UNIVERSITY PARK - Bill O'Brien and the new era of Penn State football got off to a rough start Saturday.
The hope for fans going in was that the Nittany Lions still have enough talent on the roster - in spite of key personnel losses - that they could beat Ohio, get off to a strong start and build some momentum in their first season playing under severe NCAA sanctions.
Everything looked good for one half.
Then the visiting team, which includes four starters from Blair County, spoiled the Lions' best-case scenario as Ohio rallied for a 24-14 win at Beaver Stadium.
"We just didn't make the plays that need to be made," PSU linebacker Michael Mauti said.
Penn State's new offense looked sharp for a half, taking a 14-3 lead, before fizzling. The defense, led by what's expected to be a strong front seven, played up to expectations for two quarters, only to get shredded by Ohio's offense in the second half.
The Bobcats piled up 499 yards of total offense - 324 through the air and 175 on the ground. For a team from a smaller conference, the Mid-American, Ohio's players showed a lot of poise staying in the game in a hostile environment and took control in the second half.
"A great win for our football team, our program, our university and our fans," Ohio coach Frank Solich said.
The question now becomes how big of a loss it could turn out to be for Penn State. It's just one game, but the Lions also suffered several injuries - most notably ankle sprains to starting running back Bill Belton and starting cornerback Stephon Morris - and those coupled with existing depth concerns could be big issues for the Lions.
Penn State travels to Virginia next week and faces the very real possibility of an 0-2 start. The players have relied on their emotions and sense of us-against-the-world attitude coming off the NCAA sanctions, and all of that will be put to the test after losing a game the team had to be figuring it would win.
"I don't have any trepidation," O'Brien said after his team made numerous key mistakes in losing.
"Everyone's fine," offensive lineman Donovan Smith said. "It's just the game of football. That's just how it goes. You win some, you lose some. You learn from your mistakes, you push on."
That will be the message going forward this week in practice.
"We're going to put this behind us," Mauti said. "That's all we can do now. We're not going to let this carry over into next week, carry over to the week after that. It's a 12-game season, that was one game, we've got 11 left and we're going to make the most out of those."