UNIVERSITY PARK - Bill O'Brien kept his kickoff and punt return men secret going into the game, and it was a big surprise to see standout linebacker Gerald Hodges handling those duties.
When he first took the field as a return man for the opening kickoff, it took a double check to make sure there wasn't another No. 6 on the roster. Surely that couldn't be Hodges? But it was.
Hodges didn't last long as a return man, however, and made one costly mistake as he fumbled a punt inside his own 20 that led to a field goal for Ohio in the second quarter.
"He had a lot of time back there," O'Brien said of Hodges' work in practice. "He's an excellent player. We gave him a lot of work back there. We have four or five guys that did a lot of work back there. We chose to go with two or three guys today."
Adrian Amos started the game alongside Hodges on kickoff return. Alex Kenney and Bill Belton later were deep on kickoffs.
Defense doesn't get job done
New defensive coordinator Ted Roof saw his group give up 499 yards of total offense. The 324 passing yards might not be a surprise given the secondary concerns, but PSU's supposedly strong front seven allowed 175 yards rushing.
Ohio averaged just 3.7 yards per carry but remained committed to the run (47 carries). Beau Blankenship had 109 yards on 31 carries.
Linebacker Michael Mauti tried to fire up the defense during a meeting between the third and fourth quarters.
"He was basically saying, 'This is not us, we've got to do better than this,'" defensive end Deion Barnes said. "From the history of our defense, we all know we could do better than what we did out there."
Tyler Tettleton, who threw for 3,302 yards last season, had a big day as he completed 31-of-41 passes.
"We knew they had a great front seven, and we figured that we would be challenged running the ball-wise, and instead we faced a lot of man coverage with the opportunity to make some big plays," Tettleton said.
Lehman with TD grab
Penn State is expected to use the tight ends more under O'Brien, and that was on display Saturday.
Kyle Carter caught six passes for 74 yards, but Matt Lehman had the biggest grab of the day among PSU's tight ends. He pulled in a 14-yard TD pass from Matt McGloin late in the second quarter for a 14-3 lead.
"We felt confident," Lehman said of the mood at halftime. "Thought we were going to make more plays."
Penn State played five true freshmen: LB Nyeem Wartman, who had the biggest impact as he came up with a huge punt block that led to a touchdown, CB Da'Quan Davis, WR Trevor Williams, TE Jesse James and S Jordan Lucas.
O'Brien will have game captains each week, then will choose season captains at the end of the year. Saturday's captains were QB Matt McGloin, LB Gerald Hodges, DT Jordan Hill and RB Derek Day.
Recruits take in opener
A half-dozen of Penn State's nine verbally committed recruits were on hand to witness the Lions' loss, including tight end Adam Breneman, guard Brendan Mahon, defensive end Garrett Sickels, defensive back Jordan Smith, offensive lineman Andrew Nelson and linebacker Brandon Bell.
Beyond that, the number of prospects was kept to a minimum, with the idea that the Navy game in two weeks will be used as more of a showcase. Ryan Snyder of BlueWhite Illustrated reported that Valley View running back Tyler Phillips, Great Valley athlete Chris Geiss, Monsignor Bonner safety Michael Ockimey, Warrior Run tackle Austin Fiedler and New Jersey kicker Chris Gulla were in attendance.
The Nittany Lions' pursuit of a running back for the 2013 recruiting class took an apparent upturn late in the week. First, Penn State offered Frederick, Md. tailback/receiver Richie Anderson, the son of the former Nittany Lion great of the same name. The younger Anderson was said to be very interested in Penn State in the spring but committed to Maryland when he didn't receiver a scholarship offer from the Lions.
Scout.com broke a few days ago through an Imhotep Charter coach that Penn State is back in the picture for four-star Philadelphia running back David Williams, who seemed to have eliminated the Lions from contention after the NCAA sanctions came down. Williams is considered a breakaway threat.
The Lions have yet to offer Lancaster Catholic's power Roman Clay, but the staff has expressed interest and wanted to evaluate him through the first half of his season. A few more games like opening night will make that a no-brainer - Clay rushed for 442 yards and scored six touchdowns on 22 carries in a 41-33 win over Dallastown.
Offense: Matt McGloin (QB), Bill Belton (RB), Allen Robinson (WR), Shawney Kersey (WR), Michael Zordich (FB), Garry Gilliam (TE), Donovan Smith (LT), Miles Dieffenbach (LG), Matt Stankiewitch (C), John Urschel (RG), Mike Farrell (RT).
Defense: Sean Stanley (DE), Jordan Hill (DT), DaQuan Jones (DT), Deion Barnes (DE), Gerald Hodges (LB), Glenn Carson (LB), Michael Mauti (LB), Stephon Morris (CB), Adrian Amos (CB), Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (S), Malcolm Willis (S).
Punt: Alex Butterworth (P), James Terry, Angelo Mangiro, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, Mike Hull, Glenn Carson, Michael Zordich, Emery Etter (snapper), Ben Kline, Michael Mauti, Derek Day.
Kickoff: Sam Ficken (K), Malcolm Willis, Jake Fagnano, Derek Day, Jesse Della Valle, Michael Zordich, Curtis Dukes, Michael Yancich, Mike Hull, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, Stephon Morris.
Kickoff return: Adrian Amos (KR), Gerald Hodges (KR), Malcolm Willis, Michael Zordich, Brian Irvin, Nyeem Wartman, Mike Hull, Jordan Lucas, Zach Zwinak, Pat Zerbe, Kyle Carter.
News and notes
WR Allen Robinson had a big day, catching nine passes for 97 yards. ... QB Matt McGloin was wearing a brace on his left knee but said he wasn't injured at all. ... PSU had to burn a timeout after just two offensive plays because of some confusion. ... Ohio PK Matt Weller was 19-of-20 inside 40 yards last season but missed from 39 yards in the fourth quarter. He also missed from 44 yards in the second.