Penn State faced a third down with at least 13 yards to go three times on Saturday.
On each occasion, the scenario was preceded by a crucial sack and followed by a negative result from the Nittany Lions’ perspective — whether it was a punt, interception or failed fake punt.
The offensive line was exposed in the Lions’ 35-23 loss to Ohio State, allowing four sacks despite entering the contest averaging just 1.1 sacks allowed per game. The down game of the line was also made apparent by the team’s inability to get a push in the running game, with the Lions totaling just 32 rushing yards.
Penn State, for the most part, lost the battle at the line of scrimmage against a powerful front seven of the Buckeyes.
The result of this was often uncharacteristically conservative play calling from coach Bill O’Brien. For example, after Ohio State’s first sack, resulting in a third-and-18 at midfield, O’Brien opted to run the ball and eventually punt while in Buckeye territory.
John Simon, the defensive lineman who downed McGloin in the first quarter, said getting to the quarterback was a primary concern heading into the game.
“We knew that they had a great O-line, and their quarterback was very good, and he was a savvy veteran,” Simon said. “So we really wanted to pressure him as much as we could.”
Another result of the added pressure was McGloin simply having less time to survey his options, even on the plays in which he wasn’t hit before he threw.
One play after being swallowed up by unblocked linebacker Ryan Shazier at the beginning of the third quarter, McGloin was rushed from his blind side as he drifted back into his own endzone. The quarterback seemed to sense the rush and aired the ball out over the middle of the field into Shazier’s arms for the interception.
O’Brien said further evaluation of the offensive line will be necessary heading into this Saturday’s game at Purdue.
“I have to sit down and watch the tape really close and figure out things that I can do better to help that offensive line with different schemes and things like that,” O’Brien said.
This showing from the offensive line came after several weeks in which it had anchored a highly productive Penn State offense, giving up just five sacks in the previous four games.
After the game, McGloin commended the Ohio State rushers and said it wasn’t a surprise they were able to impact the offense’s flow.
“For the most part, we did a great job tonight,” McGloin said. “The offensive line did a great job blocking, keeping them off me. But they were going to make plays and we were ready for that. I knew I was going to take some shots.”
McGloin added that he was often hurried due to miscommunications with his line, which have rarely disrupted the unit’s chemistry this season.
Tackle Mike Farrell said there were times when the offensive line played well, but its overall performance on Saturday was certainly not acceptable.
“[It was] definitely not a complete game that we want to play,” Farrell said, “and not up to the level throughout that we want to play at.”