When Penn State desperately needed a shift of momentum in its favor last Saturday against Ohio, the team continually came up empty.
Whether it was a missed deep ball on offense or a blown third down stop on defense, Penn State couldn’t come up with it down the stretch in its season-opening, 24-14 loss.
On offense, the Nittany Lions’ longest play from scrimmage went for 22 yards on a pass from quarterback Matt McGloin to tight end Kyle Carter. And while there weren’t many shots taken down the field from the Lions against Ohio, Carter said that will probably change when they travel to face Virginia.
"We just didn’t run a bunch of plays that gave us deep balls, really," said Carter, a redshirt freshman. "I’m sure this week we’re going to have a lot more explosive plays, because we have playmakers everywhere. So I’m sure that will happen."
The Lions had four possessions of eight or more plays against Ohio, but only turned one of those drives into points. McGloin said coming up with another play or two to extend drives is something the team is stressing heading into its second contest.
"We’re working hard, so Saturday we get to those nine or 10 play drives, and we can push harder and try to finish off those drives," McGloin said.
Penn State did have two chances to complete deep pass plays against the Bobcats, which would have put the team in position to put points on the scoreboard in the second half. However, wide receivers came up empty on both occasions.
The first was on a fourth-and-5 from Ohio’s 30-yard line in the third quarter. McGloin looked deep down the sideline for wide receiver Allen Robinson, who had a chance but was unable to make a play on a catchable ball. After the game, Robinson said he had his defender beat and added he and McGloin "have to find a way to make that play."
While Robinson wished he had that play back, wideout Shawney Kersey had an opportunity slip through his fingertips in the fourth quarter. This one was deep down the middle on a first down, and though Kersey said McGloin made a great throw, he couldn’t haul it in for a catch.
Kersey admitted he was a little fatigued after the game and said it’s something that he needs to work on moving forward.
"If I could make some plays and not be winded or worried about being tired, maybe things could’ve been a little different," Kersey said. "Guys depend on me and the receivers to make those kind of plays, and we have to make them."
While Penn State’s offense failed to make a game-changing play on Saturday, its defense had some missed opportunities of its own. The Bobcats torched the Penn State defense on third down, converting on 11 of 12 of those opportunities and put up 21 unanswered points in the second half.
The Lions used many players on Saturday who did not have all that much game experience, but some of them aren’t using the lack of playing time as an excuse to not come up with a play that would have turned things around late in the game.
In fact, the biggest play of the game for Penn State came from a true freshman, as linebacker Nyeem Wartman blocked a punt in the first half to set the stage for the team’s second touchdown.
"If you played on Saturday, you played for a reason," senior safety Malcolm Willis said. "Coaches have a lot of confidence in you, and our teammates have a lot of confidence in each other. We have playmakers, and they have the ability to make plays. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go your way or things don’t go your way on the field, and you have to move on and play the next play."