From the outside looking in, it might seem depressing, deflating, even devastating.
But, ask those within the locker room, and they won’t ask for any sympathy.
Penn State’s football players said they aren’t overreacting after the 24-14 defeat against Ohio on Saturday, despite the tumultuous off-season they endured prior to the opener. Coach Bill O’Brien said he saw enough good play from his team to not have any apprehension heading forward.
“I think just from standing on the sidelines, there were some positives,” O’Brien said. “Ohio's a very, very good football team. A veteran team coached by an excellent head coach. They beat us. They were the better team today.”
After the Nittany Lions jumped out to a 14-3 half-time lead, Frank Solich’s squad dominated the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points. The Lions struggled to match the intensity they began the opening half with and the first game of the O’Brien era resulted in a loss.
Junior safety Malcolm Willis said the post-game mood of the locker room was distraught.
“If you aren't upset that you lost, then you shouldn't be on this team,” Willis said.
Many players echoed Willis, saying they aren’t going to let the game be a determining factor on how the rest of the season plays out.
Senior linebacker Michael Mauti said, despite the circumstances, the team refuses to accept any pity.
“As soon as you start feeling sorry for yourself, that’s when you’ve lost already,” Mauti said. “Like I said, we got 12 games to play in this season. That was one game.”
Similarly, center Matt Stankiewitch said senior leaders are committed to setting a good example for the younger players by staying positive and making sure everybody is on the same page in the upcoming week.
Considering how close the team has become, senior defensive lineman Jordan Hill said he’ll act as a vocal leader at whatever cost necessary.
“We don’t let the ship wreck. We don’t let it sink,” Hill said. “I told them, ‘You may not like me after the season or during the season, but there’s no easy way out of it now.’…I don’t have to be liked, but we wanna win. And that’s gonna get it done.”
O’Brien assumed a similar win-or-go-home attitude. When asked if he feels any concern about his team not being able to improve, the coach didn’t beat around the bush.
“I don’t have any trepidation,” O’Brien said.
Sure, O’Brien and players said it was a tough pill to swallow. But, as senior tackle Mike Farrell put it, they will only use it as motivation moving forward.
“The type of mentality that this team has is that we were going to go back to work on Monday whether it was a win or a loss,” Farrell said. “Unfortunately, it's a loss, you can't sugarcoat that. But I'm just glad that I'm in a senior class, with this team around me, that will go back to work on Monday."