UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State's defense held Ohio State to seven points and 145 yards in the first half, but the Buckeye offense scored 21 points and gained 232 yards in the second half to pull away.
"It's definitely disappointing," linebacker Gerald Hodges said.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Christian Hackenberg takes in the game Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
The third-down issue from earlier this season came back to bite the Lions again. The Buckeyes converted only 3-of-10 third downs in the first half but were successful on 5-of-6 in the second.
"When it's time to get off the field, we've got to get off the field and make a play," linebacker Michael Mauti said. "We just didn't play well enough to win the game. ... It's the defense's responsibility to get off the field, and third down, we've got to make a play, make a stop."
The Lions sacked Braxton Miller four times and kept him in check through the air, aside from a 72-yard TD pass that accounted for more than half his passing yards. But the Buckeyes rushed for 234 yards - 134 by Miller - and the PSU defense appeared to wear down in the second half.
"We've got to get back on Monday and look at the film just to find the mistakes that allowed them the second half to come out the way they did," Hodges said.
Blocked punt sparks PSU
The Lions scored first on a huge special teams play midway through the second quarter. Mike Hull went unblocked to the punter and blocked Ben Buchanan's kick, then Michael Yancich pounced on it in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
"No one touched me, so I was just full sprinting right there," said Hull, who was almost close enough to the punter to tackle him.
"It was pretty awesome, heart rate was going," he said of the block. "I just saw it open up and just knew I had to come through for the team."
Hull also made a heads-up play after seeing the ball on the ground.
"He blocked the punt, and as he was going down, I actually saw him and he was going to fall on it at about the 1-yard line," Yancich said. "But he actually swiped it into the end zone because he told me after the play that he saw me."
Yancich said scoring the touchdown was "truly a tremendous feeling."
"Words can't describe what was going through my mind and my body after I got up," he said.
Ficken bounces back
Place-kicker Sam Ficken said he battled a quad injury that limited his practice time during the week.
"I'm fine, though," he said. "It didn't really bother me too bad today. ... You've got to rest, first off. This past week they gave me a little opportunity to rest as much as possible, rehabbing it two or three times a day."
Ficken had a strong showing on kickoffs and said he didn't think his health played any role in coach Bill O'Brien deciding not to let him attempt a 37-yard field goal in the second quarter.
"I don't think that had anything to do with me being healthy or not," he said. "It's still a short field goal."
Ficken's long this season is 34 yards.
Punter Alex Butterworth had a good night, averaging 41.2 yards on five kicks and pinning the Buckeyes inside the 20 four times.
Tough crowd for Erickson
Penn State President Rodney Erickson was loudly booed when introduced during a halftime ceremony. Erickson is not popular with many fans because he accepted the NCAA sanctions.
Penn State's largest turnout of recruits this season was on-hand to witness the Lions' loss. The number and quality of the prospects might have been the one upside to the setback.
"Quite a few kids I talked to were just blown away with what they saw," said Greg Pickel, the recruiting analyst for FightOnState.com.
Current Nittany Lion commits Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman were on hand, and pledges Jordan Smith, Kasey Gaines, Brandon Bell, Andrew Nelson and Tanner Hartman also were believed to have attended.
Among the top prospects Penn State still is pursuing that were supposed to attend were seniors like Meadville cornerback Artrel Foster, Bishop McDevitt receiver Brian Lemelle, Virginia safety Malcolm Cook, Lancaster Catholic running back Roman Clay and New York cornerback Sterling Parks, as well as juniors like Cedar Cliff quarterback Andrew Ford, Gateway safety Montae Nicholson, New Jersey offensive tackle Quenton Nelson, Washington defensive backs Omar Truitt and De'Andre Payne, Delaware linebacker Troy Reeder, New Jersey receiver Chris Goodwin, New Jersey athlete Marques Little and Virginia defensive tackle Ricky Walker.
Standout Central Valley sophomore cornerback Jordan Whitehead also was expected.
Another familiar name in the group was Zayd Issah. The Central Dauphin linebacker and reigning Class AAAA co-player of the year who committed and then reopened his recruitment came to the game with teammate Drew Scales, an elusive running back who is a walk-on candidate.
Although considered a long shot to wind up at Penn State, Issah sent out a positive message via Twitter before kickoff.
"Lovin this PSU hospitality!!" Issah tweeted.
Maryland running back Richie Anderson and Alabama defensive tackle Rod Crayton were scheduled to make official visits for the weekend of the game. Anderson is the son of the former Nittany Lion standout running back of the same name - he's currently committed to Maryland but is continued a player who might switch to Penn State.
However, he also might have to race another speedy, smallish back who was at the game for what figures to be one slot in the 2013 class: Florida Plant High School's Wesley Bullock.
"We said it was unlike anything he's ever seen," Pickel said. "I think they made an impression. As far as general impression, I think it was very good."
News and notes
PSU's game captains were: LB Michael Mauti, LB Gerald Hodges, QB Matt McGloin, C Matt Stankiewitch, DT Jordan Hill. All of the seniors took the field behind those five for the opening coin toss. ... TE Kyle Carter had his left ankle taped walking off the field after the game. There was no update on his status. ... The teams combined for only six points and six punts in a scoreless first quarter. The Lions still haven't allowed a point in the opening quarter this season (66-0). ... Pete Massaro started at DE in place of Deion Barnes. ... PSU won the toss and deferred.