A glance at the stat sheet from Saturday shows a lot of signs that Penn State should have beaten Virginia.
The Nittany Lions’ defense forced four Cavalier turnovers — all to inside the Virginia 30-yard line — and held them to 32 total rushing yards. On offense, the Lions ran 24 more plays than Virginia, outgained their opponent and did not turn the ball over.
Virginia had 10 penalties in the game for a total of 70 yards, while Penn State was flagged only three times for 24 yards.
However, the Cavaliers ultimately held the advantage in the only statistical category that matters, as they edged Penn State 17-16 on the scoreboard.
A deeper glance at the stat sheet shows a couple of reasons for Penn State’s loss.
Sam Ficken, the Lions’ kicker, left 13 points on the table as he missed four field goals and had an extra point blocked. Meanwhile, Virginia was 7-of-9 on third-down conversions in the second half.
After the game, no Penn State player put blame for the loss on Ficken’s shoulders. And though it seemed like Penn State outplayed Virginia in many facets of the game, senior quarterback Matt McGloin said it came down to making another play here or there.
“Anytime you lose a game, a close game, especially like this one, you go back and it’s a handful of plays that you could’ve made that change the game,” McGloin said.
Day to remember
Offense: Tight end Kyle Carter
In his second career start, Carter caught his first collegiate touchdown to cap off a 75-yard opening drive. The 6-foot-3, redshirt freshman ended the game with four grabs for 33 yards and has now tallied a total of 10 catches for 107 yards and one score this season.
Defense: Defensive end Deion Barnes
A fellow redshirt freshman, Barnes made his presence felt against Virginia. He made two sacks, one of which caused a fumble and was part of a defensive line which held Virginia to 1.3 yards per carry.
Day to forget
Offense: Kicker Sam Ficken
Ficken’s name quickly became known on Saturday, but not for reasons the kicker would want. The sophomore was 1-of-5 on field goal attempts (none of which were longer than 42 yards) and also had an extra point stuffed.
Defense: Safety Jake Fagnano
On a 3rd-and-16, Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco found tight end Jake McGee for 44 yards down the middle. It was one of the biggest plays of the contest and led to the deciding touchdown.
Fagnano, who had one tackle, had a chance to break up the play, but blew his assignment and got an earful for it on the sideline.
Did you notice?
Paul Jones changed his number to 13.
Jones, who used to don No. 7, has been practicing at “F” tight end for the Lions, according to coach Bill O’Brien, and is now their third-string quarterback.
O’Brien didn’t go into much detail about Jones’ new role. But it’s clear Jones, who was in the mix for the starting quarterback job in the spring, has fallen down the ladder under center.
When McGloin got hurt in the second quarter, it was true freshman Steven Bench who came in the game at quarterback.
With 19 catches in two games, sophomore receiver Allen Robinson leads the Big Ten in receptions. Robinson entered the season with just three grabs, but has emerged as McGloin’s favorite target. Robinson had 10 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown Saturday and has 186 yards on the season.
Senior linebacker Michael Mauti on a big hit he delivered on a 52-yard punt by Alex Butterworth: “I just knew I wasn’t going to stop. Whether he caught it or not, I wasn’t going to stop. I wasn’t going to run all that way to not hit somebody.”