The glow from one of the best wins in program history didn’t last even until the next game. Penn State’s four-overtime thriller over Michigan on homecoming with dozens of recruits in the house reminded many of us just how much fun Nittany Lion football can be.
Next came a week off to get some players healthy and prepare for a trip to Columbus and #4 Ohio State. Everyone knew a win would be a big upset, but most expected the Ohio State game would a chance for Bill O’Brien’s team to show on a national stage it could compete with a top ten team.
We were wrong.
Penn State was steamrolled by the Buckeyes. The Lions offense wasn’t good enough to complete drives against the one part of Ohio State’s team that was suspect, the defense, and especially, the secondary. College football experts gave Penn State a chance because the Lions’ passing game, led by Christian Hackenberg and Allen Robinson, could exploit the Buckeyes’ defensive backfield. Well, the home team picked off the new kid twice in the first quarter, and the Lions O line couldn’t hold off the Buckeyes defensive front which pressured Hackenberg and finally drove him from the game with an injured throwing shoulder.
Even worse than the offense was the defense. The Lions were shredded like a Penn State team hasn’t been, well, maybe ever, or at least not since the bad days of the early 2000s and those four losing seasons in five years. Ohio State’s offensive line ripped gaping holes in the Lions defensive front, big back Carlos Hyde rumbling through them, not being touched by any defender until he was seven or more yards downfield, if he could be caught at all. Braxton Miller couldn’t be tackled. I know he’s tough to bring down, but when defender after defender had Miller in their grasp, and just didn’t wrap him, letting him romp for big gains or even touchdowns, it was too much. Penn State’s tackling overall was horrible.
The pass defense was just as bad. How many times were Buckeye receivers ridiculously wide open? The TV guys at one point, viewing a replay, noted the nearest Lion defender was barely on the screen.
But the worst–Penn State seemed to have no life, no fight. Ohio State is a better team, with more and better athletes, and maybe Bill O’Brien even got outcoached for once. But, there seemed no urgency, no us against the world mentality facing 102,000 hostile fans, no “you’re not gonna push us around on national TV” bravado, even if the other team was better and would eventually win. No commitment that the team wouldn’t go down without a fight.
These Lions have some soul searching to do.