Cacaphony of concerns face O’Brien’s Lions
The emotions of the day were unmistakable for all on hand at Beaver Stadium, as Penn State opened a football season for the first time since Harry Truman was president without Joe Paterno on the sidelines.
Once the game got going, and Penn State, though struggling at times on both sides of the ball, had a 14-3 lead, it looked as though the new era of PSU football was off to a good start.
But, after the Ohio University Bobcats scored 21 unanswered points and thoroughly dominated the second half, this season is in serious peril.
With Silas Redd gone, and new receivers and tight ends all around, the offense, with veteran but uneven QB Matt McGloin under center, was not expected to be stellar, but hopes were high given O’Brien’s success at New England. Although McGloin’s overall numbers weren’t bad, he racked up most of his stats in the first half, and couldn’t ignite the team down the stretch when the game was on the line.
No receivers really stepped up. Before hurting his ankle, Bill Belton did okay at tailback, and Derek Day showed a little promise after Belton went down. But, no one mistook either for Redd.
Though it’s a new regime, Penn State fans have seen many seasons when a pedestrian offense played it safe not to lose games, while relying on a stout defense to keep the other team out of the end zone, and create enough turnovers to give a middling offense a short field two or three times a game.
This is where the situation looks bleak.
Going into this season, the consensus was the Lions front seven, D line and linebackers, would be a strength, until the new secondary found its legs. This was not the case in Beaver Stadium Saturday, not by a long shot.
The Bobcats offensive line absolutely controlled the game in the second half, providing more than ample time for the QB to sit back and find open receivers, and hit backs in stride on swing passes with more blockers than tacklers in the flat. Big hole after big hole was opened in the defensive front for Ohio’s running game.
When the game was on the line, with the Bobcats backed up on their own 7, when a three-and-out would have given the struggling PSU offense that short field it needed to push home the winning TD–the defense was shoved down the field on a demoralizing 93-yard game sealing touchdown drive.
It’s only one game, and teams do improve. Players on both sides of the ball are no doubt still getting used to the new schemes, and this is the first time they had to put them in play against a real opponent. Ohio University is a solid team, picked by some to win the MAC this year.
Still, Penn State will face teams better than the Bobcats in 2012. Virginia next week on the road may well be one of them.
Coach O’Brien and the players need to find some answers.