (1-0, 0-0 MAC), spoiling O’Brien’s debut.

A crowd of 97,186 Penn State faithful crammed into Beaver Stadium to see the new-look offense. Redshirt senior quarterback Matt McGloin controlled the offense early, creating a buzz inside the packed stadium. The Scranton native threw for 260 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while completing 27 of his 48 passes. Both completion and attempt marks were career-highs for McGloin, and this was the eighth 200-yard passing game of his career.

“We moved the ball pretty well,” said McGloin. “Unfortunately, we couldn't put a full drive together at some points, and that happens.”

The Nittany Lions got the ball first and looked poised to score on their first drive. McGloin masterfully crafted a series of short passes, moving the offense down the field. On the 11th play of the drive, sophomore running back Bill Belton fumbled the ball turning it over to the Bobcats.

Belton, who carried the ball 13 times for 53 yards, made his biggest impact in the passing game. With three seconds left in the first quarter, and on Penn State’s third drive of the game, Belton caught a six-yard touchdown pass from McGloin, giving the Nittany Lions an early lead.

The shutout would not remain for long. A special teams miscue led to a costly turnover for the Nittany Lions. Ohio recovered a muffed punt on Penn State’s 13-yard line and instantly forced the Nittany Lions into a red zone defense situation. A gutsy stand by Penn State forced Ohio to settle with three points on a 22-yard field goal.

The special teams unit was looking for redemption when freshmen linebacker Nyeem Wartman blocked an Ohio punt deep in Bobcat territory. After taking over on the 18-yard line, it took just three plays for McGloin to find junior tight end Matt Lehman for the 14-yard touchdown.

Penn State took a 14-3 lead into the half and looked poised to punish Ohio in the second half. Instead, bad luck struck.

Early in the third quarter, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton floated a pass over the middle that looked like a sure interception. But the ball tipped off of the hands of safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and found its way into the hands of wide receiver Landon Smith. Smith then scampered 43 yards into the end zone, making the score 14-10.

After that play, the momentum seemed to shift. Suddenly, Ohio’s offense was impossible to stop, and McGloin couldn’t get the Nittany Lions moving again. After Penn State’s next drive sputtered, Tettleton took over, driving the Bobcats 70 yards on eight plays. The drive ended with Tettleton pushing his way into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown.

A stunned Beaver Stadium looked on as Tettleton and the Ohio offense carved up Penn State's defense in the second half. A 14-3 lead for the Nittany Lions vanished into thin air, leaving a 17-14 lead in favor of Ohio. Tettleton finished the game completing 31-of-41 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns.

If there was any air left in the Nittany Lion’s balloon, it deflated completely after a 14 play, 93-yard Ohio drive ended in a five-yard touchdown pass from Tettleton to Donte Foster. Penn State was exposed on third down and struggled to get off the field.

“It was definitely hard,” said senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill. “We came out and played pretty well. But it felt like we lost fire a little bit. They got the momentum and they kept it.”

Hill comes back as one of the leaders on this team, along with junior safety Malcolm Willis and senior linebacker Michael Mauti. This core will lead the Penn State defense throughout the season and expects to see huge improvements. However, on this day, Hill was very disappointed in the defense’s effort in the second half and on third down.

“You won't see that all season," Hill said. "I'll tell you that now. No other team will do that to us again.”

Hill and the rest of Penn State’s defense will have a chance for redemption this Saturday when they visit Virginia on the road. The kickoff will be at noon. That game will be broadcast live on ComRadio. Tune in at psucomradio.com.

Jared Abbott is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology. To contact him, email jda5104@psu.edu.