September 3, 2012 at 6:00 AM
Matt McGloin had one heck of a first half against Ohio. The senior led some solid drives early in the game and completed 16 of his 26 attempts for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the first 30 minutes. Other than a play where McGloin flipped a ball away as he was being dragged to the ground (the play was ruled an incomplete pass), he looked in control leading the newer, more complex offense under Bill O'Brien in the first half. However, after halftime, McGloin could not get the Nittany Lions' offense in position for points when they needed them. It wasn't by any means all McGloin's faults for the offense's struggles in the second half, the quarterback made some decent throws on plays that could have been big, but his receivers couldn't come down with them. All told, McGloin — who was 27-of-48 for 260 yards, two touchdowns and an interception — played all right, but his inability to connect with one of his receivers deep down the field ultimately hurt Penn State's attack.
Running backs: C
With only 22 running plays called in the entire game, Penn State's ground attack didn't make much of an impact Saturday. Bill Belton's debut at running back was cut short as he left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. But in his time in the contest, Belton did some things well, and some things not so well. Belton coughed up the football pretty deep in Ohio territory on what looked like a promising opening drive for the Lions. Two possessions later, Belton, a former receiver, scored the first touchdown of the O'Brien era on a six-yard pass from McGloin. Belton carried the ball 13 times and accumulated a total of 114 all-purpose yards (53 rushing, 16 receiving, 45 on kick returns). Senior Derek Day showed that he can be a reliable back-up option, running for 36 yards on eight carries.
Wide receivers: C-
As noted earlier, Penn State's wideouts had some chances, but there was no big play made. The Lions' longest pass of the afternoon was 22 yards, and that was on a throw to Kyle Carter, a tight end. There were plays both Allen Robinson and Shawney Kersey said they wish they could have back. Robinson had a chance to make a catch near the sideline on a fourth down play in the third quarter, while Kersey failed to catch a deep pass in the fourth quarter. Both plays were not easy, but if one of the two balls had been caught, it would have significantly changed the game. Robinson ended with a game-high nine receptions for 97 yards.
Tight ends: B+
Tight ends were expected to play a larger role in Penn State's offense under O'Brien, and they certainly did against Ohio. Carter, a redshirt freshman, was one of McGloin's favorite targets and caught six balls for 74 yards. Matt Lehman, who was also playing in his first career game for Penn State, had just one catch, but made it count as he scored Penn State's second touchdown on a 14-yard play in the second quarter. Garry Gilliam, the Lions' starting tight end at the "Y" position. was held without a catch on the afternoon.
Offensive line: C+
With four new starters, the offensive line did a decent job of giving McGloin time in the pocket and opening holes for the running backs. McGloin wasn't sacked in the game, but was pressured on a handful of occasions. Penn State's offensive front will improve as the season progresses, and it will need to, especially when the team gets into conference play.