A whited out crowd watched a familiar script unfold down on the Beaver Stadium field Saturday night.
An inexperienced coach encountered some adversity and got away from the gameplan that made him successful while a veteran coach stayed true to his, even when things didn’t go well early.
Only this time, after decades of being on the winning end, it was Penn State that lacked the steady hand on the sideline and fell apart in the second half.
Bill O’Brien coached his Nittany Lions to a 5-2 start with aggressive play calls and a fast-paced offensive tempo.
With No. 9 ranked Ohio State in town, though, O’Brien let his offense fall into a field possession game, settling for conservative run and pass calls that allowed Penn State to take a 7-7 tie into halftime, but hardly helped the Lions achieve separation.
Urban Meyer, on the other hand, kept the ball in the hands of his Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Braxton Miller, even after he struggled to find space running and missed badly on some of his pass attempts in the first half.
After the break, though, Miller finally began to break off big runs from option reads and found Jake Stoneburner for a back-breaking 72-yard touchdown pass.
By night’s end, it was pretty easy to identify which coach has multiple national championships on his resume.
Of course, O’Brien has done an excellent job through his first eight games as a head coach, so good that he gave fans legitimate hope the Lions could take out an unbeaten foe, even if that was an unreasonable expectation.
The loss shouldn’t take anything away from what he’s accomplished in the face daunting obstacles.
But as easy as he might make it to forget sometimes, O’Brien is still a rookie head coach with lessons to learn and experiences to grow from.
For the Lions’ sake, he could probably learn a thing or two from Meyer’s iron will.
Penn State’s NASCAR sets have done wonders recently, fueling a fourth-quarter comeback against Northwestern three weeks ago before dominating Iowa’s defense last week at Kinnick Stadium.
We never really got to see it against the Buckeyes, though, and the offense never really seemed to click.
Maybe that was a coincidence. Maybe it was the result of facing a staunch Ohio State front seven more than anything Penn State did or did not do.
But we’ll never know. And that’s a fact that will probably leave the Penn State faithful scratching their heads for the next few days.
O’Brien will coach in another big game, perhaps as soon as Penn State’s roadtrip to Nebraska in a couple of weeks. And the type of play caller we see will probably tell us a lot about what the first-year coach learned from this loss.
Adam Bittner is a senior majoring in journalism and is the Collegian’s football editor. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.