UNIVERSITY PARK - One of Penn State's biggest games in years gave the Nittany Lions an opportunity to make a statement in the Big Ten and across the country - a statement that despite severe NCAA sanctions, the program still could win marquee games.
Ohio State, however, spoiled the whiteout party of 107,818 fans Saturday night at Beaver Stadium and solidified its case as the Big Ten's best team. The Buckeyes, who also are under NCAA sanctions, won the "IneligiBowl" by a 35-23 final score.
"This was a big game, and honestly you come to Penn State to win big games like this," PSU offensive lineman John Urschel said.
Players said losing this kind of game stings.
"Just knowing how excited the fans were, alumni came back, how excited we were and how hard we prepared, we just couldn't get it done tonight," Nittany Lion quarterback Matt McGloin said.
Ohio State, ranked No. 9 in the country, used star quarterback Braxton Miller and a tougher-than-expected defense to end the Nittany Lions' five-game winning streak.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Nick Zepp of State College attended Saturday’s game dressed as the statue of Joe Paterno that used to stand outside Beaver Stadium.
The game between two of the nation's most storied football programs featured coaches in their first year. Rumors circulated a year ago that Urban Meyer might be interested in the Penn State job, but instead he landed at Ohio State, while Bill O'Brien was hired to lead the Lions.
Meyer has won two national titles and has a career record of 113-23, and his experience paid off in a game against O'Brien, who is 5-3 in his career.
"[This is the] first time I experienced this stadium and their crowd," Meyer said. "This is a big-league atmosphere."
O'Brien was critical of himself after the game, but he believes the Lions can bounce back.
"Hopefully, our staff will do the same thing and our kids will do the same thing," O'Brien said. "We did some uncharacteristic things tonight, and I think that I need to do a better job."