There are a lot of first-year starters on the Penn State football team, and Bill O’Brien is one of them.
“Well, it starts with me,” the coach said regarding Penn State’s 35-23 loss to Ohio State this Saturday. “I didn’t do a very good job tonight as the head football coach and I have to do a much better job for this football team. And so yeah, we made mistakes but we win as a team, we lose as a team and it starts with me.”
The Nittany Lions often lost momentum to the Buckeyes on missed opportunities or killer penalties. O’Brien made several aggressive coaching decisions to try and regain the lost ground, but two of Penn State’s four fourth down conversion attempts backfired.
In the second quarter, the Lions went for it on 4th-and-12, but Matt McGloin’s pass to Brandon Moseby-Felder came up four yards shy of the sticks. In the third quarter, Alex Butterworth faked a punt, but threw an incomplete pass to the sidelines. He got an earful from one of the assistant coaches after that play.
Penn State’s risky play-calling was a result of blown chances that could have changed the pace of the game. The Lions’ secondary failed to capitalize on several lame-duck passes from Braxton Miller in the first quarter. Adrian Amos did grab the first of the season among Penn State defensive backs, but Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Stephon Morris both missed potential picks.
Eventually, Miller geared his attack more toward the ground and he rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns. In addition to the missed turnover chances, the Lions’ four defensive penalties kept Miller on the field longer than he could have been.
“The penalties were killing us at the end of the day,” Lions’ defensive end Deion Barnes said. “We [forced] a couple 3-and-outs, and then you have a 15 yard penalty where they keep staying on the field. One time the punt there was a penalty right there and we had a three-and-out and they get back on the field. Penalties killed us.”
A second-quarter defensive holding, a second-quarter illegal procedure and a third-quarter offensive holding ultimately cost Penn State what could have been 18 points in scoring differential. At the end of the day, Penn State had totaled nine penalties for 85 yards.
“I think offensively we could have done some better things,” O’Brien said. “I could have adjusted better. I could have had a better game plan. We had some line of scrimmage penalties that hurt us, jumping off sides and things like that where we were moving the ball but stalled the drive.”
Despite throwing for 327 yards, McGloin looked more like the McGloin of 2010-2011 than he had in any other game this season. He was often duress from Ohio State’s pass rush and was also sacked four times, more than he had been in the previous 10 quarters against Iowa, Northwestern and Illinois.
The pressure forced McGloin into making some poor and ill-advised pass attempts. He led wide receiver Allen Robinson too far on one long pass in the first quarter that would have almost certainly resulted in a big play if placed better. His one interception was no where near a receiver, and it turned into a pick-six for the Buckeyes.
He and center Matt Stankiewitch, who are roommates and usually in-sync on the field, were not on the same page on one play. McGloin was calling an audible when Stankiewitch snapped the ball unexpectedly. The play ended with McGloin on his back, several yards behind the line of scrimmage.
“I think a lot of times, we really killed ourselves,” Robinson said. “Just some miscommunication with the line, missed assignments by the backs and receivers. I think it's a game that we definitely could have made some big plays.”
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