UNIVERSITY PARK - An Ohio team that looked overmatched in the first half won Saturday afternoon, beating a Penn State team that looked overmatched in the second half.
The Nittany Lions made too many mistakes.
They missed several chances to put the game away.
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Ohio wide receiver Donte Foster hauls in the game-clinching 5-yard touchdown in front of Penn State’s Jacob Fagnano on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
They had too many key players miss time with injuries.
They saw their secondary concerns come to the forefront.
And they fell victim to some bad luck.
All of that led to a small-conference team coming into Beaver Stadium and pulling off what some would consider an upset.
But was it really an upset?
"In our minds I don't think it was because we go into every game thinking we are going to win," Bobcats running back Beau Blankenship said.
That kind of confidence allowed Ohio to battle back for a 24-14 win before 97,186 fans at Beaver Stadium. The Bobcats, who were only 6-point underdogs coming of a 10-4 season, scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to pick up arguably the biggest win in program history.
"This win means so much to us as a team," said Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who threw for 324 yards and two TDs.
The day began with such promise, as a fired-up group of Nittany Lions - wearing names on the back of their jerseys for the first time ever - tapped into their emotions pent up from months of dealing with the Sandusky scandal and jumped out to a 14-3 halftime lead.
The players drew energy from a crowd that came out to support a group of young men that has been punished by the NCAA, even though they had nothing to do with the scandal.
"That was one of the best feelings I've ever felt, seeing all the fans out there outside when we were getting off the bus and in the stadium," PSU defensive tackle Jordan Hill said.
Penn State's offense, led by a crisp Matt McGloin, moved the ball with ease through the air in the early going. That's what PSU fans hoped to see from new coach Bill O'Brien, who spent the past four seasons with the New England Patriots.
McGloin completed 16-of-26 passes for 178 yards and two TDs in the first half.
"You saw at times flashes of how good we can be," McGloin said. "We were moving the ball up and down the field, we were catching it and throwing it and running it. We were doing a lot of good things."
They also did two bad things that prevented them from taking a bigger lead into the locker room at the half. Running Bill Belton lost a fumble at the Ohio 19 on the game's opening drive, and Gerald Hodges fumbled a punt inside his own 20 that led to their only score of the first half.
"We can't turn the ball over," O'Brien said. "We stress that."
The game turned early in the third quarter as Ohio took the opening kick of the second half and drove for a 78-yard touchdown.
The Bobcats faced third-and-7 from the PSU 43 when Tettleton bobbled a shotgun snap, regrouped and fired what at first looked like an ill-advised pass down the middle. Penn State safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong made a play on the ball and tipped it, and it bounced right to Bobcat receiver Landon Smith.
The Lion secondary was caught off guard and out of position to make a tackle on Smith, who rumbled for a 43-yard score that cut PSU's lead to 14-10 with 10:40 left in the third.
"When they got the fluke touchdown, we really didn't put our heads down on that," Penn State offensive lineman Donovan Smith said.
"That happens; it's a game," PSU receiver Allen Robinson said of lucky bounce that went Ohio's way. "As a group, we've just got to bounce back from that. We can't keep looking back on like the tipped pass as the reason why we lost because it's not."
The Lions lost because their offense was shut down after that play and their defense couldn't do much of anything to stop the Bobcats.
Ohio had 301 of its 499 yards of total offense in the second half. The Bobcats not only threw for 324, they also ran for 175.
"I'm very disappointed in that," Hill said of the defensive struggles. "You won't see that all season again. I'll tell you that now. No other team will do that to us again."
Ohio was helped out by injuries to key PSU defensive personnel. Linebacker Gerald Hodges battled what appeared to be a shin injury, cornerback Stephon Morris came out with an ankle injury and Hill briefly battled some left knee pain.
Hodges wasn't on the field for Ohio's next offensive possession, which featured a 33-yard pass from Tettleton to Ryan Clark, who beat Morris on the play. That moved the Bobcats to the PSU 18, and Tettleton completed a 12-yard pass to the 3 before scoring himself from a yard out for a 17-14 lead with 3:49 left in the third.
The Lions needed to come up with a big play to regain momentum, and they had one in the works. McGloin threw a post pattern to Shawney Kersey, who had a step on his man, but the ball was a tad overthrown and the receiver couldn't haul it in.
"It was really close. It was a great ball," Kersey said. "I've got to run under it. I've got to fight through being tired. I'm a starter now. I'll make that catch next time."
He didn't make it this time, though, and PSU's drive stalled. The Lions punted and pinned Ohio at its own 7 with 9:37 to go.
The Penn State defense failed to come up with a stop, however, as Tettleton threaded the needle on several throws and guided the Bobcats on a game-clinching 93-yard TD drive. Ohio converted 13-of-21 third downs on the day, and four were on that drive, including a 5-yard TD from Tettleton to Smith for a 24-14 lead with 2:55 remaining.
Safety Jake Fagnano was beaten on that score, ending a rough day for a PSU secondary that entered the season as a big question mark.
"We have to make more plays on the ball, as a defense and back there in the secondary we definitely have to make more plays on the ball," safety Malcolm Willis said.